Another gastronomic icon bites the dust

The closure of another gastronomic icon, and once again an indigestible Michelin Star dinner. Same City, different restaurant. 

Well, as you probably already know, I have always slightly been put off by eateries with reputations as large as the bill they hand you after the pudding and the coffee. Mainly because I don’t believe in paying over the odds (for anything except Bayrueth tickets) for someone else to cook for me. We have a good enough kitchen at home. (not bragging)

The last time, disaster hit, it was Tegei (Bs As), which still rates as the 5th best restaurant in Latin America. Never went back. And just for the record that 3*** Michelin Venetian restaurant, north east of the lagoon, I cannot remember the name right now, maybe unsuprisingly, but it was arrogant & awful, and I never so happy to leave a restaurant early enough!

La Bourgogne

This time, we read in the local rag, ‘La Nacion’, that after 25 years (not bad for a Frenchy style restaurant in a city full of BBQs), that Jean-Paul Bondoux’s ‘La Bourgogne’, tucked away down an exclusive side street, and behind the famously expensive Hotel Alvear here in Buenos Aires, is closing for good in June 2018.

Now, I have always been aware of the place, I must have walked past it a thousand times, at least, over the last 18 years, but something just did not want to, push me, or call me in to actually cross it’s threshold and give it a go. Until last night, that is.

Two wine chums and I got together for a last supper experience in ‘La Bourgogne’, as they lock up for good, next month, as they will be throwing out the crockery once and for all.  None of us had been there before. To give you an idea of what sort of place this is, the locals and rich tourists of course, consider it to be the best that the city of Buenos Aires has to offer within, what they call, VIP? gastronomy. Fork me!

The founder is a chef (sheff) called Jean-Paul Bondoux, I think he still cooks, he looks like he does, and he eats a hell of a lot of his own food to boot, he is absolutely enormous. He was born, so I am told, on 7th November 1948 in the French town that gives the name to his restaurant that opened here in 1993. I actually don’t know of a town that is called La Bourgogne in France, but there we go, strange? And on top of that, I was told, once, some conflicting information, that infact he was born in Uruguay, maybe from French stock, who knows and does it really matter anyway?

We can still find the other and original ‘La Bourgogne’ (desde 1979), in the very fashionable Uruguayan Monte Carlo, called Punta del Este. Over the years he has been positioned as one of the most elite and high-end gastronomic places to eat in both countries. (Argentina & Uruguay that is, with an offshoot La Bourgogne, aswell, in Mendoza wine province, which I did have a good lunch in, back in 2004 (is it still open, I don`t know). I was informed last night that the ‘La Bourgogne’ in Buenos Aires, was voted the 25th best restaurant in the WORLD, by who is anyone’s guess of course. Where and how do they come up with this stuff, god only knows?

Yes, there is a dress code (Jackets! and I guess flip flops for those with smelly feet and if the weather is warm enough) and also, a seven plate tasting menu, which is what we went for. We were told that they also had a deer, a rabbit, a duck and lamb on the a la carte menu, if we so choose to follow that route. The wine list was quite good for Argentina, though we took our own wines and our own Zalto Burgundy glasses toboot, more on that later.

When we finally left at 2am with the washer uppers, I asked them what will become of the place after the closure, and I was told it is to become a BBQ restaurant serving Argentine cuts (beef) and meats. God how boring. A city full of the same kind of restaurants, and now one more to add to the rather looong list.

La Bourgogne

How was our evening? you ask. Well, I enjoyed it for the company and the wines more than anything else, and let me start you off with the all important vinous side of things. We happily drank:…

2011 Corton Charlemagne, Domaine Louis Latour
Once the temperature had risen a little this bottle showed great weight, richness and ripe yellow fruits, all surrounded by wood and citrus flavors. A sense of mineral in the texture adds complexity, with firm structure. Delish!

2013 Volnay 1er Cru, Domaine Marguis D’Angerville
Having done a little research the following day I can report that this wine is a blend of two parcels in the lieux-dits, Les Pitures Dessus and Mitans, that can sometimes include fruit from young vines elsewhere, though not in this bottle of 2013. This bottle had a clean and pure, perfumed black cherry and wild-strawberry bouquet with very fine delineation. The palate is medium-bodied with slightly chewy tannins, good acidity and with just a touch of sinew on the finish that should soften out over time.

