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Todos Contento Restaurante Chino (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2010 Issue: 17(3) page: 37
This is one of the few Chinese restaurants touted as terrific on the web. It is the only one found there that is still in business when we arrive in this Argentinian capital city. We head for Chinatown, see its reasonably new entry arch and all of Chinatown; it is a mite more than one long block. Easy to get there by public transportation, we do by taking the metro and getting off at station Juramento. Once at street level, we ask a passerby for el barrio Chino. In about five short blocks we see it over the railroad tracks across and one block from a pleasing park.
We wander in and out of all of its stores and eateries, enjoy a very upscale organic market called Casa China, once a restaurant by that name and in that very location. It is spotless, has lots and lots of Asian and other ingredients, and is a place we wished was closer to our home.
On advise of some Argentinians living near us in New York, we go to eat in Todos Contentos and are amazed at how crowded this small place is. Beside brandishing their bottles of water, almost every Argentinian is eating a fried rice dish. A few have with other dishes to keep that one company. Not so the Chinese customers, their tables are burdened with more typical Chinese dishes selected from the one hundred and fifty or so on the menu. At this restaurant, they sell wine and beer but few partake of any. Fewer still, Argentinian or Asian, enjoy their tea, which we find fresh and fantastic.
After being seated in a back room attached to the one at the entry, a table opens up in the other room and at a front window. They move us there. We are pleased to be less cramped and out of the back of the place. We order quickly as we had perused the menu at our earlier location, and our waitress brings some pao cai made with napa cabbage and carrots. It is particularly good. Now we really look forward to the dishes we ordered, and do wonder why few others were served this delicious appetite-stimulating freebie.
Our guess, probably few non-Asians order the way we did. Soon Yei Pi Sia, the female owner, stops by to say hello coming with a Chinese waitress to translate for her. She is amazed that we deftly use chopsticks, and says so. We tell them both that she is old enough to be our child, the waitress to be a grandchild. We also mention that everyone in our family uses them when eating Chinese food, and has since early childhood. They are amazed.
Our Salted Tripe with Black Beans, Lamb with Sa Cha Sauce, and Spider Crab with Oyster arrive. The latter has not an oyster but is cooked with oyster sauce. Every dish is tasty and very Cantonese. While enjoying them, we spot a huge jackfruit near the entryway and wonder why it is there. When inquiring about its purpose, they tell us it weighs forty pounds or so, and that the staff loves making their own Chinese dishes with it. Few customers know what it is, and no one suggests we have a dish with this unusual fruit. Our guess is the owner or someone on staff is from Southeast Asia. We never learn except to find out that nothing on the menu even mentions this fruit.
One family near us are half Chinese, or at least their infants and one elder person are. They are enjoying lobster, shrimp, and crab dishes; but we did not see them until after finishing what we had ordered. We are sad that this vision came so late in our visit. The fried rice we did ask for comes with shrimp, and it is fantastic. Almost Yangzhou style with no soy sauce, it is a huge portion. That somewhat explains why so few other tables order anything else. Our pork with noodles, which they call Chaw Fan, is more than two can finish. Is that because we ordered bowls of white rice, something we need at every Chinese meal? Rarely have we ever seen such large menu dishes.
Food here makes everyone content, though for some, they do come all too slowly. Is that because we are New Yorkers? We note that most customers eat their single dish of fried rice needing close to an hour. Our egg rolls go down quickly, are good, and are loaded with pork and vegetables. They and all our dishes come with decor, most plates are chipped, and almost every dish has red and green peppers and a slice of carrot that looks like a pretty flower.
The Chinese Shanghai Cabbage we asked for is tasty, loaded with garlic, and with red and green peppers, too. The staff in front are all Asian, most Chinese. The kitchen staff, like the peppers are of different hues, all Spanish and short, heavy, and hard-working. They do a great job of preparing Chinese food and we wonder if they have any Chinese heritage. If they do not, they have learned how to prepare great Cantonese food and we commend then for that; it makesus Todos Contentos, or totally contented!