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Some of the Best Restaurants in Argentina are Illegal

And in people’s living rooms.

After years of cooking at serious restaurants in Paris and New York, Chef Gonzalo Bazterrica decided to open his own place. But he didn’t have the money to rent an entire restaurant space, so he moved to Buenos Aires and opened a “puertas cerradas,” or closed-door restaurant.

Bazterrica’s restaurant is called Ocho Once, and while it’s legally legit, many closed-door restaurants like it aren’t.

Think of a puerto cerrada like a restaurant meets house party. Like at a restaurant, you pay for an amazing meal cooked by an experienced chef. Similar to a house party, you kind of have to know someone to get in. Puerto cerradas don’t typically list their location online; instead, you have to call or email and make a reservation in order to get the address.

Bazterrica’s restaurant partner is Swiss musician Dieter Meier from the band Yello. Meier also makes his own organic wine, so of course Ocho Once is fully stocked.

Closed-door restaurants have an intimate feel. Most only contain five or six tables.

Bazterrica used to live in the restaurant, so his taste is evident throughout the place. He painted the walls and hung the art.

Ocho Once’s menu only ever features organic meat and seasonal vegetables, so it changes every weekend based on what’s available. Tonight’s fare includes squid with shishito peppers.

“The fact that I can change the menu weekly makes it much more personal,” Bazterrica says. “It’s how I developed my own style of cooking.”

For dessert, a charming jar of tapioca, coconut milk, passion fruit, and berries.

After the five-course meal is over, the chef takes a seat at the table. (It’s his backyard, after all.)


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