D59, Feb 13, BA
One week into Argentina, we were finally psychologically and physically ready to tackle the late dine out. Nina has auto-adjusted somehow into a quite Latino schedule now for the last few days: wake up at 10am, breakfast at 10:30, lunch at 2pm, nap at 4pm, snack at 6pm and dinner at nearly 9pm.
Buenos Aires is certainly a night life city. At 8pm when I sometimes walked back with Nina from the nearby playground, I saw people just having their afternoon tea or coffee in the bars. It’s only logical – you need something to get the stomach to wait for the dinner that won’t start till 9pm the earliest.
After playground and bath, at 9pm tonight, we walked into the lovely ambianced but deserted restaurant La Peña del Colorado just around the corner. The only other table had three ladies obviously just having their pre-diner drinks. Our landlord and Lonely Planet both recommended the restaurant so it seems to be a safe option. And the walking distance to home also gave us peace of mind that we could quickly retreat if it turned out to be too much for Nina at the late hour. It’s restaurant plus show stage (a quite common set up apparently in this city) with live show option. We decided, with much hesitation, on diner only instead of diner+show as the show would start only at 10pm we were told, and we did not know how Nina would react any time from now.
Among a long list of parrilladas with all parts/meats to be ordered separately on the menu, we choose the set menu for two to avoid embarrassment of ordering funny parts, plus an empanadas and salad for Nina to eat as soon as possible. A bottle of Argentinian wine? Yes please. They didn’t have any option to have a glass only anyway. The order, of course, was all done with lots of trying Spanish, hand gesture, and guess from both sides. I took photos of the menu to enrich my Spanish vocabulary, which has been increasing since our arrival in a painfully slow pace.
Parrilladas turned out not to be like the Brazilian grill (which was, innocently, as south American as I got to know in terms of grill), but more like Korean BBQ, at least in terms of the presentation. The waiter brought a tray with all kinds of meat part sizzling in it still, and put on a high stool next to our table. A huge tray that was! Some ribs, some steak, some sausage, some liver, and some tripe as we discovered. It’s a volume way more that we three could handle. Nina loved the ribs the most – a bone sucking child she was. It certainly was a feast of meat.
After the three ladies of the next table left, we were the only customers in the restaurant for a long while. While we waited for our order to arrive, Nina drew (the drawing equipment has been our life saver in the long wait in restaurants), we made sure the bottle descend. The tango lesson (offered from 8:30pm, which again seemed to be a common set up in some restaurants) finished but the much expected show was nowhere to be seen. At 10pm, a few other diners just started to walk in. Now I finally started to appreciate where my Mexican apartment-mates in France got her later-dinner habit from. But I wonder, for the families with young children, how did it work? Did they simply keep the kids up late, or did they actually have to cut themselves from social life once a child was born (well parents all over the world seemed to do this anyway)?
At 10:30pm, Nina was still showing amazing capability to handle late night meat dinner. With the bottle now empty, we decided it’s only reasonable to call it a night and not to test Nina’s limit (she might explode any time). The show would be for next time. Alas, we were after all not yet Latinos.
We were presented with a bill (surprisingly reasonable at $310 – about US$30, esp after the ridiculous expensive and horrible tasting fast food lunch at zoo earlier today), as usual marked ‘10% tip is not included’. Should I feel insulted that they thought we might escape tipping or should I feel grateful that they just wanted to help us avoiding being ridiculous? This was not the first time, nor would be the last time.