Diego Felix, owner and head chef at Casa Felix, welcomes guests to his restaurant with the same warmth and love most people offer when welcoming close friends and family to a dinner party. The lower level of Diego’s home just happens to be where he welcomes 12 lucky diners on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings for five course vegetarian, vegan or pescetarian tasting menus. However, I got the impression his warm greeting had nothing to do with the location of his restaurant and everything to do with his passion for cooking.
After following the instructions Diego emailed us earlier in the week, we arrived at his home a few minutes after 9:30 p.m. We were immediately relieved to meet two other English speaking guests, from New York, ringing the doorbell just as we arrived. I had been listening to Spanish podcasts for a few hours earlier in the day but was very nervous about having to put my newly acquired and barely existent language skills to the test.
The evening started with a tour of the home Deigo and his lovely wife Sanra share. We walked through two gorgeous rooms where diners gather on rainy nights, the open sky courtyard where dinner is usually served, an office lined with cookbooks, a small kitchen, and a candle-lit garden packed with herbs and vegetables.
While we waited for more guests to arrive, we sipped on white wine and mango sangria and listened to Diego talk about the different herbs in the garden. Here, we had time to smell some of the herbs, enjoy a braised chard amuse bouche and mingle with the other guests.
A few moments after sitting down, a basket of warm bread and bean dip was brought to our table. It didn’t take long for us to polish off the basket. It had been a long day of anticipating the meal.
The first plated course, our botana, was fried pink oyster mushrooms, grapefruit and a suico vinaigrette. The edible flower on top, from Diego’s garden, had a spicy wasabi flavour. Each element of the dish tasted wonderful on its own and combined to make something truly special.
Up next was the entrada, a take on ocopa, a traditional Peruvian dish of boiled potatoes served with a sauce made from huacatay (a herb also known as Peruvian black mint), sunflower seeds, onion, garlic, crackers, peanuts, pepper and oil. For our ocopa, grilled peppers laid on top and lavender chimichurri on the side. Chimichurri is another traditional South American ingredient, a sauce often used in Argentina to season meat. It’s usually made from finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, vegetable oil, vinegar, and red pepper flakes. In this case, the lavender was a great addition. It was a pleasure to enjoy this unique combination of signature South American foods.
Before moving on to our main course, there was a short break and we were served a shot of melon and mint granita to cleanse our palates. During this time, I couldn’t help staring at Diego while he calmly plated the plato principal. We had a clear view of the kitchen throughout the evening. It was amazing to see everyone working together with ease. They even found time to entertain friends who seemed to drop in unexpectedly to act as taste testers.
Our main course was inspired by organic eggplants and tomatoes Diego found at the farmer’s market earlier in the day. Organic ingredients in Buenos Aires can be limited, and, on this particular day, this was all that was available. Describing it as his challenge for the day, Diego definitely succeeded by pairing our corn filled phyllo tulips with an eggplant and tomato sauce. We savoured every bite.
Just when we didn’t think we could eat another bite, we found room for dessert. Lavender ice cream made with yuca, rather than soy or coconut milk, was served on top of coconut rice and white nectarines. It was light and flavorful, a perfect finale.
By the time our plates were cleared, it was after 12:00 a.m. For a little kick of caffeine before the walk home, we were served cocido negro, a Latin American hot beverage that’s prepared by burning yerba maté leaves with sugar.
Before saying our goodbyes, we signed the guest book and settled the bill, a very reasonable 150 Argentinian pesos ($40 USD) each, plus tip. Diego walked us out and we thanked him profusely for his hospitality and, of course, the great food. If you’re visiting Buenos Aires and looking for a special vegan or vegetarian meal out, this is the place to go.