The Best Meal in Argentina? Look No Further than La Bourgogne!
I traveled throughout all of Argentina, looking for the best food in the country. And after going through about 25 or so of the "best," I think I finally found it in La Bourgogne, a very special French restaurant located in the Vistalba winery in Mendoza. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts/notes on my experience.
La Bourgogne (restaurant at Bodega Vistalba
)French, Fine Dining
150 ($45) pesos for 3 courses
R. Saenz Peña 3531 – Vistalba
Taste: 9.4/10-9.5/10. Add a tenth or two if you enjoy beautiful presentation.
Value: 9.5/10. This is the finest, most perfect dining experience in Argentina, and it fully merits the price it commands.
Overall Score: 9.6/10. Best meal I had in all of Argentina. This is a superb restaurant in almost every single way.
Very rarely do you find a restaurant that is considered almost unanimously the best in a nation. Yet Argentina does have just such a restaurant in La Bourgogne, which specializes in haute French cuisine. Now, that might sound a bit gimmicky—French cooking in Argentina? How much do Argentines know about French cooking? But actually, Argentina has always been very receptive to French influences in terms of everything from fashion to intellectual currents, especially during the first half of the 1900’s (but even today), as France was considered the center of cosmopolitanism and culture. Somehow, then, it seems fitting that the supposedly “best” restaurant would be French, given France’s influence on the growth of Argentine culture. Moreover, La Bourgogne is run by a true Frenchman and is given accolades for its unmatched quality of food year after year, so it has a reputation for consistent excellence. And best of all, for this unforgettable experience, it costs just about $45, extremely expensive by Argentine standards but a steal for any American foodie, who’s no doubt experienced how expensive high-end French cuisine can be in the US.
La Bourgogne has two locations—one in Mendoza and one in Buenos Aires—but I imagine I went to the better of the two, the one in Mendoza, since it has about as ideal a location as possible: right in the middle of the gorgeous Vistalba winery estate. Thus, not only do you get a phenomenal dinner, but as an added bonus, you can take a tour of the winery and engage in a wine tasting before or after your meal, which is quite the treat because the Vistalba winery itself is just stunning. It’s modern with a classic, colonial vibe to it, but it’s carved out of rock.
That type of modern grandiosity also translates into quite a chic, spacious restaurant within the winery. The restaurant is small and intimate, yet you still do get a sense of the grandiose because both the chairs and couches are incredibly large and have tons of open space among them to give people a sense of privacy. You also get a modern vibe from a lot of small touches, like the fact that there are couches instead of chairs for certain spaces and that bohemian music plays in the background (a very nice touch). Yet, it never seems as empty as the minimalist decorative scheme would imply, since the natural light that flows into the restaurant really makes it feel much more cheery and welcoming.
The service was equally exceptional, as it excelled in nearly every way, from the promptness to the professionalism to the friendliness and finally to the care taken to guarantee that everything was going well.
Finally, the food did not fail in any regard. The restaurant had consistently beautiful presentation on all dishes, which were very organized and integrated a wide variety of colors and ingredients but not cluttered at all. Not only did I enjoy each and every dish, each was outstanding, which is all the more surprising because each is so unique and is inspired by a different cuisine, really showing the depth of the restaurant’s culinary expertise. Nothing felt tacked on or gimmicky, though, because it was all executed properly. La Bourgogne does not have the largest menu, but it doesn’t have to, because everything is excellently prepared and presented.
There was only one problem: La Bourgogne only offer a couple wines from the youngest line of the winery by the glass, and the only bottles of wines the restaurant provides are those of the winery. This not only limits people drinking by the glass to lower-quality wines, it also limits all to Vistalba’s own wines. Considering that you can get a fantastic bottle or glass of wine in almost any high-rated restaurant in Mendoza, it just seems Vistalba’s wine list cannot compare at all to the standard for restaurants in the region, which is a shame, because it excels in all other regards.
It doesn’t matter, though, because I loved this restaurant. It’s outstanding on all accounts, be it food, service, or ambience, and it provides you both with maximum comfort and incredible food. If you want the best dining experience in Argentina, this is it.
What I had (in order):
(Complementary) Pita strips with butter and hummus: The pita could be better, but the hummus is a very nice surprise, adding a cosmopolitan touch from the start to the restaurant. It’s creamy, rich, and bold.
Bread and olive oil: The nut/wheat/grain bread has a wholesome feel to it, with a great texture that’s not too rough or too soft. The white bread also has a good chew and fluff to it, but it’s bland and lukewarm. Moreover, the olive oil is notable for being produced in-house (the winery also sells olive oil), but it’s a bit strong, bitter, and dull, actually detracting from the bread in my opinion.
(Complementary) Beet Soup—Nice touch as a free start. Spicy, bold, strong flavor. Beet really comes through, but not overpowering. Perfectly balanced in almost all regards. Just a fantastic soup, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. 9.5-10.0
Appetizer: Prawn tortilla/omelette (cheese is melted in the omelette, and sauce is provided on top): Beautiful presentation. It tastes very fresh, and all the flavors seem to really balance each other, even though I’d never have thought prawns and potatoes could work together. The prawns are juicy and tender. The tortilla is hot, well-cooked, and supplemented by a tomato-based sauce that really adds a lot of flavor to what would otherwise be too starchy and one-dimensional. Inventive and fresh-tasting. 9.0/10
Entrée: Rabbit marinated in carrot curry with eggplant crumble and carrot juice—This dish is near flawless. The presentation is beautiful, with all the different components compartmentalized in separate areas to balance the use of space on the plate. As for the taste, it’s irresistible. There is not too much meat, but it is not necessary, because everything on the plate has so much flavor. Meat is extraordinarily tender and cooked to perfect crispness, with just the right amount of fattiness to be satisfying but not too much. It blends surprisingly very well with the carrot curry, which balances some of the slightly gamy taste. The eggplant crumble is inventive and delicious, like a sweet vegetable-cake. It actually reminds me somewhat of the taste of strudel—it’s that good. Inventive, perfectly cooked, delicious, and good rapport among elements. Nearly perfect. 9.8/10-10.0
Dessert: Croquant cake with banana and coffee flavoring, alongside a banana drink/milkshake: The flavors are bold and very good, though they aren’t perfect. The cake is especially notable. It’s icy, like a snow cone cake, and it is surprisingly refreshing, especially on a hot day. The coffee comes through strong, but it’s not overpowering. The crust of the cake is phenomenal—like honey, halva, and coffee all mixed in. Coffee beans are provided on the side and are a nice touch. So is the syrup that is provided, and the whole banana piece placed inside is okay, though not great. The banana drink is also fantastic—light, foamy, and fruity. 9.0/10
Petit 4s: The cookies were particularly fantastic.
Food and Wine Blogger
"How much do Argentines know about French cooking?"
Going back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, major capitals and cities in Latin America (Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires especially) were heavily influenced culturally and ideologically by French ideals and liberalism. Thus, many of the historic and great cafés in these two cities often were influenced by Parisian trends and styles and this left a mark - even a century later - on the aesthetics of the two cities as well as the culinary training and dishes. Both cities and their respective countries also received millions of immigrants at the same time which added another culinary dynamic.
Very nice post!
Yes. I agree that the cafe & cafe culture was influenced by the cafes of Paris, but to be honest, I don't find much of the best food down here to be French.
I've also heard the Mendoza one was the better of the two.
Nice write up. I'm looking forward to making it out there soon.