The Gagit’s were planning to go home after Buenos Aires but in reality they really needed a vacation and since their traveling friends were going to Bariloche we were easily convinced to go along to this wonderful area of Patagonia in Argentina.We arrive at Bariloche after our 2 and half hour flight and our greeted by our driver of the day Jorge for the drive to Llao Llao .On the way Jorge ,points out some of the beautiful scenery in this mountain resort,see above, as well as to try to sell us his tour services, even in his broken english, he knew what to say to close the deal, I have a deal for you,lol.
We settle in at this legendary hotel in the area and have the typical hotel lunch buffet ,not worth reviewing, and spend the rest of the afternoon settling in and enjoying the scenery of the lakes and the snow capped Andes.We were told by friends at Cavas to enjoy dinner at Il Gabbiano,close to the hotel,like the best of New York. This is certainly a must for Gagit to try.We are picked up by the owner himself and taken to the restaurant where is wife Mima is the chef in charge.
We brought wine from O,Fournier,the Fishermans treat, and enjoyed the Alpha Malbec 2002, no corkage fee either just a pleasant smile and enjoy.The menu is on a chalkboard and explained in detail by our servers Hansel and Gretal,this is the German part of Argentina after all. We are served our starters in a timely and Germanic fashion, the Fisherman and I the Shrimp ,as shown,but not up to the taste of of Shrimp we had previously. Foodie and Lafont share a salad of Tomatoes and Endive, fresh but ordinary as shown.
The mains arrive as we our ready to drink a second glass of the Alpha, I have a house special, the ricotta Gnocchi in fresh tomatoe sauce,shown above, a nice dish and above average, the Fisherman, has the spinach Ravioli,shown also,nice but not up to the taste and delicate flavor of Il Matterello, Foodie and Lafont both have the Papparedella with tomatoe and Basil,also shown,again not up to our standard of BA.We finish the meal with one dessert to share,a apple Torte Caprese.a beautiful dish as shown, but undercooked and almost sent back for lack of taste.
Let the Truth be Told, Il Gabbiano is better than its Miami namesake and the night was enjoyable but the food was not close to the best of New York or the best of BA or the best of anywhere. The best part of the meal was the homemade Lemoncello ,shown above,that the owner sent over and that I am enjoying as I write this,another story, and the check of under $100.00 for the 4 of us,no credit cards accepted, and of course the ride back to the hotel by the gracious owner.
The highlight of staying at the Hotel Llao Llao besides the view of course is the breakfast, an all you can affair specializing in waffles, fruits, eggs, cereals, yogurts, etc, the food was fresh and well prepared but not close to the personal close atmosphere at the Cavas Wine Lodge,an experience that could not be duplicated at this prestigious monster of a hotel.We spent the rest of the day Catamaranning on the lake and the Rain Forest and building up an appetite for dinner tonight, of course.
This night we were told by a classy guest at the hotel to go to Yuco Restaurant a real gourmet dining experience and a beautiful view on top of small mountain trail. We are picked up by the driver and driven up the mountail trail and there was the restaurant, beautiful in the sunset. Our driver went inside first and when we were seated he came by in his chef coat. The chef Fernando, born in Germany but trained in France at Trois Gros promised us a true European dining experience, let us see.
We start the meal with a amuse bouche of a punpkin soup with a hint of Jalapeno pepper hint,shown,not my thing but the others found it refreshing. The bread and grisini bread sticks,also showm,were imaginative and at a 3 star restaurant level. The menu is more Meditteranean with the use of Argentina ingredients,similar to D.O. M.in Brazil but more whimsical.All courses come with a selection of at least two varieties of each dish, a very imaginative approach. We order a bottle of 2006 Mendel Malbec to start the night , unfortunately they only had a 2007 and it was not ready for us to enjoy the strong fruity taste we expected. The owner did not charge for this and we ordered a Alamos Malbec 2005 and it was superb.
The starters arrive, I pass, but the Fisherman and Lafont have a variety of Trout appetizers that were perfect and shown,especially the terrine. Foodiehic has as Artichoke appetizer ,also shown, but not quite on the mark for taste and flavor.The main courses arrive as the new bottle of wine is opened.The Fisherman,Foodie,and I have the Shrimp done to perfection with two separate sauces that only enhance the fresh lake flavor of the Shrimp,shown above.Lafont has the Patagonia lamb,again two different ways ,this is shown and the spectacular picture does not even close to do the dish justice,it is up to an award for the best dish we had here in Bariloche if not all our meals in Argentinia for the meat eaters only of course.
