Proper first opened its doors in April 2016 and quickly shook up the Buenos Aires restaurant scene. I remember hearing about this must visit restaurant when it first opened, located in what once was an mechanics’ workshop in the hip Palermo district – it was different and exciting.
Yet Proper is a rather straightforward restaurant in some ways. You’ll find the kitchen's heartbeat in their custom-built wood-brick oven (which took seven days to put together), used to cook the vast majority of their farm-to-table fare.
Leo Lanussol and Augusto Mayer, are restaurateur-chefs who partnered up to create their dream restaurant. Every single detail was considered carefully and the passion they both injected into that dream project paid off:
Proper was swiftly admitted into San Pellegrino’s 2017 edition of LATAM’s 50 Best Restaurant list – entering at number 49, and in 2018, rising up the ranks to 44th place. Proper is a restaurant that makes Argentine food aficionados properly proud – it’s in the hands of young chefs like Lanussol and Mayer, who are pushing the dining agenda forward through their honest approach to dishes, where the meal is as much about flavour as it is education. Ingredients here are vital; they allow for a practical understanding of the country’s vast terrain.
“All of our products and providers are Argentine, from all over the country, as part of our aim is to give the consumer the chance to try different products that come from all across” the country,” the team have said. “In many cases these products are not widely known.”
Buenos Aires has had many culinary for ward thinkers, of the likes of Narda Lepes or Germán Martitegui. However, Proper is a more rugged affair, in line with today’s trendy Parisian natural wine bars. The fact that the local scene has the best of both is just another indicator of how interesting a time it is to eat in the nation’s capital.
Visit Proper with a big group – arrive either 10 minutes before opening time or call ahead to find out when their second shift will start. Either way, they don’t take reservations, so be ready to wait. Luckily, while you do wait , you can glimpse at the menu and salivate, while you sip on a Negroni or a biodynamic glass of Malbec. My other tip? Order the whole menu – and be prepared to want seconds.
The vast majority of the menu will be tweaked slightly on a weekly basis, depending on what organic or low-intervention ingredients are on offer. As the seasons change, Proper’s menu adapts to what is available. This is seasonality at its best. You’ll kick off the evening with nurturing homemade butter and Mar del Plata anchovies soaked in olive oil, accompanied by their famous Sourdough bread (Pan de Masa Madre as it’s known in Latin America).
Proper’s dishes are made for sharing, so expect a table full of small colourful delights. As a dance of plates continues, don’t miss out on their staple Shishito peppers, with flower salt from Jujuy, followed by one of t he highlights of the evening: Cottage cheese from Neuquén. It may seem like a funny choice, as there seems to be a constant debate between the fanatics and those who can’t understand its appeal, but at Proper, you won’t debate. You’ll want to order the cottage cheese dish twice, as I did when I visited.
Cured trout from Patagonia with almonds and pollen will take you on a fresh journey down to the south of Argentina, while grilled eggplant, stracciatella, pickled plums, caper leaves and basil bring a much-needed burst of acidity. Burnt zucchini topped with cucumber water and pumpkin seeds follows, propelling you back to that wood-oven infused goodness. And then, when you least expect the journey could take you any farther, tomatoes drizzled with a blend of extra virgin olive oil from Mendoza served with burnt onions and oregano arrive, reminding you to take another sip of that Malbec.
The plates are endless, at times you could feel like you are bouncing around over the two million kilometres of terrain that make up the eighth-largest country in the world. To close, it’s a return to tradition: a flan of dulce de leche with vanilla cream. Enough said.
What’s so special about Proper, is that no matter where in the world this restaurant could have opened, it would have been a success – not merely a financial one but rather an ideological one too.
There are many young chefs today who, like Lanussol and Mayer, perhaps inspired by veteran chefs such as Dan Barber and Alain Passard, let seasonality dictate their menu’s fate. This ethos elevates ingredients in a simple yet thought-out manner that gives back to small producers as guests marvel at simple yet romantic balances of flavour.
I am pleased to say that Proper continues to engage eager food enthusiasts, globe trotters, and local families, four years on from it’s opening. It’s no longer ‘different’ but as seasonality dictates, it’s always exciting