I'll be in Buenos Aires and would like to spend Shabbat in a hotel in a Jewish neighborhood, preferably one with a restaurant where I could eat something fabulous on Friday night and Saturday. But take-out if that is not available.
re: SoCal Mother
The meeting hotel will be the Howard Johnson's in the Florida Street Mall, so Once/Balvenera might be an interesting section in which to spend Shabbat. Thank you.
We're not going until early fall (I like to get bookings lined up and file the trip away until it's time to head to the airport) So, if you get their first, I'll look forward to hearing which restaurants or bakeries were not to be missed.
OK, my long promised trip report.
First of all some reference material: Look at the Ajdut Kosher web site.
They have a list of all of the places under their hashgacha as well as a kosher product list. Be careful with the list if you don't read Spanish. They list some products that might not be acceptable to everyone but the explanation is in Spanish. (example: yogurt with gelatin)
Also, restaurants usually open around 8:30 in the evening. If you can't deal with that, the pizza places and McDonald's are open through. El Passaje opens a bit earlier. If you speak Spanish please note that the names of fruits are different in Argentina than Mexico.
Where we ate meat:
El Passaje: Steak was amazing, DS loved his milanesa as well as his empanada. (I did not but I suspect that I just don't like that sort of thing.) Meal came with some rolls and some spreads. You have to order the sides separately and they are definitely an afterthought. (Rice was expensive and had no flavor.) The waiter was attentive and patient with our language difficulties. The only place where they brought us chilled tap water (free) on request. No credit cards, no English menu, no English or Hebrew spoken. We spent around $40 US for 2 people.
Al Galope: Similar sort of place but everything was one step down (including the price.) Waiter was nice but he messed up our order and we had several Argentinians with us. Steaks and chorizos were amazing, mashed potatoes and chicken soup were inedible. No credit cards, no English (menu has translations,) didn't try Hebrew.
Asian: Run don't walk. One of the best meals of my life. We ordered a ton of food (ribs and the double portion of steak,) sodas and one dessert. The meals came with fries which they gladly allowed us to substitute for red beet colored mashed potatoes and mashed batata (sort of a yam.) There was also bread and spreads and some sort of fruit drink to start. We spent 352 pesos before the tip. Our waiter was from Ireland and the menu is in English and Spanish. They take credit cards. It's a little hard to find, on the second floor of a building that has a theater.
McDonalds: Not your usual fast food. They make each meal to order and it's made with Argentinian beef. One amusing thing, we ordered two Doble McNificats, one without onions. When the order came up with the onions, the counter clerk apologized, THREW THEM AWAY and remade our meal. Well, he couldn't give one of us a meal and make the other one wait, could he? In a McDonald's!!! The meal was 38 pesos with small fries and a drink, more than enough for me but DS ordered a second burger. We saw someone behind the counter checking lettuce with a light table. Careful: there is a non-kosher McD in the same mall.
Sucath David: We bought schnitzel and chicken for Shabbat. The sides were tasteless as per usual but the chicken dishes were fine. This place is very VERY popular with locals but we didn't get there for a regular meal.
We also bought deli at a few supermarkets. Nothing amazing although the corned beef with sliced egg and olives was an interesting idea. The only bread available is at the kosher stores. The plain white (red bag) and wheat (green bag) bread is a special kosher run, so don't buy the same brand in a non-kosher supermarket. The bread from Cohen was pretty good. My favorite was the mezonos pitot. (Although our LOR says to wash on it anyway, this is a food review, not a halachic discussion.)
Dairy: We had pizza and other stuff at Soultani and Romini. Soultani has more of a selection. No English spoken, Romini has an English menu and the counter man spoke Hebrew. We also had pizza and empanadas at the AMIA cafeteria but I think you need to know someone to get in there.
Freddo ice cream: Amazing although not really worth the price. Ask for the kosher list. Get anything with dulce de leche. Trust me.
Forgot to add a quote from a friend who lived in Argentina for a few months: "If you ate a good piece of store-bought cake in Argentina it was imported from somewhere else." I have to agree. But go to any bakery and get the things that look like knishes and are filled with a vegetable that looks like spinach but isn't. Pretty much the only green vegetable I saw the entire time I was there...
PS in a BA restaurant there will be a cover charge which is not a tip. It will show up on the bill as cubierto or something like that.
PPS (read this quick before the mods delete it) There is a new $140 pp fee for US citizens entering Argentina. I was caught unawares...
Um....For the price of two meals at Asian you will need to pay a cover charge of $140 to eat out ANYWHERE in Argentina if you are a US passport holder.
