Address: Costa Rica 5852, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Phone: +54 11 5291-3333
Verdict: Save your money, and go to a parrilla.
My dinner at Tegui was a very disappointing experience. Tegui was lauded to high-heaven in Latin America’s Top 50 Restaurant List, ranking top in Argentina and #9 in Latin America overall. I was intrigued to take the measure of Argentine cooking. Here was the teaser text:
The playing with perceptions continues once again at the table, however, with Martitegui continually changing his style of cooking in order to create an air of mystery about his establishment. One week his menu could resemble that of a European restaurant, the next it could take on a more diner-like feel, depending on which ingredients the chef has been seduced by. It’s an approach that not only keeps the kitchen – and indeed the diner – on its toes but ensures the cooking is as fresh and inventive as the day the restaurant opened its doors.
Presuming you catch Martitegui in one of his more European frames of mind, diners can expect carefully created dishes that are just as concerned with texture and aroma as taste, such as burrata with strawberries, basil, balsamic vinegar and pistachios; king crab in coconut cream and mango and low-temperature cooked osso bucco and caramelized apples. Wine is an important part of the offer and each dish comes with a by-the-glass suggestion. – Hype Box
As mentioned in my post on La Cabrera, I wasn’t sure if Buenos Aires was a city geared more to high-end fine dining, or food with a more common touch. I tried Tegui on my first night in the city, but I had two major complaints with Tegui:
- Basic cooking mistakes. A roasted quail was overcooked to the point of greyness, with bland skin, A rabbit terrine was too dry and coarse.
- Truly bizarre combinations: cold sorbets juxtaposed with hot meats. A dessert course kills the appetite kindly by cloying you with sweetness and coldness at the end. The effect of having multiple hot courses with cold sorbets was that my appetite was killed many times over. This was weirdness for the sake of weirdness, a disease well-christened “twerking” by Ulterior Epicure Bonjwing Lee.
All throughout the meal, I thought of the words a friend who works at Momofuku Ko said to me the previous week while munching jalapeno-fried-chicken: “At Momofuku, we just do things the right way”. Those words echoed with me all throughout the meal. Here was avant-garde-ism for the sake for avant-garde-ism, reaching for sophisticated effects while neglecting simple things like making sure the quail is actually cooked properly.
Perhaps the kitchen was having a bad day, but towards the end of the meal, I wasn’t looking for revelation or inspiration any more, I was just praying that the kitchen would just give me something decent. Luckily, since dessert is hard to screw up, I got a couple of decent desserts, but those were unspectacular too.
The evening street of Palermo Hollywood
The restaurant, cooking area is right at the back
Wine-collection, at the entrance
First snack: Cornet. Brie cheese and Tomato. (3.25/5)
A derivation of the famous per se/French Laundry cornets, right down to color key – but the differences was that the cone was not a crispy tuile, but had the texture of a digestive biscuit.
Snack: Hot blinis with eggplant caviar and sour cream (3.5/5)
Eggplant caviar spicy.
Snack: Goat Cheese, Tomato, Strawberry Granita (4/5)
Main #1: Goat Cheese, Beet, Strawberries, Basil (3/5)
The goat’s cheese was shaved using a Microplane, a technique popularised by Momofuku Ko with their shaved foie gras, but ended up clumping together due to low temperature. The four ingredients had almost no synergy together, especially since the goat cheese was bland and unassertive. It did not help that I had a far superior version of a shaved cheese dish at ma peche (report to come) a few days before.
Main #2: Almond soup, toasted serrano ham chips, fresh figs. (3.5/5)
Another discordant dish. The almond soup was cold and cheesy, which did not go well with the ham and figs. The ham and figs made a good combination, but was overpowered by the almond soup. This reminded me of a similarly overpowering combination of salmon with pistachio emulsion I had two years ago at Le Bernardin in New York. The almond soup was pointless.
Main #3: Octopus, homemade salami, tapenade (dehydrated black olives), melon, avocado. (3.5/5)
Melon and octopus and salami were pleasant enough, but the avocado cream was a bit too much, if applied in the volumes suggested by the dab.
Main #4: Rabbit Terrine, Corn Ice Cream, Apricot, Cucumber Yoghurt, Dabs of Hot Pepper (1/5)
Terrible, absolutely terrible. What was corn ice cream doing alongside a rabbit terrine? Not only was the dish bizarrely conceived, but the rabbit terrine was coarse, of uneven meat sizes, and some parts were dry. Was the terrine meant to be cold? Very well. But the terrine wasn’t cold, instead it was in the uncanny lukewarm zone, where it is just hot enough to suggest it should be a hot dish, and yet not hot enough, suggesting it was cooling after cooking. The lukewarm temperature was a turn-off.
Furthermore, the cold corn ice cream made for a very uncomfortable mouth-feel when eaten with the lukewarm, coarse, dry terrine. Really, really bad dish. I did like the corn ice cream on its own, so it salvages one point. The appearance of ice cream so early on, also may have played havoc with my appetite.
Main #5: Ricotta Gnocchi, White Truffle Foam, Popcorn (3.5/5)
One of their specialties. Finally, a dish that was served on a plate that was actually hot. It was not bad, though not mind-blowing.
Main #6: Quail, Malbec Reduction, Dried Fruit Sorbet. (0/5)
This time the plate was at room temperature again, due to accommodating a hot and a cold element. The quail was overcooked, to a ashen grey colour that was reminiscent of a very dead thing. The skin was bland, as if it had no seasoning. Terrible. Perhaps the ice creams were the kitchen’s way of apologising for inflicting such mal-conceived ideas upon paying diners.
Main #7: 24 hour lamb, eggplant, thyme yoghurt, Mediterranean vegetables (2.5/5)
“herbs set on fire on top of lamb”
Again, plate and meat were lukewarm. The lamb was roasted in the oven slowly for 24 hours, and the meat picked to form a lukewarm and greasy terrine. The redeeming quality of this dish was the crust of lamb on top of the picked meats, which was crispy and quite okay.
Melon, White Chocolate Granita, Licorice and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction (4.25/5)
Strawberry sorbet, Blueberry Leather, Panna Cotta dabs (3.25/5)
Okay, if unexciting. Quality of fruits weren’t the absolute best I’ve had.