Arévalo 1478, Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina
The first thing that struck me about Carmen Paz, one of the band of three that owns Arevalito, nestled in the hip barrio of Palermo Hollywood - Buenos Aires, was her accessibility. Many restauranteurs barakade themselves behind their kitchen walls and are rarely glimpsed. Not so with Carmen. She is as passionate about feeding people wholesome food as she was when she began life as the peoples cook back in the Seventies.
I threw away the list of interview questions I had when i met her. Carmen made me feel instantly at home. A feeling she extends to all. Watching the diners arrive and seat themselves outside the tiny restaurant, they were greeted like family. Many have been coming daily for years. Ever since she can remember, Carmen has been in love with cooking. It is woven into the fabric of her fascinating, bohemian lifestyle. She has owned four restaurants in her time. One in Amsterdam. Humble beginnings with one fire, one wok and one big table. It was her time in Amsterdam that the theories of macrobiotic cooking and eating became ingrained.
As I sat melting from the summers heat in Buenos Aires, I was charmed by Carmen (self titled - el reduccionista) and her zest and enthusiasm for food. It matches my own. She is forever learning, picking over recipe books, travelling, picking up an idea here and there and patch-working flavours. The menu at Arevalito changes twice a day. The food is fresh and hearty.
Carmen was keen to be left free of any foodie labels. Her views about 'faddy diets' and trendy ingredients were clear. Her food is born of her mercurial mind and and led by curiosity and her understanding of flavours alone. The only label she and Arevalito's two other owners, Uki and Luciano, allow is 'meatless'.
Her girls (she calls them her children) selected for the spark of passion she sees mirrored in them and groomed to carry on the whiff of Carmen's ideals, are working away in the cramped hot kitchen. One brings us our lunch. Carmen had given direction in Spanish, to ensure my vegan and gluten free diet was glorified. Inspired by a Brazilian dish - Bahiano. I greedily gobbled up a plate of vegetables gleaming with a divine coconut oil and naranja (orange) dressing, flecked with fresh green herbs. Accompanied by a crisp bowl of avocado salad. Around me, locals, mostly drawn out from the population of film and TV studios close by (how the barrio got its name - Palermo Hollywood. I thought it was because it was chic and artsy and filled with tattooed hipsters), dined on doorstep-deep pies and rainbow salads. Carmen told me the story of one guy who ate weekly at the restaurant for 4 years before he realised the menu was devoid of meat! A sure testament to her ability to deliver great food, especially in a country known for its parillas (bbq's).
In 2013 the cramped space is to be extended. However, Carmen shows no signs of stopping her campaign to serve up food which she translates to me - transports you someplace, and to keep the focus on the kitchen. It is just going to enable Arevalito to reach more, do more. Bread will be baked on premisses and Carmen will have her own space to create. More tables will serve more hungry mouths. Classes to will teach cooking skills. Concentrating on the most basic of ingredients to help cooks to bloom.
Two hours with Carmen Paz flies by. More diners arrive seeking an empty seat. People budge up and more chairs are added around the tables to accommodate the lunchtime crowd. The sun steps up it's campaign to make my unaccustomed English skin cook. I bid Carmen and Uki (who has now joined us along with her husband to fill their bellies) adios with a warm (and sweaty) embrace, and hop on my bike to join the city bike lane across the street. I don't know if life will ever bring me back to Buenos Aires. If it does, Arevalito's home kitchen is sure to be on the top of my list to which return.
Hours: Mon-Fri 09:00-24:00, Sat 09:00-17:00
Price range: $
Contact: 4776 4252