Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Argentina Part Dos

In my mind, our Argentine honeymoon should divided into three phases: Centollo (king crab), Cordero (lamb), and Bife (beef).

After we landed in Buenos Aires, we flew directly to Ushuaia, where we learned about centollo.

Ushuaia is a little town that grew too quickly into a city of 60,000. The infrastructure has not caught up with the population growth and the city has a dingy drizzly feel and that permanent sense of foreboding that comes from being surrounded by mountains. Although the surrounding areas are breathtaking, the city itself is not a pretty place.

It is also remote. Waaaay remote. Stuff gets to Ushuaia the hard way, by truck (a four day trip from Buenos Aires), boat or plane. It’s not a place where you’d expect to find cilantro in the grocery store. The local specialty is centollo, or king crab.

(Photo courtesy of the Kaupe website – more on Kaupe later in this post)

When you think of Argentine food, king crab is probably just about the last thing that comes into your mind, right before tofu and right after lingonberries. I had no idea, until we arrived, that it is the local specialty in Ushuaia.

We ate it every night. Our first night in Ushuaia we arrived late and exhausted, and had our first taste of centollo in our hotel restaurant. This meal was unremarkable, so I’ll skip right to our next dinner, at Kuar, a bar owned by some friends of friends of JF.

We weren’t expecting much (when we arrived we didn’t even know Kuar served food), so we were delighted to find a light fettucini with centollo topped with an extremely mild white wine and ricotta sauce. The pasta was surprisingly delicate, and not the overcreamy mess I had feared.

Delicious, but the best was yet to come.

We were surprised to learn that Argentina’s YPF guide selected Kaupe, a cozy little restaurant in Ushuaia, as one of the two best restaurants in the country.

(Photo courtesy of Kaupe website)

Dinner at Kaupe

Ernesto Vivian (pictured above holding the king crab) is the chef and owner of Kaupe, and he was also our waiter. When we arrived he came out to take our order; he offered wine and dinner suggestions and then disappeared into the kitchen to prepare our food.

Because we are disgusting gluttons, we ordered three appetizers for two of us. First, we shared a fantastic scallop ceviche. It was light and tasted of citrus and spicy peppers; I had a difficult time sharing the last few.

Next, JF had naked king crab with lemons and mayonnaise.

And I enjoyed carpaccio covered with long noodles of cheese.

For dinner, we both had king crab kaupe, a sort of creamy flavorful soup full of crab.

At this point, our server (the chef/owner/waiter’s son) caught me taking photos and expressed what sounded like consternation. My Spanish is limited – he also could have been asking if we wanted dessert. JF said something about internet and blog and our server was instantly filled with delight. The chef came out to shake our hands. I smiled and nodded and pointed at my crab and smiled and nodded some more.

Dear friends at Kaupe, I hope you didn’t think I was working for the New York Times. All I can do is promote your delicious restaurant right here on my corner of the internet…



Blogger Jeff in NC said...

Hey, word of mouth sells! So I will tell 7 friends that IF THEY GO TO USHUAIA, EAT AT KAUPE! :) And tell 'em The American Raisin-Hater sent you!

Everything looks fantastic! And that's a BIG crab!!

9:52 PM  
Blogger melissa said...

Holy Kaupe! I can't believe how much sea spider you ate! I wish I wasn't allergic...

1:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you make me want to jump on a plane right now and go to argentina for that delicious looking and sounding food!


11:21 AM  
Blogger Mona said...

I have to say, I got a little tingly (hair standing on end) staring at that real spider crab in that guy's hands...and had to scroll down quickly to see what the cooked result looked like. Ah, much better now:)
Everything looks delicious. And I'm sure the restaurant will appreciate your fine reporting!

2:20 PM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Seafood, raw, cooked, and obviously plated with love- now that's one fine meal!

8:26 AM  

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