Eating out in Ushuaia

Despite it being a tax free zone, eating out here seems more expensive on average than Buenos Aires, presumably because transportation costs are higher. The local delicacies in Tierra del Fuego are trout (trucha), king crab (centolla) and lamb (cordero). The first two were good but the roasted lamb is perhaps the best I’ve ever tasted (sse next post).

Another local indgredient you should try if you see it is Maqui. It’s a mega-healthy ‘super berry’ with the highest known anti-oxidant content of any known food (two or three times more than Brazilian Acai the former holder of the super berry crown) , and is found only in the southern regions of Chile and Argentina. You may find it in the shops as a jam or a juice.

Kalma Resto (Advanced B+),  Antartida Argentina 57, Tel: 2901 425786

The only fine dining choice in town, there are only 8 tables so it’s best to reserve. The decor is modern but cosy and they were playing trombone dub reggae when I was there, great music to listen to when eating.

Georges the chef and owner is very warm and personable. He was at pains to explain that he keeps the menu simple (half a dozen mains and starters). The hake and king crab were his personal recommendations.

To begin then, the ubiquitous complimentary cream cheese which you seem to get in all restaurants in Argentina, but beautifully presented here.

The starter proper was the “Centolla Tibia con Mejillones de Almanza, Langostino Erguido, Vinagreta de Pimientos Morrrones y Olivia Extra Virgen” for $120. This involved lukewarm king crab, the best I had whilst in town (A), with Almanza mussels (B), ‘upright shrimp’ (B) (which restored my faith in local prawns after a bad experience at Volver), and a capsicum vinaigrette and extra virgin olive oil. Again beautifully decorated, this time with edible flowers from Georges’ garden.

To accompany the food I had one of the cheaper whites on the list, the ‘Santa Julia’ Chardonnay, a reserva from Mendoza (B).

Next I had “Merluza Negra SobreEspejo de Suquet Patagonico, Malfatti de Espinica, Ciboulette Rizado y Mini Gajos de Naranjas a Vivo” for $120. The seared black hake was one of the best things I have ever tasted (A++) and made it worthwhile coming here, despite the subsequent price tag. Shame there was only a tiny fillet. The Patagonian tomato sauce and curly chives were unnoticeable as were the spinach malfatti (like gnocchi but made with ricotta and spinach?) which looked great but tasted of nothing. The mini-orange wedges didn’t appear on the plate for some reason.

Unfortunately the portions were too small for my sizable appetite and I also wanted to know what he would do with another quality local ingredient, so I had a second main of “Lomo Cordero Fuegino, Sobre Colchon de Hongos de Pinos Salteados, Tomates Cherrys y Papas Doradas al Tomillo”. This was strips of lamb tenderloin on a bed of sauteed mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and golden potatoes with thyme for $90. Sadly the lamb was overdone and tough and the mushrooms tasted pretty unpleasant too (C-), a real disappointment after the first two wonderful dishes.

My camera ran out of battery when the lamb arrived so apologies for the lack of photos. The final chocolate crumble with nuts and ice cream cheered me up again though, in preparation for a hefty bill of just under a hundred quid! Whoops I did it again…

Kalma was the top pick from Trip Advisor, which I don’t always trust (it can be manipulated) but it deserves the accolades and was the best prepared food I ate while was here.

All the following places where recommended by locals. With thanks to Andrea, Diego et al.

Tia Elvira (Intermediate B), between 367 and 337 (sic) Maipu, closed Sundays

A place with a great rep with the locals, due to being a longstanding institution. Should have had crab here really but was in the mood for meat so had a sirloin steak (A, seared to the point of being burnt on the outside and red and bloody on the inside) with a tomato salad (B) and boiled spuds (C cos unsalted for some reason).

I had a pretty good Malbec (B) from Bodega ‘Navarra Correas’ 2009. After eating I had to flee from my neighbour, a crazed drunken Porteno (Buenos Airean) who wanted to tell me about his fuckin cool times in Nottingham maan, and how the Brits are a great nation of pirates (fair comment). I get the impression some of the Argies actually admire us Brits for our sheer cheek in pinching one of their nearby archipelagos.

Casa de la Mariscos (Intermediate B), 232 San Martin, between Rivadavia and Roca)

The place to come for your local seafood apparently. I couldn’t decide what I wanted except to try the famous local Centolla so I threw myself at the mercy of the young camp waiter who duly took advantage of me. The ‘cassoulet’ of King Crab with Octopus in tomato sauce and petit pois was very good (B+).

However, the wine he suggested cost five times more than the food! (note to self, for the nth time, ask the bloody price before accepting suggestions). It was a wonderfully fruity (A) Sauvingon Blanc (Rutini 2010) though and probably worth £35, but it didn’t fit in with my budget plans. Total cost $310, about £50.

Volver (Intermediate B), 37 Maipu, on the corner of Yapanes,Tel: 433 977

Another suggestion from the teachers I worked with who recommended it for the decor, but suspiciously made no special mention of the food. It certainly has a great view of the harbour and an excellent ambience with nicely laid tables and very quirky decoration with a huge collection of paraphernalia covering every inch of surface space. The soundtrack ain’t bad either, Amy Winehouse was about as energetic as it got but anyone who likes her is basically ok in my book.

The chef Lino Adillion is a local character who takes his wardrobe inspiration from John Lydon and knows how to wrestle a king crab so respect to him for that at least.

Unfortunately though the food just didn’t cut it for me; two of my favourite things in life are mussels and prawns so, in need of cheering up, I ordered them consecutively as starter and main. The Meijonlles Provencal where huge (I thought these were Cholgas but was told they are even bigger! Get them at Tia Elvira if you’re interested) and perhaps because of their sheer size, they were too fat and chewy (C-). The preparation did nothing for me either, I could do better myself.

The following prawns were also king-size and would totally have lacked flavour if they hadn’t been sprinkled with paprika (C+). This additive was telling because as far as I’m concerned this is certainly an ingredient that should be able to speak for itself, but cold waters or no these didn’t cut it (and as a demi-Norwegian I know a good prawn when I taste one). The best thing foodwise was the complimentary cream cheese and toasted mini-buns it came with, so I took my main gratification from them.

The saving grace was the excellent Sauvignon Blanc from Famiglia Bianchi (2006) that was recommended by the waiter (A). The final house digestif was a wonderfully scented grappa

So, a great place to come for the view and the general vibe but I would respectfully suggest the owner concentrates on the atmosphere and choosing the wines and lays off the kitchen.

One Response to “Eating out in Ushuaia”

  1. Taken advantage of by a waiter in Argentina! I should be so lucky. Remind me not to let you choose the wine next time our paths cross in a restaurant though! I agree with you about the South American talent for producing huge chunks of meat – I reckon it’s the oven/grill which does it.

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