We are ready for dessert and Fisherman and Lafont have a variety of Passion Fruit ,shown.and I have the trioligia of Chocolate dessert shown also,and one that could be served in Paris in any 3 star restaurant. Let the truth be Told, this restaurant could compete with any restaurant in America, let alone Argentina,and a trip to Bariloche is almost worth it for this meal.When the check came about $70, a couple ,it certainly made the almost worth it changed to worth it,even though my credit card was mysteriously missing,but it was conveniently found in the Fisherman’s wallet so we did pay for this great meal.The chef,driver Fernando,shown, now changes into his drivers clothes and takes us back to the hotel, this is the the ultimate service for any restaurant.
Our last day in Argentina and we are spending it in the hands of the driver Jorge and his super tour of best of Bariloche and Villa La Angostura. Since this is a blog of food and wine,I will only mention that the landscape and beauty of the mountains and lakes in Pantogonia are worth the visit and if you do, ask for Jorge and hold onto your wallet.lol
Jorge ends our tour with a drive to the village of Villa La Angostura and lunch at the exclusive Las Balsas ,Gourmet and Spa ,a Relais & Chateaux property. We arrive in time for a late lunch , take in the beautiful lake view,shown above, and are ready for the best meal in Patagonia according to Jorge.After last night at Yucco, this is a high standard .We are still pretty full from last night,s dinner so we promise tourselves a light meal here but no chance. We order a bottle of Alta Vista Grande Reserve Malbec 2006, a 91 Wine Spectator score and only $25.00 a bottle, it was almost perfect with its blackberry and black currant flavor and coffee laced tannins, one more year and it will be a perfect.
We are served our starters by the professional staff, Lafont and I have a wonderful flaky and tasty mushroom canneloni,shown above,and a strong original starter with the bean sprouts on top.Foodie orders and asperagus soup with crotons ,again shown,and it was also tasty and flavorful.The fisherman just had a simple salad and it was fresh and colorful.
Our mains now arrive,and we are starting to compare this meal to the one at Yucco, the mains and dessert will decide. The Fisherman has a shrimp dish, rather sloppy in presentation,as shown, and not up to par with Yucco. I order a sweetbread on a vanilla puree, as shown,and is not only overcooked but underflavored.The girls order the lamb,also shown, and here is where Yucco reigns supreme in all categories.
The desserts and maybe Las Balsis can catch up to Yucco. The desserts, a chocolate and a fruit tart , both shown, are no challange to Yucco’s 3 star desserts. The checque arrives and at and expensive $150 a couple is close to the dissapointment of Casa Cruz in BA , although the service and view were first class unlike Casa Cruz.
Let the Truth be Told, the meal at Las Balsis had a lot to compete with after our meal at Yucco, unfortunately there was no competition ,only a nice view ,fine service,and mediocre food for such a first class hotel. Jorge ,you might have gotten a commission to take us here but it really was the wrong way to end this fine day. We now have a two hour drive back to Llao Llao and decide we are to full to eat dinner tonight.
The last night, we join the Fisherman and Lafont at their room with the best view of Llao Llao for a last bottle of wine, the Crux B from O’Fournier. We toast the trip and the best experience possible with our good friends. We finish the bottle in short order and lo and behold we have one more bottle from Mendoza left,the Dolium Reserva 2004,Malbec. We cannot finish this without food so off to Il Gabbiano for simple mains and of course Lemoncello.
The owner picks us up again and drives us to the restaurant ,we are seated ,our bottle opened and our waitress Gretal,takes our orders. As we enjoy the wine ,the mains are served, Foodie has the Ricotta Gnocchi that I enjoyed but she found it rather bland.The fisherman had the Spinach Ravioli again and Lafont the Tagliatelle with Bacon,and she declares the dish great in flavor and preparation,and to everyone’s surprise the Fisherman,a.k.a. as the Spongeman,a total non- meat eater forever , took a forkful of the bacon laden Tagliatelle and swallowed it right in front of us before I could roll the camera to record this for prosperity.
As we were recovering from the Bacon shock, I was served the house version of Osso Bucco, I found it very tasteless and needed much pepper to even swallow it. The marrow was not part of the dish which really took away from the flavor.The vegetables were nice but I was there for the meat. We knew from the last visit to pass on dessert but ordered the house cheesecake and it was as unsatisfying as the dessert the first night.. The owner not only offered us the Lemoncello tonight but a bottle to bring home and which is now finished after the three parts of the Argentina trip. He drives us back to the hotel and as we enter the lobby we are treated to our last Tango, shown below in all its splendor.
Let the Truth be Told, this trip to Argentina was a 5 star trip and one that many should consider over Europe for sure, both for price and hospitality.However, the one main ingredient on a trip like this is to make sure you have friends on it like we did even though one of them does not eat meat,and has a penchant to collect credit cards.Thanks guys,it was a trip we will never forget,at least until we lose the weight we gained.