1884 Mendoza

Have you ever been to a restaurant that hit every note perfectly?  I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world and experience fine dining.  From James Beard nominees to Michelin star winners, I’ve been to many outstanding restaurants.  I’m here to tell you that 1884 in Mendoza, Argentina should be a foodie destination!

If you read my blog on a regular basis you know that I’m a big fan of Anthony Bourdain and his show, Parts Unknown.  He talked with people in such a way that you learned more about an area that you could ever discern from the internet.   He truly brought out the culture and made you feel that you were there with him.

So, one day I happened to be watching the show when Bourdain traveled to Buenos Aires.  I had already booked my trip so I paid close attention to the things he discussed when he was in Argentina.  He usually had a chef companion with him when he traveled to all of the exotic locations for the show.  This time he was touring the city with South American chef Francis Mallman.  Mallman is pretty much the Bobby Flay of South America.  He’s a true grillmaster!

When I was researching Mendoza for my South American trip I ran across a Francis Mallman restaurant called 1884.   The restaurant opened in 1996 and looked very interesting.   According to the 1884 website, “Today, the property of Escorihuela, also houses the prestigious facilities of the Bodega “Caro” that is born from the union of Chateau Laffite led by the mythical Baron, Eric de Rothschild and Catena Zapata, led by Nicolas Catena Zapata who has been in the last 25 years the leader of the wine quality in Mendoza.”  What do you know, Catena is one of my favorite wines of all time!

1884 bodega in Mendoza
Bodega means “a storehouse for wine”

On the day of our reservation, the cab arrived to take us to the restaurant.  Upon arrival at the restuarant, I’ll never forget the way the cab pulled under a covered area and honked the horn.  There was just a little door, not really a sign.  It was very James Bondish.  We also had to knock on the door?  Very interesting but also a little disconcerting for first-time visitors!

1884 restaurant in Mendoza
Honk and knock to enter 1884 Restaurant

We made our way through the little gold doorway that opened to a lovely bar with fresh flowers and low lighting.  The bar wasn’t very large, but it had a very cozy feeling. Just right!

The dining room was a lovely shade of eggplant (yes, eggplant is the best way to describe it) and there was a lovely mural was on the wall directly behind us.  The lighting was enough for us to see the room….and, also just enough so that everybody looked fabulous!  The restaurant was very romantic with candles and fresh flowers.

mural on the wall at 1884
The elegant dining room at 1884

As we were looking over the menu the sommelier came to the table to help us with our wine selections.  Mendoza is known for its red wine, particularly it’s Malbecs.  The wine list was something to behold.  The 1884 website says that it has over 600 Argentine wines to choose from.  I believe it!   The sommelier described our wine as having notes of smoke, mint, thyme, graphite, and licorice.   Our Malbec was excellent and very different than many Malbecs I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Malbec wine at 1884
The wine had notes of smoke, licorice, graphite, and thyme!

Beef and empanadas are specialties in South America.  I had eaten a few empanadas on my trip already, but I had not experienced anything like the 1884 empanada! Fabuloso.  These empanadas were baked in a clay oven.  They make my mouth water just thinking about them.

1884 empanadas
Empanadas cooked in a clay oven

Another one of my dining mates ordered the pear salad.  It was wrapped in cured ham (it looked like Proscuitto) with burrata cheese and mixed nut gremolata.  Pure perfection!

peach salad with burrata at 1884
My kinda salad!

For the main course, I ordered a ribeye.  When in Rome…..of course, I’m ordering the beef!  It arrived with a crusty outside and a juicy inside.   I can’t describe how good it was.  The chimi-churri on the top provided an interesting twist.

Ribeye with chimichurri at 1884

As you know, I’m all about deserts.  I really couldn’t eat another bite, but I couldn’t let dessert go by!  I remembered back in high school making flan for Spanish class, which turned out really good.  And then I tasted 1884’s flan!

Dulce de leche flan at 1884

The dessert was flan of dulce de leche and fresh whipped cream.  In South America, they eat a lot of dulce de leche.  It is served with every meal, including breakfast.  I could definitely get used to it.  My dessert was divine.

Another friend ordered the Chocolate for Fanatics dessert.  WOW!

Chocolate Fanatic Dessert at 1884
I should have ordered this too!

My visit to 1884 was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.  Everything was perfect about the restaurant and the meal.  I was curious about the chef, Francis Mallman, so when I arrived back home I did a little research on him.

As I told you before, he is seen as the premier chef of South America.  He’s what we would call a grillmaster, but not in the sense of cooking with a regular grill.  He is the master of cooking over an open flame pit, using many unique techniques that are not very common here in the US.  Even at the restaurant, there were open fire pits used to cook the food.  No wonder the steak had the wonderful char on the outside.

outside grill at 1884
This is where the magic happens!

I happened to watch the Netflix series “Chef’s Table” where Mallman was featured.  Some of the techniques that he uses are not only open fire pits but clay ovens and smoldering covered pits (on the show he uses this cooking method primarily for fish). The food is completely covered by dirt as the steam cooks the seafood to perfection.  If you get a chance to see the show, watch it.  He’s a very unique guy!

Francis Mallman
The master of grilling photo by watatenzi.nl

During my research, I came across his recipe for the dulce de leche flan.  I’m certainly going to try my hand at it.  I hope you will, too. Enjoy!  Stay tuned next week for more about Mendoza, Argentina!  xoxox

Francis Mallman Dulce de Leche Flan per Epicurious

For dulce de leche:
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1-quart whole milk
4 cups sugar

For flans:
1 large egg
8 large egg yolks
For caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water

Make dulce de leche:
Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a large heavy saucepan and stir in pods, milk, and sugar. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer, then place a small saucer upside down in pot to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom or forming a crust. Cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and brown, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Cool.

Make caramel:
Preheat oven to 325° F. Place eight 6-ounce ramekins in the shallow baking pan. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in small saucepan with pouring lip. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until deep amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush and swirling the pan. Immediately pour caramel into ramekins, tilting and rotating ramekins to coat bottom and rewarming caramel over medium heat if it gets too thick.

Make flans:
Whisk together egg and yolks in large bowl. Whisk in dulce de leche. Strain mixture through a sieve into large measuring cup and pour into ramekins, diving evenly.
Place baking pan in the oven. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come two-thirds up sides of ramekins. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes. Tent foil to vent steam and continue to bake 10 to 15 minutes, until flans are set around edges but still slightly wobbly in centers. Using a metal spatula, transfer flans in ramekins to rack; cool 30 minutes. Chill at least 3 hours and up to 2 days. To unmold flans, run a small knife around edges to loosen. Invert onto plates.


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