(One of the gardens at Cassis)
The majority of our dining in Argentina was centered around beef and Malbec and though we loved both we felt we should try something different. Bariloche's has its share of Parillas but has a select group of restaurants that focus on the bounty of Patagonia. Our concierge at our hotel, Charming, told us the most inventive and unique cuisine in region was a small restaurant outside the city center called Cassis. She had steered us right the previous night, so we were game.
(Owner/Chef Mariana and her husband Ernesto on the beautiful deck over Lake Gutierrez)
Cassis is a beautiful and elegant restaurant located on Lake Gutierrez, south of Bariloche. The tandem behind Cassis is wife and husband Mariana and Ernesto Muller de Wolf. Mariana runs the kitchen and Ernesto is the server, sommelier and all around nice guy. We were the ONLY guests in the small dining room and from the moment we were greeted our experience was incredible. Ernesto asked us if he wanted Mariana to cook for us and we jumped at the opportunity. The next four hours were one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life.
The region of Patagonia that we were in is known for two primary proteins: trout and lamb. Ernesto explained that, though beef is the primary staple and what most people expect at Cassis, Mariana preferred to highlight the local ingredients...after four days of just meat it was a welcome change.
(First course: Cassis grown flower and herb salad with a parmigiano-reggiano crisp)
Our first course was one of the BEST salads I have ever enjoyed. The herbs, greens and edible flowers were all bright with flavor, fresh and grown by Ernesto. With each bite we all looked at each other in bliss and our bodies thanked us for, even if it was small, some ruffage.
Our second course was a house-made chicken live pate with house-made bread (served warm!) and wild berry marmalade. It was yummmmy!
The thrid course was the a beautiful cooked river trout. Ernest said that Mariana does nothing but salt and pepper the fish and then cooks it at 150 degrees. The sauce was a foamy cream sauce with mustard seed. The combination was delicate but full in flavor.
Our last savory course was local free range lamb that was THE best lamb I have ever had. The meat was earthy, but not gamey and I could cut it with a spoon. We did enjoy a Malbec (with a little Merlot) with this course and it was one of the better wines of the trip. It too was grown in Patagonia giving it lighter body than the Mendoza counterparts and it had higher acidity - Bodega Noemia "J. Alberto" 2009.
Our last course was a light and not too sweet mixed berry crumble with home-made ice cream. The berries were bright and had such intesne flavors that each bite was a reminder of how much fun summer fruits are.
Our meal at Cassis will be ethced in my mind for years and I cannot express how amzing the food is - Mariana and Ernesto are two of the best in the industry.