For the last few weeks, we have really struggled to find something good to eat for lunch, as have many of our friends here in Buenos Aires. Supermarkets aisles are full of slabs of beef or plastic cheese and ham. And I can’t face eating at a parilla at both meal times. Good sandwich places are few and far between which leaves good (more suited for dinner) restaurants or bad lunch cafes which pretty much only serve milanesa (flattened beef, breaded and fried or baked, often with cheese and ham slabbed on top). I tried the milanesa twice and don’t care to order it again.
One lunch time we tried out our local cafe which was brimming with people ordering the Menu del Dia, so we decided to try it out. The ‘executive menu’ basically consisted of a main, a drink and a coffee. Perfect for lunch you would think. There were only two mains to choose from so we ordered one each. One was the dreaded milanesa and the other a chicken dish. The Milanesa was like cardboard topped with plastic ham with a kilo of fried potatoes. The chicken was worse. I know I can be quite fussy about food but I was really hungry and have rarely eaten chicken which isn’t edible. This however was. In Argentina, chickens are huge – they are almost cocks (!). Secondly, they always feel like they are taken off the heat just before totally cooked, so the meat nearest to the bone is still slimy and pink. My quarter chicken was such an example. The skin was left on but it was white, not sizzled or browned at all. The chicken portion was topped with warmed up salad cream. And the whole lot was dished up with another kilo of potatoes!
So in my quest for places to lunch, I stumbled across Sudestada. A Vietnamese restaurant which is mid-price range in the evenings but serves up a lunch deal of two courses and a drink for Arg$36 (around £6). As you can see from the photo of the menu card, the menu is short with just choices of starters and half a dozen mains. We have tried pretty much everything on this menu (eaten there each lunch time just in the past three days!).
The choice between the starters is pork dumplings in sweet soy sauce with fresh strands of ginger and spring onions. The minced pork meat is soft and gently flavoured with ginger and 5 spice, the rice dough covering the soft meat is light in comparison to the other dumplings I have tried here. The portion is geneous with 4 healthy sized dumplings.
The second choice of starters is a fritura verdura – basically fried vegetables held together by a light batter – like an onion bhaji. This is also tasty if a little greasy.
For mains, you can choose between beef, pork, chicken and fish – this is given the limited choice in most Argentine restaurants (basically beef, beef, or beef. OK, sometimes cheese!). The pork comes with flat rice noodles and the rest with rice. All dishes have different flavours but all remind me of good Vietnamese restaurants back in London. They use a lot of fresh vegetables and herbs so the flavours are big and the meal feels healthy.
I like that there is a long window from the restaurant into the kitchen and diners can view the kitchen staff preparing food. Everything looks clean and fresh and busy.
Now just need to find another couple of restaurants like this before the waiters start to feel they are being stalked!