Anafe: The most exciting restaurant in Latin America right now

Mica Najmanovich was a high school friend, and Nico Arcucci was a foodie. They went their separate ways to savour the world but returned to Buenos Aires to start a new project in 2017. Their vibrant global experiences and colourful heritages are brought together. Anafe It started as a simple pop-up in a small space. But its delicious meals quickly caught the attention of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Anafe, which means ‘portable stove in Spanish’ after four years, found a permanent home with the United States. Barrio Colegiales and the pair are now partners in business and life. They set the standard for sophisticated comfort food with the most recent recognition of the American Express One To Watch Award. This was a turning point. Cafe’s concept of a gourmet chef was already in existence for many years before chefs became aware.

All roads lead to Buenos Aires.

Arcucci moved to Spain to learn Mediterranean cuisine and Basque cooking. His roots are a traditional Argentine mix of Spanish, Italian and Spanish. He found that he prefers to cook with fire and embers. Najmanovich decided to go beyond her Jewish heritage and travel further to learn patisserie in Melbourne.

She reflects on how “the culture of mezze and fresh products was very much a part of growing up,” she says. Studying patisserie in Australia meant learning about a very AngloSaxon gastro culture with large Asian influences. “I gained a better understanding of the meanings of flavours and condiments, which is why I chose to study patisserie in Australia.” chimichurri Anafe also offers rosewater and sesame oils.

The two cooks, who had just returned from international adventures at the same time, teamed up and quickly discovered how they complement each other. A communal table was soon established. Arcucci says, “It was just me and my terrible kitchen. But we were both serious about making this project work – two heads are better than one.” “Our palates are very similar, so we were able to correct the flavours. Our dinners were first at Mica’s aunt, then at Mica and my house. Friends reserved seats. We made everything, but we weren’t content with a tasting menu because we wanted small plates. So the idea of pop-ups began to make sense.

To meet growing demand, hosting pop-ups became an essential part of the business. Anafe was first established at Comite. Chez La Boheme. It was rapidly growing. It was growing fast. Puerta cerrado A private supper club was the next option.

A different supper club

This is a popular trend in Buenos Aires. Puerta cerrado Many chefs have used concepts to help them test their restaurants. Although trailblazers such as Casa Felix and Paladar are long gone, 30 Sillas still fly the flag. Puerta cerrado Cantina Sunae became a permanent restaurant in 2014, and the flag was removed. Cafe’s chef Luis Pabon is leading a revival of the concept in 2021, Glou Glou. The concept was phasing out four years ago. But Najmanovich, Arcucci and others understood that it would elevate Anafe to new heights.

Najmanovich recalls that in 2017, pop-ups were not as common as they are today. He says that we had to climb the walls to get a kitchen. We worked in Nico’s 1970s house, where the fridge would stop working once per day. We arrived at 7 am to clean the kitchen and then went into the kitchen. This was what drove us forward. We could have given up and quit, but we kept going, knowing that we could still cook in these conditions.

The desire to create a place they would want to eat was at the core of the next phase. Arcucci says that Buenos Aires was changing its identity after we returned. “There wasn’t much between the bodegon and parrilla concepts and fine-dining ideas, so there wasn’t much in it middle.” “I wanted to work in a nice space and not out of my living room so we hired architects to design the kitchen we wanted in an apartment on the eighth floor we rented.”

A different supper club

This is a popular trend in Buenos Aires. Puerta cerrado Many chefs have used concepts to help them test their restaurants. Although trailblazers such as Casa Felix and Paladar are long gone, 30 Sillas still fly the flag. Puerta cerrado Cantina Sunae became a permanent restaurant in 2014, and the flag was removed. Anafe’s chef Luis Pabon is leading a revival of the concept in 2021, Glou Glou. The concept was phasing out four years ago. But Najmanovich, Arcucci and others understood that it would elevate Anafe to new heights.

Najmanovich recalls that in 2017, pop-ups were not as common as they are today. He says that we had to climb the walls to get a kitchen. We worked in Nico’s 1970s house, where the fridge would stop working once per day. We arrived at 7 am to clean the kitchen and then went into the kitchen. This was what drove us forward. We could have given up and quit, but we kept going, knowing that we could still cook in these conditions.

The desire to create a place they would like to eat was at the core of the next phase. Arcucci says that Buenos Aires was changing its identity after we returned. “There wasn’t much between the bodega and parrilla concepts and fine-dining ideas, so there wasn’t much in its middle.” “I wanted to work in a nice space and not out of my living room, so we hired architects to design the kitchen we wanted in an apartment on the eighth floor we rented.

The restaurant was first opened for dinner on Thursday and Saturday. During the week, the chefs conducted taste tests, which led to creating a brunch. These tests kept us awake, and it was fun to bring back the idea of a continental breakfast. He adds that Sunday brunch was a key factor in our success.

Anafe was popular for diners looking for cross-cultural cuisines like halloumi cheese with honey, homemade Sriracha, and fresh herbs salad. However, it was less well-received by the residents who shared the restaurant. Anafe had experienced another growth spurt, and it was now time to settle down.

Arcucci says, “During the last six months at the eighth floor, there was constant movement, people, and deliveries… So, we realised that we couldn’t stay there any longer so we decided to search for a new space.”

Colonizing in Colegiales

The couple chose the leafy residential with a lot of care. Barrio Colegiales is their first permanent space, a new neighbourhood in the city’s vibrant food scene. Najmanovich says, “It is important to work in an attractive space with natural lighting, a place we enjoy spending our time, and which diners will also enjoy.” We would send the address to the venue, and people would come. They wanted to know how to get people to visit Anafe, even though they were not Palermo’s top food destination.

Anafe opened in February 2020. The pandemic struck Argentina a month later. “I am an eternal optimist, and I thought it would pass quickly. So we spent the first fortnight pondering how to pay the first month of salaries. Arcucci recalls that we then created a Passover delivery menu.

Lockdown went through several stages, Najmanovich says. The first was to make their food a memorable experience in people’s homes. We weren’t big on takeout, but certain dishes, like the pate pots or the burgers, were a hit. Milanese Sandwich of [escalope], while the knishes The [Ashkenazi Jewish deep-fried snacks] only lasted two days, just like breakfasts.

Their concept is called cocina de Ciudad. The city’s only kitchen combines culinary cultures and small plates that can be shared. Pickled beetroot, sour cream and onion have been favourites for years. Tataki beef with nuoccham, cucumber, jalapeno, and peanuts is a great example of Najmanovich’s Australian journey. Arcucci uses his knowledge of embers to make charcoal-grilled ribeye or smoked gochujang glazed pork ribs. Patisserie techniques can also be used to create savoury dishes.

The couple is looking forward to the future. They recently visited Turntable at Lord Stanley in San Francisco for a month. It was their first time travelling abroad to cook together. Anafe rented a space next to Anafe to set up an office. Arcucci says, “We need to be in a position to continue creating, to film video, host private dinners, and to think of new projects to grow.” Anafe is a combination of two sides. The private and public. They complement one another in the final experience. Our philosophy is that a happy group works better. Guests can feel that. Our secret sauce is authenticity.

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