Colegiales, Buenos Aires
(Closed door restaurant, please email for exact address)
*Dinner at 8 p.m. from Wednesday to Saturday only
Closed door restaurants have cropped up in major cities over the recent years and Buenos Aires is one of those places where several of them can be found. A few years back, we went to Casa Saltshaker, American Dan Perlman’s puerta cerrada (which means closed door and is what Portenos call these private dinner places). Since then, I heard about another one from fellow blogger and friend George from My Hotel Life wrote a rave review of it here. (Have a look at his super photo of the same sisig I ordered after reading his article). Even before we arrived in Buenos Aires, I had already booked a table for six for a Thursday evening knowing that after several days of amazing Argentine cuisine (grilled meat, empanadas, pastas, dulce de leche and more grilled meat), we would all be needing an Asian fix.
Cocina Sunae is the brainchild of Korean-American Sunae who decided to create a space to showcase the cuisine of her childhood in the Philippines and the rest of south east Asia. Why in Buenos Aires? Because she fell in the love and married an Argentinean (as one does) and decided to start a family in Buenos Aires.
As this is a puerta cerrada, we were only given the address and that weeks’ featured menu (two starters, two main courses and a dessert) after we had confirmed our booking a few days before. We got a bit lost looking for the lace and ended up ringing the bell of a dark entryway on the same street until we realized we had the wrong house number. Finally, we found the gate which also serves as their home with the restaurant on the ground floor and their living area upstairs. The place was packed and unlike a typical puerta cerrada where the diners usually sit together in one large table, this felt like a proper restaurant with about ten tables seating around 24.
The menu that week was a choice between a Thai green mango and prawn salad or a Thai tom yum soup followed by either the (infamous) Philippine sisig or a Thai Khao Soi and a dessert of chocolate ganache and green tea ice cream.
The green mango salad was sour and salty from the fish-sauce based dressing and the other starter of clear prawn-flavored soup was pleasantly spicy. My son and I had the sisig – chopped marinated pig cheeks sautéed in onions and chili till crunchy and traditionally served with a sunny side up egg on top. (Sisig is one of my favorites and something I hadn’t eaten in years as it’s almost impossible to find abroad, although I luckily had sisig twice in 2013 first at Pig and Khao in New York and then at Cocina Sunae) while A and my in-laws had the yellow curry of chicken with crispy egg noodles which was sinus-clearingly spicy. Dessert was a refreshing mix of sweet oranges, bitter chocolate and cold green tea ice cream served with a ginger flavored butter cookie. What a find Cocina Sunae was! It’s going straight onto my Buenos Aires favorites list.