Monday, October 30, 2006

Restaurant: El Manto
Address: Costa Rica 5801, Palermo
Tel: 4772-2409

El Manto, Sagrada Cocina Armenia and Bar (Holy Armenian Cuisine and Bar), will leave you screaming, "Oh, God! Yes, Yes, Yes!"

One of the pleasures of living in big cities, like D.C., NYC, or L.A., is being surrounded by international cuisine. I loved having my occasional falafel sandwich, stuffed grape leaves, and hummus. I loved turning a corner and downing some pad thai, then skipping over to the indian restaurant down the street for those sticky honey balls. When I left the States, I thought I was going to have to turn carnivore. Imagine my surprise when I found this little gem in Palermo!

It's hard to describe the cuisine of Cher's ancestors. Greco-Middle Eastern? Whatever it is, I'm calling it, "DEELISH". Here are a few of my favorites. If you're going with a group, I'd get the mezze appetizer platter that has a little bit of everything. Use the warm pita bread to dip. If you want to make more of a committment, the Ensalada Belen, with its blend of veggies, golden raisins, and cashews, is excellent. I'd recommend the hummus, the babaganoush, the filo triangles stuffed with cheese, or stuffed grape leaves (grape leaves=parra), too. The falafel is a little on the hard/crunchy side, but one can always ask for a side of their plain yogurt-also a pleasure, as yogurt here tends to be sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners-for dipping. I'm usually full by the time I polish off the appetizers, but, hey, a girl's gotta eat.

For the main course, I almost always get the mousaka. The Patagonian lamb with rice is also an excellent, albeit very rich, choice for those cold nights. The vegetable terrine is rather bland for me, but their dish with rice and strips of chicken and makes up for it. Their gyros are very good, too, but I usually save them for lunch, when I don't want to be so formal. Their lunch special (between 19-25 pesos including drink) is a good buy, by the way, and includes the gyro on the menu. The main plates are plentiful, so I always share with my boyfriend, especially after the appetizers.

For dessert, I usually go for a nice mint tea (real tea leaves!) that comes with the platter of desserts that is enough to satisfy a sweet tooth or to share with another person if you are counting calories. It includes baklava, and cookies stuffed with pistachios. There are other items made with filo dough, as well, but their names escape me.

Atmosphere: Sort of industrial looking with the unfinished concrete walls and floors. Subtle lighting. Awesome marble (but surely uncomfortable) throne for those big celebrations when you want to feel like a queen or king. Great music.

Service: We have never had problems here with the service, except when we call to make reservations. For some reason, restaurants in general are hesitant to give away their prime seats (against the windows), saying that they are reserved. If we pester them enough when we get there, they'll give them up.

Bathroom: Their women's restroom is a bit closet-like and could use more lighting. I love the communal sink outside the bathrooms, though. I feel like I'm washing my hands at some natural water source in a far-off Armenian village.

Total damage: Lunch-between 19-25 pesos, Dinner-around 60-70 per person including wine, water, and dessert.

Overal: Great chow!!!