We arrived in Mendoza much later than planned. Our original itinerary had included two full days of vineyard exploration and wine tasting, but because of the airport debacle that was cut down to one day visiting bodegas and two nights getting to know Mendoza city. Although I was, and still am, incredibly bummed to miss out on the opportunity to see more of such a fun and beautiful place, there was nothing to do but make the most of the time we had.
We got in after six in the evening on Sunday and after checking into our hotel, we walked over to Plaza Independencia to check out a night market going on there. I’m not sure if this is an every night event, or only on Sundays, but there was a good crowd in attendance, a band and large number of vendors selling interesting, mostly homemade wares. If you’re in Mendoza on a night this is going on, I definitely recommend checking it out.
There was also a booth for food and drink, but we had other plans to ensure we saw a little bit more of this small and charming city. Plus, the night was quite chilly, and we were eager to get inside.
Our first stop was at Cachitas, a cocktail bar nearby that was almost completely empty at such an early hour. No matter to us, we pulled up to the bar and made friends with two very hip bartenders from France and Ecuador as we perused the very interesting drink menu.
I settled on a refreshing twist on a mojito with basil instead of mint, while Tom partook in an expertly crafted Old Fashioned and my brother had a beer. If you’re looking for a break from wine drinking in Mendoza, Cachitas is your place.
Eventually our stomachs piped up, so we walked over to Azafran, a popular restaurant we’d heard only good things about, hoping to snag a table for dinner. No dice. We didn’t think we’d need reservations on an off-season Sunday in Mendoza, but what we didn’t know was that it was Friend’s Day in Argentina, which apparently crowds restaurants the way Valentine’s Day does in the states.
As we walked back out to the street to search for another option, a cold rain started to fall. When we saw a sign for Cordillera Vinos y Fuegos up ahead it was a no brainer, and we ducked in, unaware that this last minute decision would be one of our most memorable Argentine dinners.
As soon as we entered the dining room of this modern parrilla, we were greeted by the owner, who was very accommodating and passionate about what he had to offer, which was a comforting menu (perfect for a cold night after a somewhat crappy day) and an extensive selection of wines from Mendoza.
Instead of a wine list, we were invited to the restaurant’s wine cellar to choose a bottle to accompany our meal. The selection is curated over dinner parties the owner hosts on Thursday nights with his friends, to taste a selection of wines with his cuisine. Lucky friends!
After a lengthy conversation about the kinds of wine we prefer, we decided to try a blend that would pair well with a wide range of foods. We figured we’d be getting plenty of Malbec the next day, and this was a nice change of pace.
Cordillera is a bright, open space centered around the grill. We were able to watch as our meal was prepared, which is always a nice touch.
Although my brother and I went with pasta dishes (I was nearing meat exhaustion), while Tom ordered the ojo de bife (rib eye) that was cooked perfectly and reflected the spirit of Argentine cooking.
Although this dinner wasn’t planned, it was fantastic, proving that sometimes even bad travelers catch a break. Cordillera Vinos y Fuegos turned out to be the perfect beginning of our short but very sweet time in Mendoza.