Buenos Aires is known for its closed-door restaurants, or puertas cerradas, where some of the city’s best chefs put together mouth-watering multicourse meals in the comfort of their own homes. The menu is set, and reservations are mandatory. The closed-door experience has always intrigued me, but given that I’m a picky vegetarian living in the heart of parrilla-ville (i.e., meat galore) an expensive fixed-menu meal did not sound promising, and I gave up on the idea.
That is, until I found Jueves a la Mesa, a charming vegetarian puerta cerrada in San Telmo run by Meghan, the beautiful soul who also founded Buena Onda Yoga (stop by Monday evenings for a class taught by yours truly!)
I arrived at her apartment building at 8:30pm and buzzed up – giving just my name as I had been instructed so that the neighbors wouldn’t know “what’s up” – and waited with a few of my fellow diners to be let up. When we entered the apartment, I was immediately enchanted. The table was beautifully set with flowers and candles that created an intimate and cozy setting, and the smells wafting from the tiny kitchen had my expectant tummy growling.
As we waited for our food, the other dinner guests and I sipped on honey wine and got to know each other. We were a mix of locals, expats and travelers alike, switching back and forth between English and Spanish as we listened to each other’s stories.
But as soon as the food was served, all went silent. Meghan laughed at us from the kitchen, saying she knew the food was good when the talking stopped. And oh, it was. Today’s menu was Ethiopian: we started with the honey wine, followed by a delicious lentil dish served with injera, a crepe-like fermented Ethiopian flatbread (which Meghan had started making two whole days before).
The main course was served on a round flat injera, piled with more lentils, a cabbage and potato stew, and collard greens – all authentic Ethiopian with names I can’t remember, and all vegetarian.
And for the grandest of finales, Meghan brought out her world-renowned (and it really is world-renowned) homemade chocolate truffles with organic fruit and ginger tea. The chocolate was like those amazing Lindt truffles that melt in your mouth around Christmastime, but even better because they were unladen with processed sugar (honey-sweetened) and made with love.
But even better than the food were the connections it helped us make. As she served the first course, Meghan talked to us about the philosophy behind Jueves a la Mesa. They use all fresh, plant-based ingredients with little to no white flour or sugar – which is not only healthy, but also puts us into direct contact with the earth: leaves, stems, seeds, roots… as Meghan gleefully put it: the food we’re eating grew in the ground and lived off of sunlight – how cool is that!?
And, of course, there are the connections we guests made with each other. Being the busy and nutrition-conscious person that I am, I tend to scarf down food and focus more on what I’m eating than who I’m eating it with. In other words, I forget that eating can and should be a social activity. Food should be shared, and so should the enjoyment of a good meal and the conversation that accompanies it – so eat, drink, and be merry!
Between the good conversation and travel stories we shared and the delicious, sun-filled food we were eating, Jueves a la Mesa wasn’t just dinner: it was a beautiful experience that left me full of joy, thanks, and lentils. Shouldn’t all meals be like this?