We had a quarter-pounder with fries at the kosher McDonalds next to the non-kosher Burger King in a big mall in Once, an all-American experience you cannot get in America. The burger was everything I expected a McDonalds' hamburger to be: boring, so-so meat in an unexciting sauce on an unexciting bun, factory-produced experience. But, hey, I had never eaten at McDonalds.
Ate at Asian. Ordered roasted Patagonian lamb shank. It was excellent. They do know how to roast meat here. First courses we ordered were an excellent sliced pastrami served on toasted baguette with salad and a Thai beef salad. The beef is very good here. They served a basket of bread with three imaginative and excellent sauces. A confit of tomatoes was particularly wonderful.
We picked up food in Once and mostly lunched in the hotel. There was not always time to get out to Once or Palermo for a meal.
The subway system is excellent but crowded. I mean that at many hours people will shove their way on and you will be crowded like sardines. Since you cannot help looking like an American and you cannot move in this kind of crowd, your pockets will be picked. I mean that they will open zippers, and putting your wallet into the front pocket is not sufficient defense since you will feel a hand sliding into it. This is not so bad if they are empty. Put your money into a money belt or a hidden inside pocket and leave your passport in the hotel safe. That said, the train will whip you out to Once or Palermo, where it is a short walk to a restaurant and kosher shopping.
Asian was willing to seat us at 8p. Most restaurants don't seat until 8:30p and los Argentinos show up no earlier than 9p. How do they do it and arrive at an 8 or 9 am meeting? I couldn't. We made a reservation at El Pasaje for 6p. I was surprised that they were willing to seat us so early. They weren't. They merely made the booking. They weren't going to actually seat us and start the grill for hours. We walked over to Tucson Steak House. This is a chain of "typical American steakhouses" in Argentina. It really looks and works like one. They mostly serve drinks at 6pm, but were willing to grill us some steak. And we couldn't leave Buenos Aires without eating a steak.
The salad that was on the menu as part of the steak, potatoes and salad never turned up. But there was a very good loaf of pan del campo with a garlic eggplant spread. Loved both the bread and the spread. For the first course we shared a sausage because it was the most interesting-sounding thing on an unimaginative list. It was good. As was the back steak. It may be that I am simply not capable of getting excited about steak.
Asian was the more ambitious and interesting menu, and it was very good. But not on the level of the top steakhouses in Miami or New York.
Shabbat was lovely. The great synagogue is located in El Centro, but it is "traditional". We walked to Chabad of Recoleta, perhaps a mile and a half into a lovely neighborhood. Palermo, the next neighborhood out form the center, has a regular shul and a large cluster of kosher restaurants and shops. It is the upscale neighborhood, Once is more mixed.
Chabad of Recolets is a flourishing, balabatish congregation. Not tourists, although not all shomer shabbat. But it feels like a large, ordinary shul. You willl get to meet local people at the kiddush on both Friday and Saturday. We dined at the home of Rabbi and Mrs Hendel on Friday, and at the home of a family on Saturday - the invitiaon was arranged by the Rabbi. They are not running a toruist operation, even though Mrs. Hendel has an excellent cook. But it does give tourists and, more frequently, business travelers the opportunity to be hosted by a congregation. Of course we made a donation to the congregation. I was told that there is also a Sephardi shul in Reocleta. A substantial Syrian community immigrated here.
You could also stay in Palermo, a lovely area, and daven at the shul there.
Adina if you are still in BA: There are some wonderful liquors that are available only in Argentina. I personally love the Bols eggnog (Advocaat) and I bought something odd that is coffee flavored whiskey. I am told that the Bols coffee is pretty good also. Check the list for specific names and brands.
re: SoCal Mother
SoCal mother was right about the Dulce de leche flavor ice cream at Freddo. Wonderful. And once you know which flavors are kosher, you can find it all over town. If you go over winter break, it will be summer in Argentina and just as you melt from too much touring, you can eat an ice cream. And so can your wilting kinder.
Unfortunately it is not that easy.
The USA has 50 sets of liquor laws for the states plus other sets of laws for DC, PR, etc.
If product X made in Country Y is kosher and Kosher Importer Z wants to bring it to the USA and distribute it>>>>>
#1 Importer Z has to meet federal import/tax requirements.
#2 Importer Z has to get the product approved by the state liqour commission and arrange for a licensed distributor in that state to stock and distribute Product X to Liquor stoires in that state.
#3 In some states where liqour is only sold in state owned stores (E.G. New Hampshire) the importer and or distributr has to lobby the liquor authority to add the product to the approved list and secure shelf space (store by store, not a statewide decision).
This is why certain imported kosher alcohol products are only vailable in heavilly Jewish populated states as New York.
The alcohol laws are very complex. I recently handled a case for a client who is a distributor for more than 50 years in Connecticut and wanted to buy another distributor in Mass. It was an absolute nightmare.
We need uniform laws in the USA