It probably goes without saying that when two foodies travel, meals are a high priority. Waist sizes are often an afterthought, remembered only when zipping up skinny jeans. Luckily, I’ve perfected the art of jean lunges. Super handy pre-dinner, completely pointless afterwards – unless you count that as your daily exercise.
Elizabeth and I have been friends since sparkly gel pens and World History, which can be easily translated as day one of high school. What does this mean to you? Nothing. But for us? I can trust her to pick a dinner place that I will love and vice versa. (Other sentimental things too, naturally) One of the best parts of visiting her in Buenos Aires was that I knew she had a finger on the pulse of some of the city’s best restaurants. So when she suggested visiting an Asian restaurant in a country known for its beef, I closed my eyes and reminded myself of an essential friendship mantra – trust.
Casa Mun is the project of Chef Mun, a recent transplant to Buenos Aires by way of Korea-Hawaii-New York-LA. Chef Mun is a corporate banker turned chef, mixing training in sushi and Japanese cuisine with a childhood of traditional Korean food. His love of the Argentine capital brought him here, where Chef Mun opened his closed-door (puerto cerrado) restaurant, Casa Mun. Let’s discuss.
Friday night, Elizabeth and I turned up at a nondescript building in front of a nondescript door. After offering our reservation name, a hostess led us up a set of stairs into a rather spacious loft where we were greeted with a glass of sparking wine. Big kudos here to Chef Mun for calling it what it is and not casually referring to it as champagne. Standards, folks, standards. We strolled around the space, had our photo taken, enjoyed the terrace, and started chatting with fellow diners. At Chef Mun’s invitation, we moved to take seats at one of the three tables in the loft. Here was our only point of contention. While other parties had claimed seats upon entering (cheaters!), Elizabeth and I waited for the dinner gong (not really a gong, no). This was a situation in which “Musical Chairs” champs would excel. We floundered for a second too long and found that we would be sitting on complete opposite ends of the room. For two friends who haven’t seen each other in 4 months, and one having just got off a 10 hour intercontinental flight, this wasn’t going to work. I felt a bit guilty disrupting the spirit of what Chef Mun was (I assume) trying to accomplish in this dinner party setting, but there was no splitting us up. Luckily, the 3 guys we had been chatting with didn’t mind squeezing in a bit. I’d like to think it’s because we’re terrific dinner company.
Dinner at Casa Mun was a 5-course affair, starting with oshibori, towel service. Chef Mun gave some background about himself and every subsequent dish. I could hear the excitement in his voice as he spoke, and passion like that is infectious. He was happy to be hosting us, and were more than happy to be there. Our first course was a “Bento Box” of assorted Korean favorites. Can I say I liked it, even though I don’t remember everything that was in it? There was a seafood pancake…and a pan-fried tofu sandwich…and, um, next course!
The second course was a Chinese Wonton Soup with chicken, shrimp, wonton, bok choy and watercress. I love wonton soup. I love chicken soup. Imagine how I felt about this. I liked the texture the crispy wonton added. If it was socially acceptable outside of my kitchen, I would have picked up the bowl and tipped it down my throat. Is it socially acceptable in my kitchen? This was paired with a smooth Baekwha Soobok sake.
The next course was Salmon Nigiri, Argentine King Crab Hand Roll and Spicy Tuna Maki. One piece of nigiri was topped with toasted sesame seeds, adding an element of texture and taste I found particularly enjoyable. The crab was naturally sweet and kept escaping the grasp of my chopsticks. And really, who doesn’t love a good spicy tuna maki? Our fellow diners regaled us with horror stories of Buenos Aires sushi served with cream cheese and (oh, you’ll never believe it) strawberries. I don’t understand the concept of the Philadelphia roll to begin with, but strawberries?! Moving on. This course was paired with a lovely Pinot Noir. Me! Saying a Pinot Noir is lovely! Argentina, what are you doing to me?
The fourth course was a traditional Korean Bibimbap, a dish I always enjoy. Namul (sautéed and seasoned vegetables), bulgogi marinated beef and gochujang (chili pepper paste) are served in a bowl on a bed of warm rice and garnished with a fried quail egg. Never one to shy away from something spicy, I happily coated my serving with the gochujang. We grinned at each other rebelliously as we shoved North Korean ferns into our gobs. It’s the little things.
Our last course was a Torta Alfajor Rogel with Fresh Berries. If I was to compare this to anything, I would say it is very similar to a gâteau de crêpe, only this was made of layers of alfajores. A bit too much for me at the end of our marathon meal, but this final salute to Argentinean cuisine was a classy and thoughtful move.
I had a fantastic time at Casa Mun and would absolutely recommend it to anyone, tourist or local. Chef Mun and his team were wonderful, gracious hosts. We met some fantastic people over the course of the evening, and I chatted with two guys who are roommates in an apartment only 5 avenues away from my alma mater. [Insert small-world comment here.] My only suggestion would be to save this for a few nights into your Argentine adventure. It will be a welcome break from all the beef and heavy eating you’re bound to indulge in.
Casa Mun, located in the Palermo Soho neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina, serves dinner on Friday and Saturday and is cash only. Have I mentioned how incredibly well-priced this meal and wine pairing is? Incredibly well-priced. For more information or to make a reservation, visit their website.