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Puerta cerradas, or closed-door restaurants, have been around the Buenos Aires restaurant scene for years now. I’m pretty sure every Buenos Aires ex-pat or food-related blogger’s written about the phenomenon by now, but for my readers back in the homeland (hi Mom!) a quick overview. The puerta cerrada is an “unofficial” restaurant, typically in a chef’s home or other private space. While each one is different, you can always count on enjoying a carefully planned multi-course menu in an intimate setting. It feels exclusive, like you’re at some sort of private supper club or have been invited to the chef’s home for a dinner party.

Lately, a couple of my favorite local food bloggers have opened their own closed-door restaurants. And yes, I’m overflowing with a combination of admiration and (well-meaning) envy! Living the dream, chicas. I was too busy enjoying great conversation at NOLA’s communal table to be snapping pics of each course when I went, but I highly recommend it. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor, where it’s sitting pretty at numero uno.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, as The Hidden Kitchen’s now on the scene as well! And at our semi-private table I had no camera shame. This latest puerta cerrada is the work of Frances Ren, an ex-pat by way of Bangkok/San Francisco/Beijing who also pens The Lost Asian and posts some of the drooling-est food photos in town. The seating is such that it could be communal if you want, or if you’re not feeling like telling the story of how you came to live in Buenos Aires for the umpteenth time, you can comfortably focus your attention solely on your dining companions without feeling rude. I liked having the option. While I’ve had some great communal dining experiences, I’ve also had some where a few hours felt like an eternity of tooth-pulling.

Adding to the appeal of The Hidden Kitchen: 1.) Hot-and-spicy-ness, that much-bemoaned missing ingredient in local cuisine. 2.) It’s BYO-freaking-B!!!! I have never understood how this concept has not invaded every corner of the culinary earth. 3.) Excellent eclectic music selection. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alice in Chains, Jack Johnson, Counting Crows, and classic pop and hip-hop tunes. You get the picture.

And now, for the food:

The welcome cocktail was absolutely divine. I heard something about gin and plums and didn’t really register the rest because I was already pouring it down my throat.

Napa cabbage, cilantro, peanuts and sesame sauce with flatbread

I failed to jot down the details, but all you really need to know is turnip cakes and hot sauce. And duck in those cabbage rolls!

Scallion pancakes.

A vegetable broth soup with sesame oil and a cabbage wrapped shrimp and pork dumpling.

Taiwanese braised short ribs cooked in Chinese herbs with handmade noodles, peas and carrots.

Crisp roasted duck with potatoes, grilled peach and pistachios.

My personal favorite, the crispy veggie spring roll with their signature Sweet Lady sauce.

And a delicious Thanksgiving previa: pumpkin tart with cinnamon ice cream

THE HIDDEN KITCHEN – Palermo, exact address provided with reservation

Check out the reviews on TripAdvisor.