Sometimes it is nice to feel at home when so far away from home. Yet while in a new country and culture, it is always refreshing to seek out unique culinary experiences to keep our stomachs as satisfied as our souls. Enter “puertas cerradas.”
“Puertas Cerradas,” which literally translates to “Closed Doors,” are intimate dining experiences in private homes, open exclusively to pre-reserved guests or by invite. Although thousands of them can be found in countries throughout the world-including the United States and other South American countries like Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay-Buenos Aires, Argentina, has a healthy helping of underground dining options, with nearly 40 puertas cerradas to choose from.
Each has a different approach and concept, as chef Dan Perlman, owner of Casa SaltShaker in Buenos Aires, points out: “Some have communal tables, some don’t. Some are fancy, some are casual. Some have entertainment, others don’t. Some have fixed menus or tasting menus, others have menus you can choose a la carte from. Some offer wine, some don’t, some have bars and some don’t. Some serve Argentine traditional food, others serve Southeast Asian, or molecular gastronomy, or Mediterranean or Peruvian, or Indian, or... well, pretty much you name it.”
Casa SaltShaker, located in Perlman’s Barrio Norte home, offers a different fixed-price five-course menu paired with wines each week. Guests do not know the exact plates they will eat until served, but are able to see the main ingredients that will appear in each course on the website in advance. Perlman often likes to theme dinners after historical events that took place on those particular dates, and takes a “truly international approach” when cooking, incorporating different cuisines into his dishes. The base flavors are Mediterranean.
All attendees at Casa SaltShaker sit at a communal table that seats 10 people and are asked to arrive at the same time to maximize comfort and conversation. There is usually a mix of foreign tourists, expats and locals, though the crowd changes nightly. Perlman equates the puerta cerrada experience to more of a dinner party at someone’s home than a restaurant. Its motto, after all, is “Food. Wine.Conversation.New Friends.”
Overall, these puerta cerrada restaurants are inviting places to meet new people, engage in conversation, try something new, and enjoy “sophisticated home cooking,” as Perlman describes it. In these spaces, underground chefs also have the limitless freedom to experiment with ingredients and bring new flavors to the palates of people from around the globe.
Private dinners for any number of people can also be arranged at Casa SaltShaker. If you would like more information on how to reserve a spot or a private dinner there while in Buenos Aires, let us know!
Video Courtesy of Dan Perlman, Casa SaltShaker
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