Where to eat. The best and the worst of Gioia, the centennial bet of the most palatial hotel

The Duhau Palace has something overwhelming: its presence is imposed on Av. Alvear, taking advantage of those meters that separate it from the sidewalk and that allow it to be exhibited in all its splendor. It is a building with decades of history: it was built in the early 1930s by the brothers Luis and Alberto Duhau, under the neoclassical aesthetic that was triumphant in those years; Since then, it remained in the hands of the same family until, in 2006, the Park Hyatt opened its doors there, after building a modern tower on the other side of the central garden of the house, gaining direct access from Posadas street. Since then this hotel became one of the most luxurious in the citycompeting in that high range where there are hardly a couple more players.

Selected dishes: bao, marinated turnip, cilantro and peanut sauceGentleness

Beauty, so explicit and grandiloquent, has its risks: in the case of the Park Haytt Palacio Duhau Buenos Aires, it meant setting a distance from possible local diners. The -justified- fear of high prices, the self-demand of dressing according to the place, the need to first pass through the hotel door and then reach the restaurants, are all tacit barriers that had to be lifted. That is the revolutionary bet you are making Gioia with her so-called botanical cuisine. A restaurant that seeks to attract new generations of diners with a plant-based cuisine.

What I liked most

Gioia was born first in the head of Julián Galende, the very young chef -in a few days he turns 33- who is in charge of the different restaurants of this Park Hyatt. “During the pandemic we feel that the world is experiencing a change in awareness regarding food, what we consume and the methods of production. We had the idea of ​​putting together a proposal without meat for a long time; It was first aimed at Piano Nobile (a smaller gastronomic space in the hotel), but seeing this we decided to do it at Gioia, which is one of our two main restaurants”.

mushroom ceviche
mushroom cevicheGentleness

It sounds like a simple decision, easy to make, but it is not, even less so for a hotel that receives guests from all over the planet, each with their own demands. It’s not just about the first five-star hotel in Argentina with a vegan cuisine proposalbut it is also the first Hyatt in the world to do so.

The transformation is brutal: from a menu with traditional Italian airs, Gioia moved on to creative and elaborate recipes, competing directly with restaurants such as Sacro or Mudra, with a logic of small dishes and flavors that level it with places that are very fashionable today, such as Anafe or Gran Dabbang. The best thing is that, finally, the hotel is applying a also competitive pricing policy: As of July this year, you can eat at Gioia starting at around $5,000/$6,000, the same as a dinner would cost in so many other places in Palermo or Recoleta itself.

Galende, along with chef Kenyi Heanna and the rest of his team, are showing knowledge, maturity and intelligence, resorting to fermentation, dehydration, candied, grilled, smoked, braised and more. The menu is divided into three chapters: cereals and legumes, mushrooms, vegetables (between $1,080 and $1,350 each). “It is designed so that you order one of each,” explains the chef. As usually happens in this type of restaurant, the ideal is to go at least as a couple, even better if there are three or four people, to share various things in the middle of the table. The menu changes every two or three months, and week after week they modify dishes separately according to seasonal products.

Chefs Julián Galende and Kenyi Heanna
Chefs Julián Galende and Kenyi Heanna

At this moment there are, for example, some carrots on the embers (they cook them on the embers that remain from a Japanese grill where they roast the bread first), which come out with pistachio puree, tangerine sauce and slices of lactofermented carrot on top. Brussels sprouts are briefly grilled with a garlic-ginger sauce, and served with turnip puree, black sesame sauce, balsamic vinegar and soy. Among the most requested is the fainá (made from the whole chickpea) that comes with a white onion purée that is crazy, some grelot onions and a Provençal onion with grilled pickled peppers. And among the most suitable for all public stands out the steamed bread stuffed with mushrooms with sesame sauce, one of those sandwiches that makes you want to always have on hand. There is more: grilled oyster mushrooms with fried peppers and fried plantain; a fantastic creamy white polenta with roasted root vegetables and chocolate miso; a very complete bread box that comes out with pickles and kimchi, among several etceteras. Some dishes are tastier than others, but the mix works: it makes you want to order everything, to try, compare and discover.

Drinks in one of the most beautiful gardens in Buenos Aires
Drinks in one of the most beautiful gardens in Buenos AiresGentleness

What I liked least

Beyond the welcome changes (the rustic crockery in tune with the idea of ​​food, the beautiful flowers and green plants in the living room), the physical space maintains those stately airs that generate unnecessary respect in contemporary restaurants. Modifying this is difficult, but perhaps one possible way is to do it through the service, changing the uniforms of the waiters and a certain tone of voice and movement that distances them from the classic idioms of a luxury hotel. Beyond convening everyone (as always happens with good kitchens) the current proposal aims at a centennial heart, that is, at diners who are in Recoleta one day but choose a wine bar of Chacarita. To achieve this amplitude, there are still certain tics of the hotel manual that Gioia can distance herself from. It is undoubtedly on the way to doing so, with clear signs: it is the first hotel restaurant to have its own Instagram account (@gioiacocinabotanica), it is also presenting cycles such as Gastro Mondays (tasting dinners paired with La Fuerza vermouth) and Tuesdays Botanicals, an after office with a DJ, dishes from Gioia and cocktails based on Bosque gin. They are correct steps that mark a direction.

Tropical pavlova, pineapple jam, passion fruit curd, caramelized pineapple, rum gel
Tropical pavlova, pineapple jam, passion fruit curd, caramelized pineapple, rum gelGentleness

conclusion

In recent years the idea of ​​what luxury should mean has changed abruptly. Beyond the exceptions that always exist, many of the most celebrated places in the world recover their connection with the urban reality of the cities that give rise to them. If at one time exclusivity meant staying out of everything, like a precious stone displayed in a glass case, today the search is to be part of the local culture, of what happens in the streets, leading that movement and differentiating oneself from quality and not from a forced distance. Gioia’s thing points to that: today is a competitive restaurant, where you really want to go spend a lunch, afternoon or evening at the foot of one of the most incredible gardens in the city. Everything, with a meal that remains in the memory.

Gioia Botanical Kitchen