1988 Clos Vougeot, Domaine Nicolas Meo-Camuzet (made by Henri Jayer)
Really a fresh and vibrant start on the nose. The wine is drinking really quite well now. The bouquet wafts from the glass in a blend of cherries, a touch of red currant, gamebird, forest floor, chocolate and a smoky topnote. Wow! On the palate the wine is fullish, complex and quite velvety in texture, with a good core, fine complexity and good length on the still, soft tannic finish. This is a very bold and pretty Clos Vougeot. I am sure that HJ’s attention to detail here, stamped his signature all over this wine. An absolute classic!

All were Burgundies of course, and enjoyed enormously in Zalto Burgundy glasses, which really are a joy to drink from, as if i need to explain that to the converted, right! These days I find myself taking my own ‘stemware’ (I know sorry, a lovely Americanization that floats my boat) with me to eat out, if the wine is worth it that is, and normally BYO.

We managed to intermingle a non-Burgundian for the starter wine. 2004 Viña Mein. I thought it was from Chile but then when I looked again at the label it was all in another sort of Spanish. The address on the label read Ribeiro San Clodio, Leiro, Galicia. Enough said! An extraordinary wine. Intense, bright yellow. Complex aromas of stone and tropical fruit. Bread, dry honey and mountain flowers. Clean, powerful, suave fruit and a long yet clean finish. And then, after this one and all the Burgundy glory, we had to finish with a finishing wine.

2010 Buca Delle Canne from La Stoppa, Emilia Romagna appeared on the table. An explosion of Malvasia from the La Stoppa stable. I could easily have drunk this wine at any time of the day and not with a pudding. It`s a dream. Minute production, golden dark amber and yet still bright. Cinnamon, honey, pine nuts, figs and light wild sage. Clean finish and very persistant. More and more please!

I ended up, on two occasions during the dinner having to leave the table, as I was closest, and going over to the wine table, where the Sommelier (off that night) stores the bottles to be poured, and actually pouring our own wine, at our table. Terrible, terrible service. And I am not saying that I was hopping up and about with a great thirst. We were patiently waiting, as one does, for some attention and then quite frankly, let’s just get on with it, we need the dam wine, not empty glasses on the table.

The soup was the entrada. Billed as a Bouillabese, yuM!  But I could taste ‘caldo’, the fish flavoring and it was a very very light soup, not a bit of generosity and no sign of any seafood. Just a dainty prawn or two sunbathing on the surface. I thought this was the first course and yet it turned out that the little pate (patay) thing we had before was actually the first plate. Uy uy uy!   No amouse bouche here!

There was then a beef thing, which was fine, just. Can anyone go wrong with that here? Type of Carpaccio.

Then the duck. Here we go, i had to spit it out as it was, totally, horrible and not even cooked correctly. You know they put it in one of those fashionable plastic bags that they use in the all the top joints these days, and boil it up. Then slice thinly the cooked (?) duck onto the plate with some special sauce. Well Yuk! The following day I actually felt that had I digested the duck, it would have possibly poisoned me. How can anyone go wrong with duck for goodness sake? enough said!

Then another cheesy dish. Fine with loads of some kind of chutney-marmalade and walnuts to nosh on. Good!

Finally, the pudding. Well TWO of them to fill out the ‘special menu. And yes, okay, they were amazing and so should have been as the guy (Jean-Paul Bdx) has a pastry shop or two here and is famous all over south America for his gateaux and tartlets. I once asked him, he was at a wine tasting, for his recipe of Marzipan. He had no clue what I was asking him. What? he kept asking. In a heavy french/spanish accent, is Marzipan? I replied Marzipan is Marzipan. I think it is a paste of sugar and almonds or hazelnuts. He then goes aaahhhhhHA! You mean, MarzipaN!

Anyway, as you read this dear reader, the place has now closed for good, it won’t be missed of course. What happens to Monsieur Bondoux is your guess as good as mine.

Ciao for now!