Casa Felix in Buenos Aires is a very special place. Ring the buzzer at a non-descript front door in Chacarita, a quiet residential neighbourhood, and you’ll be ushered into a courtyard that plays home to one of Argentina’s best supper clubs or ‘closed door restaurants’ as the locals call them.
‘Closed door restaurants’ are a well-established feature of the Buenos Aires dining scene – some of them have been running for decades. Casa Felix was started five years ago by Argentine chef, Diego Felix, and his wife Sanra in the open-air courtyard of their apartment.
Casa Felix’s courtyard – open to the stars
The evening begins in the garden, with a cheeky mint and watermelon clerico (a sangria-esque spritzer made with white wine and very popular in Argentina). The herbs and plants in the garden, the portly figs dangling over the courtyard from next door’s garden and the intensely green fruit from Diego’s stout little lime tree form the basis of our dinner. Anyone thinking that Argentine dining is all meat and no veg would be in for a shock at Casa Felix where locally-grown vegetables, whole grains and indigenous South American herbs form the basis of an imaginative menu, inspired by Felix’s travels around the continent.
Out of many cuisines we have in this world, Argentian one is one of the most versatile and delicious cuisines on all seven continents without any doubts about it. They do prefer meat but there is so much more to it besides just meat. Anyone should try that feast for the senses absolutely.
A breeze ripples through the main courtyard as we sit down at a tealight-studded table to the first of five almost-faultless dishes – an addictive morsel of hot, runny Fontina cheese wrapped in Chayote squash leaves and drizzled with syrup.
Causa limena, Casa Felix
Next up is causa limena – a traditional Peruvian cold mashed-potato cake (does that sound grim? It’s not) doused in lime and topped with sauteed oyster mushrooms and a little chilli oil. Delicate, zesty, delicious. (Causa features on the menu of Ceviche, the new Peruvian joint in Soho if you want to try it in the UK.)
The starter-major is a hillock of roasted beetroot, toasted Brazil nuts, leaves from the garden, goat’s cheese and roasted garlic, all drizzled with a sweet Malbec vinaigrette. Then it’s time for a palette cleanser: melon and lemon balm granita.
Our main is a fillet of grilled Patagonian sandperch marinaded with Diego’s take on Mexico’s pipian sauce – smoked salt, cumin, cocoa powder and ground pumpkin seeds. Yes, it’s every bit as lip-smacking as that sounds – I’m going to try giving some Brit fish the pipian treatment soon. The fish is served with black beans, a small dollop of an umami-tastic mole, pine mushrooms and salsa.
Throughout the evening, Diego wanders between the tables, explaining the origins of the dishes and ingredients to attentive, mainly American, diners. He recommends a wine-pairing for each course but we opt for a bottle of Torrontes – a fragrant white from the Salta region in Argentina’s northwest.
Quinoa and fig galette with lavender and honey ice cream, Casa Felix
We end a magical evening with a nutty quinoa and fig galette, topped with a creamy, if a little grainy, lavender and honey ice cream. Wholesome, original, delicious South American food served under the stars? Life doesn’t get much better.