Friday, February 10, 2006

Wild Flavor

Ummo. Gorriti 4918 (Palermo).

As we are savvy gastronomes, who have developed discerning palates in the cramped confines of New York restaurants, my Brahman medic sidekick Claxon Bajadi and I wanted to eat something distinctive.

We inspected a number of restaurants in Palermo SoHo, which like its namesake is an architecturally appealing neighborhood oversaturated with designer boutiques, restaurants, bars, and “resto-bars,” most of which offer a predictable menu of Argentine dishes disguised with exotic names and garnishes.

At last we found what we were looking for: Ummo, a lofty brick and concrete interior. The walls were decorated with large, loud abstract paintings that I would classify as Crystal Meth Expressionism. The hostess wore a tight-fitting, asymmetrical shirt with a single sleeve.
The menu featured a variety of meats: African buffalo, Patagonian lamb, trout, and vizcacha, which looks like a cross between a rabbit, a gerbil and a squirrel.

After a vigorous debate, Claxon and I settled on an appetizer and two main plates: bruschetta with pickled pheasant, ñandú panzotti (basically big raviolis stuffed with an ostrich-like bird), and yacaré – a South American alligator – in a vermouth reduction sauce.

The pheasant had a rubbery consistency and tasted more like vinegar than anything else.

The homemade panzotti were fairly tasty, though the ñandú meat was mealier and denser than expected. I also found it a bit dry, but the mushroom sauce helped a bit, though it suffered from a zealous dousing of balsamic vinegar.

The yacaré, like most exotic meats, at first bite evokes the cliché “it tastes like chicken,” though the following bites revealed a more complex flavor. The meat had a dense, smooth texture and a hint of fishiness that was not unpleasant. Since my knowledge of reptile anatomy is rusty, and there were no biologists at hand, the amount of small bones in the dish was a surprise to both of us. Despite the fashionable ambience, we ended up eating with our fingers. Just like chicken.

To finish the meal, we decided for a traditional desert and bajativo: chocolate and dulce de leche ice cream and Johnny Walker Black Label.

Price: $149 pesos ($49) for two.


Blogger Henri la Quiton said...

Vizcachas, Lagidium viscacia, are large rodents found in the higher altitudes of South America. They are close relatives of the chinchilla, at which I once shot.

6:49 PM  

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