“We are proud to be Latin American.” Venezualans Alejandro Osuna and Marilyn Gonzalez, along with Honduran Gabriel Chavez, are sharing their passion for Latin America. Kombinaciones is a “Gastronomic tour from Southern Argentina to Mexico”, encompassing a fantastic mix of flavours.
Walking the streets of Palermo Hollywood, you’re forgiven for not being able to choose what you would like to eat. There are many great options pleasing to both a foreign and local palate. I have a preference towards spicy food, and it is definitely stereotypical, but when i heard of a mixed Latin restaurant i was sure i could get my chilli fix. However, Kombinaciones is much more than this, and as i explored the menu and the heritage behind the food i was extremely grateful that i’d found this gem. Let me take you on a journey as i discovered these Latin specialties.
The menu consists of Hotdogs and Arepas, each with four options. They cater for all tastes and desires, available with a crisp craft beer to wash it all down. All dishes are accompanied with a selection of banana, cassava and sweet potato chips. It is simple because Chavez and Osuno, former Head Chefs of Fukudo Noodle Bar, want you to “discover the essence of Latin America.”
“Each Hotdog is inspired by a different Latin America country”, and as we are in Argentina, El Gardel is up first. El Gardel is a deluxe hotdog consisting of a soft steamed bun, i’ll get back to this soon, and a sausage topped with salami, corn, criolla and smothered in cheese. To my surprise, Chavez fires up a Butane Torch, lightly toasting the cheese. I watch intently as the cheese oozes over the hotdog and i can’t wait to taste it. It’s a little difficult to pick up, and biting into the sausage, it’s firm, yet easily parts as you bite down. The mix of flavours is subtle and mild. I’ve definitely enjoyed the start of the journey, so lets keep it going.
Osuno smiles as he places the next dish in front of me. “La Negra is my baby,’’. His excitement from just making this dish is contagious and i’m intrigued as to why. “This is a typical dish of Caracas, I ate it every Thursday of my life.’’ The beef and avocado Arepa doesn’t look great, but as he explains how it is made, I know it’s going to be special. The meat is marinated in wine for 24 hours before being simmered with sugar cane. This gives the meat a very rich, dark colour. La Negra is much easier to handle than the loaded hotdog, and as I take my first bite, the meat is clearly King, creating a taste sensation that is not as sweet as expected.
I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, I love a soft steamed bun and Chavez agrees. The tenderness of all the breads at Kombinaciones is exquisite. “We make our own breads,” Chavez proudly states, “so they taste like home”. In fact, everything is made from their own recipes, from the different breads, through to the slow cooked meat and even the sweet potato crisps. They also have a special chilli sauce called Chile Arepero, which you must ask for.
Now I get excited when i am able to see my food being cooked. As you walk into Kombinaciones, you are greeted with a VW Kombi van. “The food truck scene is very fashionable, so we decided to do one indoors’’ smiles Chavez. In reality, it’s not just an awesome decoration bringing back memories of road-trips and beaches, but an area where you can see the chefs create the completed meal. I watch as the chefs work their magic inside the Kombi van and Gonzalez, the Restaurant Manager, explains more about the restaurant. Our whole idea is “A gastronomic tour from Southern Argentina to Mexico”, hence the Kombi. A large mural on the wall is a combination of phrases, graffiti, local icons and Latin American customs that continue this idea. The rest of the room is filled with simple wooden tables which creates the illusion of sitting on the sidewalk in the country of your inspired meal.
“Many Honduran dishes originate from a fable” Chavez jests, treating me to a story from the streets of Honduras, the next stop on my ‘gastronomic tour’. Watching him in the Kombi, i can see i’m about to get my chilli fix. El Frida consists of a bacon wrapped sausage topped with avocado, sliced chilli and cilantro mayo. Tasting that first bite, i had found what i was hoping for. The flavours neatly complemented each other and i got the chilli fix i needed.
A perfect match for El Frida is Perico, an Arepa with a special egg and sofrito, a chunky sauce of tomatoes and aromatics. The egg is cooked at 63* and then lightly fried, creating a crispy white and a runny yellow, the best of both worlds. As i bite into Perico the yolk runs over my fingers, this really is finger licking good.
I thoroughly enjoyed these Latin specialties. Chavez and Osuno take immense pride in their food and this is shown in the final product. The restaurant is immaculate and oozes Latin flavour. The art is relevant, the kombi is original and the seating, although basic, is in keeping with the Latin theme. But most importantly, the food is fantastic! The meals available all have contrasting flavours, and each meal has ingredients that compliment each other. From gooey cheese to wine marinated beef and everything in-between, it really has been a gastronomic tour.
Kombinaciones is rightly “proud to be Latin American.”
Kombinaciones is located at Gorriti 5578 in Palermo, Buenos Aires. They are open from 13:00-00:00 daily. For more information visit their Facebook page.