The Argie bhaji

A rare Indian restaurant treat in Buenos Aires

The thing that I have missed the most about the culinary delights of the British shores is Indian food. To those readers from other countries, this might seem like a strange comment for me to make. Yet so ingrained is the curry and its deliciously spiced entourage into Britishness that I am not alone among my compatriot expats here. This is our dulce de leche. In need of a fix of home comforts over the weekend, and with my Saturday night plans having fallen through, this seemed as good a time as ever to testdrive the local Indian restaurant.

Perhaps the chief reason for this sudden need for curry was that I had almost completely depleted the supplies within what I would term my ‘comfort basket’. Just before I left London, my brother and his wife kindly squeezed a top-secret package into one of my multiple suitcases, complete with the instruction not to open under any circumstance until Buenos Aires. Almost three months – and, of course, one extremely disciplined journey to Buenos Aires – later and the Cadbury’s Dairy Milk has been vanquished, teabag rations are dwindling, and the Marmite is enduring a painfully slow yet inevitable, sludgy end (jar rather than squeezy bottle). Morale in the camp is low.

The Argentines don’t do spice either, and so it is the Jamaican hot sauce bottle that has been the biggest lifeline up until now. A versatile accompaniment for all manner of dishes, much to the bemusement of the locals, even this particular condiment is approaching its dignified scrambled eggs swansong either this weekend or next. In fact, it is a more general point that many expats complain about the blandness of the flavours on offer here. Never has this been more apparent than when the pickle tray came out.

If we think of India as being far away from the UK, it’s a hell of a lot further away from Argentina. This perhaps explains why it is noticeably rare to see someone of Indian descent living here, I’m not sure I even have in fact. As an obvious consequence there is less supply/demand of Indian cuisine. I was willing to make an allowance and continue past poppadum-gate at this juncture therefore. This was especially the case as Tandoor had a lot of credit in the bank from recommendations beforehand, and then the tasteful colour scheme of its décor and authentic Hindi music gently humming in the background.

On to the starters and mains then. The tikka prawns were delicious and – shock of all shocks – even packed a bit of a punch too, complemented nicely by a fresh mint and coriander yoghurt. Then followed a wholesome lamb biryani that had been slow-cooked and was served in an exquisite copper pot with almond-infused brown rice. This was genuinely some of the most tender lamb I have ever had, whilst the parathas on hand to mop up the excess sauce were a nice touch. Helping lubricate procedures, Argentinian brewer Otro Mundo’s Golden Ale shone in the otherwise candle-lit ambience too.

A highly enjoyable evening out, I have since passed on the good word to friends and work colleagues alike. If I could have asked for one thing more however, it was the frittered plant-come-vegetable bundle of delight that was conspicuous in its absence. The lack of this Indian restaurant mainstay from the menu was so affronting because the chef had done such a sterling job on the other traditional dishes, but alas it was not to be. Nonetheless I walked away very content, and slowly, until the customary post-curry deep sleep which ensued shortly thereafter. Like Maria though, the search for the Argie bhaji continues…

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