Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Special Dinner at Carlitos Gardel - The Cuisine of Argentina in LA

On Friday we flew down to LA to spend the weekend celebrating the marriage last month of our oldest son, Andrew, to Connie Sung. Andrew and Connie had arranged a dinner for us with Connie’s family at Carlitos Gardel, a restaurant on Melrose featuring Argentine cuisine – a most appropriate choice since Andrew and Connie had spent the week following their marriage in Buenos Aries!

From a bit of research before dinner I learned that the restaurant was named after Carlos Gardel (“Carlitos” in the affectionate diminutive form), one of the most well-known figures in the history of tango, who wrote and performed many classic tangos prior to his tragic death in an airplane crash in 1935. Those include “Mi Buenos Aires querido” (“My Beloved Buenos Aires”) written the year before his death, which is the music that greets one on the restaurant’s website. Gardel also appeared in several movies – see clips of Gardel singing “Cuesta abajo” in the movie of the same name, and the well-known “Por una cabeza” in Tango Bar.

Carlitos Gardel is owned and operated by the Bozoghlian family who purchased the restaurant in 1996 a few years after they moved to the United States from Buenos Aires. We were greeted at the door by the matriarch of the family, Azniv Bozoghlian, who is also the restaurant’s executive chef. When I told her that in addition to Argentine cuisine, we were very interested in learning more about Argentine wines, she assured me we had come to the right place and introduced us immediately to her son, Carlos Maximiliano (“Max”), who is the restaurant’s sommelier.

Many of the pictures on the wall of the restaurant celebrate Gardel, but there was a beautiful painting on the wall above Connie and Andrew of a woman setting a table that I was enjoyed for the entire evening.

I asked Azniv about it and she said it had had been painted by a well-known artist named Aldo Luongo who had himself been born in Argentina before coming to the United States. The painting - entitled “Getting Ready at Gardel’s” – was a scene taken from the daily preparation at the restaurant.

Our dinner was fantastic. Marco, our waiter, who I learned is from Torino in the Piemonte, helped us with our selections which were all right on. We started with two appetizers:

~ Hongos Rellenos - mushroom caps stuffed with chicken, vegetables, garlic and parmesan cheese, and served in a red wine sauce; and

~ Papas Fritas Provenzal – Gardel’s signature dish of french fries lightly flavored with garlic and parsley.

Our party’s main course selections covered a wide range of the beef, lamb and fish dishes offered on the menu. At Marco’s suggestion I stuck with a traditional Argentine dish:

~ Ojo de Costilla a La Criolla – a grilled rib-eye steak, marinated in chimichurri sauce.

It was perfectly prepared. I am afraid I did not get any photos of our dishes at dinner, although I did find shots of the papas and ojo de costilla on a recent post on
Spastic Synapse’s blog.

Max was very attentive to us throughout the evening and helped us to select two wonderful wines from an incredible wine list. We started with a white to accompany our appetizers:

~ 2008 Torrontés from the
Domingo Molina winery in the Province of Salta in the northeastern corner of Argentina,

I had only tried a Torrontés wine (the Susana Balbo “Crios” label from Dominio del Plata) for the first time a couple of weeks ago and had really enjoyed its aromatic flavor which reminded me of lychees. I read a review that suggested that Torrontés “recalls the aromatic flamboyance of Muscat combined with the light crispness of Pinot Grigio” which I thought was a good comparison. The Domingo Molina was even better than the Susana Balbo – the same aromatic and clean quality, but a bit more restrained.

Then, with our main course we enjoyed an excellent Malbec:

~ 2005
Malbec Riserva, Lujan de Cuyo Single Vineyard, from Luigi Bosca, one of Mendoza’s oldest producers.

The Luigi Bosca was also one of Andrew and Connie’s favorites, having been the wine they had at dinner on their first night in Buenos Aries. It was very concentrated with a full body and a long finish. I also learned that Luigi Bosca is a producer that Max Bozoghlian has featured at a past tasting at Gardel.

Since I had enjoyed the Torrontés so, Marco suggested a glass of a Torrontés late harvest (“tardio”) with our desserts. I did not get the name of the producer, but it was a very nice still dessert wine, similar to a Moscato.

Here are a couple of pictures of our gang (the first taken by me and the second by Cass) in front of the restaurant, followed by one of Connie and Andrew taken last month on the cobblestone streets in the barrio of San Telmo in Buenos Aires on the day they took their marriage vows, juxtaposed next to another of Aldo Luongo’s works entitled “Tango and Cobblestones.”

It was a most memorable evening at Carlitos Gardel!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

more posts please!