Unlike the States, where pesky codes and laws interrupt the dreams of gourmets with culinary skills but no official space, Buenos Aires and its bribe-friendly approach to these matters means that anyone who wants to can give restauranteering a shot. A wet dream for chefs, foodies, and trend-piece writers, puerta cerradas offers a different sort of dining experience focused on elaborate menus and more attentive service. Whether it’s a less wussy approach to spices, savory Italian fare, or a full-on feast, many of the city’s closed-door restaurants provide a tasty alternative to Palermo’s latest fusion misstep. In case you can’t possibly swallow another steak, here are the city’s five best closed-door restaurants, reservations definitely required in advance.
● Casa Felix. Well-known Chacarita puerta cerrada that deserves all the good press it gets. New York Times-approved and vegetarian-friendly, this closed-door restaurant is run by a dreamy and socially adept husband-wife team. This means no awkward theme nights or halting conversation, just a delicious five-course meal with some free booze to start the evening.
● Cocina Sunae. Korean-American female chef whips up some of the city’s freshest Southeast Asian dishes in a cozy Colegiales apartment. Relaxed dinners outside of the steak and malbec tradition a great alternative to pricier Barrio Chino fare. Her spicy and authentic dishes have even managed to attract ambassadors—fancy!
● Scenna&Santella. Gregarious and charming Porteno-Yankee duo skilled in the art of Italian cuisine, atmosphere-crafting. Rather than weekly dinners, they focus on monthly meals beloved by both visitors and locals. Five-course affairs are demure and delicious, while 50-peso gourmet pizza nights feature a strong-armed, well-dressed waitstaff slinging pies to hungry-looking models and local scenesters.
● Mis Raices. The oldest closed-door restaurant in the city actually opened its doors a quarter-century ago, beating everyone else on this list by at least a decade. Run by the sweetest Jewish grandmother in town, whose take on traditional cuisine is delicious and decadent. Fasting the day-of is recommended, lest you not finish all that’s on your plate. If a 10 o’clock dinner is too late for your own grandmother, make reservations for lunch on a Sunday instead.
● La Cocina Discreta. Local bohemian couple opens their Villa Crespo digs for dinner on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Mix of traditional staples and international flourishes manages to stay on the right side of fusion cuisine, while space for only 18 means that no matter what, your dinner will be intimate. Three-course menu and wine selection slightly more formal without wandering into froufrou territory.