Cumaná in Buenos Aires was one of three restaurants across from my hotel, and I am nothing if not lazy. The Good, the Bad and the Overcooked. But enough about La Cholita!
Happily, Cumaná would turn out to be the Good and not just because service here was noticeably friendly in a city of interesting approaches to service!
Cumaná in Buenos Aires: The Room
The interior features a deep red scheme with highly polished wooden floors. The lighting was especially low, meaning you can’t entirely see what you’re eating.
It is a great idea to turn up to an Argentine restaurant early, to be served quickly. There were a few Americans, people with small children and me. I do like an atmosphere, particularly if travelling with friends, of course. And it’s great to witness a society at the table. However, sometimes, particularly when jet lag kicks in, I do prefer to eat early. What’s your preference (add a comment below this post)?
Argentina really takes its small customers seriously. Like in many Mediterranean cultures, babies and children are celebrated in restaurants here and parents DO take children to dinner with them, even in the later evening.
Hurrah! The Pinguino arrived! Often house wine is served in varying sizes of Pinguino (= Penguin, of course). I thought they were charming and the house wine here, a Malbec, was perfectly palatable, even though it cost around the same as a bottle of water (i.e., it’s pretty inexpensive).
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Cumaná in Buenos Aires: The Food
I decided to order two courses. Argentina is famous for its empanadas. It charms me that the term ’empanada’ comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning ‘enbreaded’ or wrapped in bread. And of course this is just what they are: little turnover pies stuffed with a tasty filling and wrapped (here) in pastry before being baked or fried. They are popular throughout South America and the Philippines.
I chose two. Argentinian beef in one and cheese and ham in the other. The spicy beef was like a rich casserole and was excellent. The cheese and ham were of poor quality (to my palate at least), but were still a punch of salty goodness.
With so many heavy choices on offer in Argentinian cuisine, I opted for a main course of chicken and salad. The chicken came with a topping called ‘spicy mix’. Frankly, this was lashings of very finely chopped raw onion with a little tomato and chilli. I struggle to eat raw onion (despite its punch of flavour) due to immediate heartburn, so I’m afraid I scraped this right off. The underlying crispy chicken was really delicious and had been carefully seasoned on both sides.
In general, salads served in Argentina were not offered with a side of dressing (nor was one available). Some lime was available with the chicken, which I used to flavour the salad. No complaint, just a different approach.
Cumaná is not just a full-service restaurant, but also offers take-out pizza. The delivery drivers roared up outside on all kinds of motorbike as if they were film stars. Each bike was mounted with a delivery box to keep the pizza hot (I went in 2017, so this was before Deliveroo or Uber Eats!).
I was soon preparing to leave and to give in to the last vestiges of jet lag. Just as I grabbed my jacket, the rising murmur of customers and the roar of the motorbikes were joined by a rhythmic oontz-oontz of house music! Right along the street, a party was getting underway at Shock Bar right next door and the place appeared to be doing a roaring trade! Tempting as it looked, I carried my sleepy head back to the hotel to prepare for another full day in Buenos Aires, full of the best Argentinian food I had tried so far…
- Rodríguez Peña 1149, C1020 CABA, Argentina
- Reservations are advisable for later dining