Leisurely lunches are a beloved tradition in Mendoza, Argentina—South America’s most famous wine region—and a few celebrity chefs and exciting newcomers are taking the local offerings to a new level. Here are three spots where the alta cocina of your mid-tasting-tour meal will reach truly Andean heights.
Kaiken Ramos Generales by Francis Mallmann
Last February, Mallmann, Argentina’s most famous chef, partnered with Bodega Kaiken, a winery on the outskirts of the city of Mendoza, to open a food truck that offered takeaway gourmet sandwiches. Earlier this year, the truck was scrapped in favor of this permanent open-air restaurant, run by executive chefs Diego Salvador Irrera and Javier Luengo, who have both worked in Mallmann restaurants for decades. The sandwiches—think lomo with pancetta, Argentine cuartirolo cheese, and housemade mayo—are still available, but the expanded menu focuses on meats and vegetables grilled over an open flame. Try the tenderloin wrapped around avocado, tomato, chili, and mascarpone, or a salad that deftly combines smoky sweetbreads with baby arugula, radishes, and cherry tomatoes. The service is impeccable, as well.
This restaurant opened last December on a family-owned vineyard in Altamira, an emerging section of the Uco Valley, about 70 miles south of Mendoza city. Across two tasting menus, Argentine chef Seba Juez, who spent time at former number-one-in-the-world restaurant El Bulli, applies the techniques he learned abroad to local produce to create sophisticated dishes such as sweet and creamy roasted squash with turmeric, yogurt, pumpkin seeds, and black garlic, topped with a poached egg. The wine list leans on Altamira producers—including the owners’ Presente Wines—so a meal here offers an excellent opportunity to taste small-batch, hard-to-find local bottles.
This coming April, Huentala Winery, an ambitious operation in the Gualtallary appellation of the Uco Valley, will open a reimagined, 250-seat version of its restaurant. Expect panoramic views of the vineyard (and the signature out- door art installations, which include a massive new piece that’s been in the works for more than a year) to go with the creative cuisine. The plan is to offer diners two multicourse menus of dishes featuring regional ingredients and grilled meats, with pairings of house wines. A light sunset menu will also be available for later arrivals and the winery’s overnight guests.