When you’re looking for the best places to eat in Salta, a unique gourmet experience with spectacular views of the city awaits those brave and open-minded enough to sample the city’s newest high-end restaurant.
El Baqueano made the bold move from San Telmo in Buenos Aires to Salta city, opening its doors at the top of San Bernardo hill a year ago.
Its Buenos Aires incarnation was voted no. 21 of the best restaurants in Latin America for nine years running: and the newly-located El Baqueano is the only one in north west Argentina to be ranked in the same prestigious list (at no. 80).
It’s only number 7 on Trip Advisor despite being the only restaurant in the top 10 to have five stars (but don’t get me started on Trip Advisor… we’re listed as no.1 in the Food and Drink section, despite being a tour company).
As you’ll also see from the reviews of El Baqueano on Trip Advisor, opinions diverge starkly: while most coo over the location, food and service, some regard it as pretentious and over-priced; indeed one unhappy customer even described the food as inedible, which seems to be going a little far.
So let me chip in my own two penn’orth.
My wife Alicia and I first visited shortly after El Baqueano opened in May 2022, when we went with guests from Brazil: we sampled the seven course tasting menu (calculate roughly US$65 per person with wine, or US$40 without).
I enjoyed the fact that of seven courses only one was meat: and it wasn’t beef, but goat.
All products are local sourced, and indeed the menu itemizes the exact locations of the food.
Most of the courses were cold (sushi fans eat your hearts out): trout from Pulares farm (on the road to Cachi) and the indigenous river fish of pejerrey from Cabral Corral (on the road to Cafayate), both part of our Classic Wine Route through the Valles Calchaquies.
When we returned recently with friends from Peru, who are both gourmands and sommeliers, we opted for the a la carte which wasn’t quite as successful.
Our first mishap was the complimentary appetizer of potato layers (pictured), served with raw Andean potatoes which looked good enough to eat (as you’ll know from a previous blog, I love my Andean potatoes!)
Indeed, my friend Gary bit a chunk out of one of them, and a young chap on a neighbouring table swallowed one whole, perhaps trying to impress his girlfriend.
The starters were excellent: carpaccio de llama, my favourite pejerrey dish again (raw and tangy with acidity).
Of the mains, which we hadn’t tried on the first visit, we deliberately avoided the steak option, and both the lamb and goat dishes were beautifully presented: the lamb with charred aubergines on top, and the melt-in-your-mouth tender goat wrapped in green pepper: both sourced just down the road from us in Rosario de Lerma and La Merced.
But I felt they lacked something in addition to vary the flavour, whether quinoa, vegetables or… well, potatoes…
It’s clear that owners Fernando Rivarola and Gabriela Lafuente are never content to rest on their considerable laurels, but instead are always looking to break new ground.
Their dishes are beautifully presented, and most explode exquisitely on the taste buds: it’s a visual feast and a riot of flavour, but perhaps it’s too minimial for some.
All in all, if you’re looking for places to eat in Argentina, and want to try something special when you’re on one of our Salta tours, I recommend the tasting menu at El Baqueano, which allows you to try the widest possible variety, along with wines from the Valles Calchaquies, the highest altitude wine region in the world.