by Nick Santangelo, Tufts University
Last Friday, on a night with a full moon and great weather, three friends and I went to the Chacarita neighborhood to have dinner at the “closed door” restaurant called “Casa Felix”. The chef, Diego Felix, met us at 9:30 p.m. at the door to his private home and showed us the rooms and garden. Diego chatted with us about the plants and herbs that he grows in the garden and uses in his cocktails and food. He then served us a cocktail made of sage from the garden while we talked with the other guests who numbered no more than ten people. Then we went to the patio, which was semi-covered with trees and vines, to eat dinner.
The first dish was a warm fontina cheese, wrapped in chayote leaves and coated with chañar syrup. The crispy leaves and sweet sauce combined with the warm cheese to make an incredible flavor. Per the chef’s suggestion, we ordered a bottle of white wine that is typical of the Salta region and was a perfect accompaniment to the botana and salad that followed the cheese.
The botana was a sugarcane-syrup glazed shrimp over mbeyú, which were topped with a green apple and burrito guacamole, yellow chile aioli, and fennel. Diego explained that the mbeyú, a starchy cake, is very typical of Paraguay and that a lot of the inspiration for his food comes from that country. He also told me that Mexico and Peru are two other very important sources of inspiration for his cooking, as they both have rich, pre-Columbian culinary histories. The salad was made of fresh greens with Brazil nuts and herbs. To cleanse the palate for the main course, the chef served us a cold lemon and pear beverage.
The main course was a tamal with mole sauce, green beans, and mushroom confit. Inside my tamal was fresh fish while my friends had ordered duck. Following Diego’s suggestion, we ordered a bottle of red wine from Mendoza to accompany this course. The cornmeal interior of the tamal absorbed the mole sauce and combined with the fish to create a distinct and complex flavor. The dessert was a filo pastry filled with warm squash accompanied by a mandarin slice and topped with cream of jasmine flower.
The whole dinner experience lasted about three hours and had a very intimate ambience. Diego was very nice and spent a lot of time talking with guests about the food, his personal history, and his sources of inspiration. After dinner he talked with us about our studies and experiences in Buenos Aires so far. The whole night was incredible and one that I know we will never forget.