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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Sarkis - Thames 1101, Palermo

Sarkis has become somewhat of a holy grail for me. Having failed many times to obtain a reservation, tonight I am determined to eat at Buenos Aires’ most popular Armenian restaurant. In fact, Kate and I have been planning our visit via many excited emails since I booked my flight back to Argentina (I am glad to have friends that share my enthusiasm for food).

Alas, it is fully booked they tell me over the phone, we have to arrive early to have any chance of getting a table. Luckily for us, ‘early’ is a relative concept and by Argentine standards means 8:30pm so Kate and I arrange to meet to put our names on la lista before waiting hopefully, peering through the window at our future fellow diners. Eventually my name gets called, "Su-see?", and we are led to our table in the capacious, unimaginatively furnished room.

You don't come to Sarkis for the décor; you come for the respite from the omnipresent parillas (steak houses) of Buenos Aires. While the interior may be bland, the food is a refreshing antidote to typical porteño dining and therefore it’s an excellent option for vegetarians.

Queso Blanco, Ensalada Beléand Jamba


We order several meze-style dishes: Ensalada Belén, Queso Blanco, Jamba, Falafel all served informally as and when they are prepared, by old-school waiters. The salad is a mixture of fried aubergines and peppers mixed with sultanas, almonds, herbs and spices, salty and sweet, crunchy and yielding in equal measure. The Jamba is a delightful smoky red pepper dip topped with walnuts and leafy herbs and pleasingly oily. The falafel is a little disappointing in its dryness and the Queso Blanco (white cheese) is underwhelming, but both are adequate.

Kate and I have a lot to catch up on, our chatter interspersed by each dish arriving and the topping up of our wine glasses (is there any better sound than the glugging pouring of wine?). At eleven o'clock we start to think about leaving, but at half past we are ordering dessert, feeling relaxed, seduced by the chatter around us. We order a ‘small' ice-cream sundae, but as if to tease us, our waiter brings the larger size, giving us amused knowing looks when he sees us very nearly finish the vast mound of ice-cream, chocolate sauce and booziness.


The 'small' dessert
We are certainly not the last when we finally take our leave at around half past midnight, and this is one of many things that makes me happy to be back in Buenos Aires: the lack of urgency in the bars and restaurants. You can mooch in cafes for several hours barely buying more than a single cup of coffee, and in restaurants you are never told to be out by a certain time. After close to four hours at Sarkis, a hugely popular and busy restaurant, we are never once made to feel like we are overstaying our welcome, and feel nothing less than completely contented throughout the evening. I agree with Kate when she deems it to have been an “epic” dinner; the Holy Grail did not disappoint.

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