Eat List: Mendoza, Argentina : New Worlder

Where there’s fantastic wine, fantastic food invariably follows, and Mendoza’s dining scene lives up to this rule. Winery fine dining was pioneered by Francis Mallmann’s Restaurante 1884 at Bodega Escorihuela Gascón in 1998, with an array of wineries across Argentina’s largest grape-producing province following suit over the past two decades; Bodegas Lagarde, Dominio del Plata, and O.Fournier among many others deal in exquisite paired tasting menus. Let’s be honest: There’s nothing quite as sweet as sipping on a glass of Argentina’s favorite red grape in Malbec heartland with a view of the Andes. And, let’s not dismiss downtown Mendoza. Chef Pablo Del Río is en su salsa with Fuente & Fonda and Zampa, while solid dining experiences are also had at Azafrán and María Antonieta. Here’s our rundown of the best spots to settle in for a meal in Mendoza.

Downtown Mendoza

Zampa

Siete Cocinas’ fans were up in arms when Pablo Del Río closed his fine-dining establishment in 2016 –and more so given that new kid Zampa rose from the ashes in the same location. Del Río’s happiness with the decision shines through, however, with a delicious array of small plates from trout sliders with olive mayo, rabbit sausage and roasted bone marrow. Eating instructions are clear: using your hands is totally acceptable. Definitely ask for wine advice from jolly top somm Mariano Moreno; also keep an eye out for top winemakers kicking back here. zampacocina.com.ar

1884 Restaurante 

Culinary pioneer Francis Mallmann is behind Mendoza’s original winery restaurant in Godoy Cruz, the southern district closest to Mendoza city. To be expected, fire, in all its technical formats from clay oven to parrilla, is at the heart of this fine-dining establishment where a tight ship serves up an impeccable array of fire-touched ingredients such as charred goat cheese with bell peppers, seven-hour slow-cooked lamb, and roasted peaches and plums drizzled with mascarpone. Dinner only. 1884restaurante.com.ar

Maria Antonieta 

A solo project from Vanina Chimeno (also known as Francis Mallmann’s other half), this bistro is open early for breakfast – serving up great brunch-style dishes – until dinner. Flavors are clean: For lunch, think abundant salads such as warm artichokes with Camembert and rib-eye sandwiches while pastas, including mouth-watering mushroom ravioli with fresh ricotta, and fish rule come evening. Sit inside to avoid noise from busy Belgrano Avenue. mariaantonietaresto.com.ar

Fuente y Fonda

The second of Pablo Del Río’s Mendoza offerings, this is time-warp, family-style dining. Set in a gorgeous vintage casona on Plaza Italia, dishes are served in tin camping tableware and designed for sharing. Think abundant sweet corn and ricotta-filled cannelloni and delicious milanesa completa. Leave room for the to-die-for flan. Facebook Page

Azafrán

A perfectly presented picada, or charcuterie platter sporting local cheese and cold cuts, is the best way to start at Azafrán. Then move onto hearty, yet well-thought-out cuisine that focuses on local ingredients; roasted lamb loin with goat cheese tortellinis, fresh peas and mint is one tasty hit. Definitely slip down into the cellar, an Instagrammable oenophile’s dream, managed by a hard-working and knowledgeable sommelier team. azafranresto.com

Luján de Cuyo

Fogón at Lagarde

The pet project of Sofía Pescarmona, the lady boss who leads Bodega Lagarde, Fogón is tucked next to the 1897-constructed winery’s 20 hectares of Malbec vines. Eat outside for a dazzling vineyard view, sampling a seasonal five-step tasting menu designed by chef Lucas Olcese paired with winemaker Juan Roby’s creations. Fogón focuses on small producers from Mendoza as well as other regions; Patagonian trout teamed with fennel and beetroot is a standout. Lunch only. lagarde.com.ar.

Osadía de Crear at Dominio del Plata

Hernán Gipponi from Buenos Aires’ Naná overhauled the menu at Dominio del Plata’s fine dining restaurant, Osadía de Crear, in February 2017: the result is classy à la carte honing in on local products. Trout gravlax with beetroot gazpacho is one entrée innovation as is his mouth-watering 63Cº-cooked egg teamed with bean purée, cured ham and homemade ricotta. Braised veal cheek is a main-course must, best paired with winemaker Susana Balbo’s Benmarco line and taken in full view of the snow-capped Cordón del Plata mountain. Lunch only. susanabalbowines.com.ar. 

Jamón Crudo Food Truck

For roadside refueling in Ugarteche on the way to or from Viña Cobos or Renacer wineries, make a pitstop at Ezequiel’s ham sandwich food truck. He hand-cures pork and bakes farmhouse-style loaves at home in Maipú, artfully carving off slices of ham and slapping them between two enormous slices of bread with a little olive oil. Eat on site or take away. Calle Cobos y Ruta 7, Ugarteche

La Vid at Norton

Helmed by delightful Executive Chef Patricia Suarez Roggerone, Bodega Norton’s La Vid is a fitting tribute to regional ingredients given the contemporary touch. Highlights from the seasonal six-course tasting menu include Maipú-sourced rabbit that finds its way into tortellini, while Lunlunta goat cheese and confit lamb are highlights on the à la carte menu. norton.com.ar.

Maipú 

Pan y Oliva at Bodega Santa Julia

With its own olive oil plant next door, Santa Julia should, quite naturally, run a restaurant dedicated to extra virgin liquid gold. And naturally Arauco, Arbequina and other olives take their turn in the menu spotlight, which spans tapas, salads plucked from the organic garden, pasta and even desserts. For a light bite, give the goat cheese pizzetta a whirl, before rounding off with watermelon and basil sorbet, finished with a golden drizzle of, you guessed it, olive oil. casadelvisitante.com

Uco Valley

Uco Valley Casa de Uco

Sourcing salad leaves and other goodies from their organic garden (and what they don’t grow, they unearth from local producers), chefs Pablo Torres and Carlos Torres take true pleasure in their vocation. Their seasonal menu might include homemade duck ham, purslane, raspberries and mixed greens or pumpkin ravioli, fresh tomatoes and basil, all served up in a stylish setting, as expected from this hip hotel. casadeuco.com

Urban at O’Fournier  

Spanish chef Nadia Harón leads Urban at La Consulta-based O’Fournier, fusing her native Basque cuisine with Mediterranean and Argentine cuisine. Located in an ultra-modern setting, her six-course tasting menu is updated each week and offers guests a plausible reason to return on a weekly basis. Kick off with a delicate braised onion and blue cheese salsa before moving onto sumptuous veal ragout. The view of the Andes on a clear day? Second to none. Lunch only.   ofournier.com.

Tupungato Divino

This off-the-beaten path restaurant and four-room lodge led by Sergio Viegas is a gem. Dine outside next to the trickling irrigation system, Tupungato volcano in the distance, and tuck into a hearty Malbec-braised rib-eye lovingly prepared by chef Jennifer Sosa. As per the menu, which changes up according to local product availability, the wine list only deals in bottles produced in the Uco Valley. tupungatodivino.com.ar.

Siete Fuegos at The Vines of Mendoza

While seven fiery culinary techniques are at the heart of Francis Mallmann’s Uco Valley-based restaurant, lunch and dinner are most elegant affairs. Overlooking the vines, perk up palates with a watermelon, zucchini, arugula, radishes, hazelnuts, mint, basil, and Trebolgiano cheese starter before moving onto salmon baked in an iron box with roasted vegetables, parsley, garlic and lemon zest. Service is efficient, the wine list extensive and complete. vinesresortandspa.com.