Saturday 10 April 2010

Cabaña las Lilas

So many times on this trip have I walked into a restaurant with a tingle of anticipation. Maybe, just maybe, I am about to experience something special. Getting out of the cab I turned to Jon and said I had a good feeling. I instantly regretted doing so. I'd said, or thought it, too many times. I needn't have worried.

Cabaña Las Lilas is a big place. A lot of tables, a lot of waiters. A plate arrives with assorted hors d'oeuvres. Bread too. A little plate between two of assorted savouries to accompany the cup of excellent vegetable soup. I barely noticed these things arrive, the waiters floated around the table without ever really disturbing us. When the hors d'oeuvres were finished, another plate appeared in their place.

We shared an entrada of mollejas (sweetbreads). They were the finest I have eaten in Buenos Aires, and I have eaten a lot. What more can you say? Our mains followed; a rib of beef, kobe ojo de bife (ribeye) and suckling pig. They were all exceptionally good. We needed something more, so topped up with kobe bife de chorizo (sirloin). If you wanted to be especially critical, it might have been a little over salted. But really, even if it was, it couldn't detract from the fact that it was unbelievably juicy, tender and dripping with flavour. Delectable. Maybe that's what happens when you have your own private ranch to supply your meat.

We followed all this up with assorted desserts. A plate of baked fruits was the highlight. I felt I needed something more. A little palette cleanser. Maybe a gin and tonic? A glass of something bubbly perhaps? (Earning a reprimand from Marco for wanting anything acidic). Then I realised what I wanted. Of all the drinks in the world, surely nothing could crown this meal more than a grappa. We ask the waiter if they have any. He explains that they are just about to bring us grappa and limoncello. Every table gets it after their meal. I fight back the tears. This place is heaven.

Food is one thing. Service is another. Throughout the meal, we were looked after impeccably, but without intrusion. At one point, I watched the head waiter walk past our table. He discreetly scanned us as we ate. In how many restaurants would he have stopped and asked us if everything was ok? Nearly all of them. What did he do? He walked right on by. He knew he didn't need to ask.

With coffee came a tray of petit fours. When one of them ran out and we asked for more, another tray, twice the size, arrived in its place. Of course after so many things to please the soul, the coffee couldn't possibly hold up its end of the bargain, and especially not in a town where the standard is so low. But it did. The best coffee I've had in Buenos Aires, to add to the best everything else.

Maybe that's it now - the search is over. I've found a restaurant I truly, truly love, right here. The kind of place that will lift you effortlessly from the deepest depression just by the very thought of dining there. Not that I need lifting anymore.

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