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14 April 2007


Olsen is a Scandinanvian restaurant in Buenos Aires. This seemingly incongruous setting for a restaurant with a culinary heritage steeped in snow, reindeer and blonde hair, works pretty well. The melding of the two, is not quite as odd as it might first seem because BA is such a melting pot. Additionally, smoked salmon seems to be the national food here. We have yet to find a menu where it doesn't appear.

Olsen, like many places in Buenos Aires, very-trendy. The restaurant is in a converted warehouse in the advertising and TV heartland of Palermo Hollywood. Blonde wood sweeps up the white painted walls towards the soaring roof-light, forty feet above the restaurant. It is big and airy, yet retains a cosy atmosphere. It is not as self-consciously up its own arse as Sucre.

The furnishings, cutlery and crockery all look like they've been bought from Skandium or designed by Georg Jensen. In BA, design detail is everything and they've done well here. All too often though, detail when it comes to food is not quite as important. As we found at Sucre. At Olsen, they are significantly more successful, especially with the starters.

I started with salmon rillettes, Silverbrowess with a grilled goats cheese salad, with rocket and roasted peach. My rillette was a creamy, unctious pate, with a good smoky flavour, mellowed by fresh dill and a sprinkling of soused, diced onion. On the side were what looked like thin bagel crisps. Silverbrowess' salad had similarly bold flavours. A bit like Scandinavian design: keep it simple, make sure the quality is good, and it will all work.

They forgot this simple mantra when it came to the mains. Silverbrowess had a blackened tuna. Blackened from some sort of dry rub that had it been put on it, two of the three nuggets that were served, were overcooked - turning the blackened tuna, grey. Worse, though was that at least one of the nuggets was well past it's serve-by date. It reeked of the worst kind of fishyness. My smoked trout was bland in the extreme. Taste the stuff that Foreman & Field produce and you'll know just how cooked this humble fish can be. Eat it at Olsen and you could be tasting any old steamed member of the piscine genus.

We didn't go for desserts. Partly because we were knackered, still recovering from jet-lag, partly because the rake thin waitress scared us into dieting. I'd recommend a trip here, the caiprinha's were good and they have a decent selection of vodkas, courtesy of Absolut. It's failings are the failings of a lot of the bad food we have had in Argentina - when they try too hard it goes tits-up. When they stick to simple stuff: steak, wine, ice-cream, it's the best in the world. I imagine Olsen Madrid will have to raise it's game if it is to survive in Spain. However. when compared to our meals in Sucre at the end of last year, Olsen was a much better meal.

Olsen, Gorritis 5870, Palermo Hollywood, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel: +54 11 4776 7677

What others think

Frommers - Fish is the main point of this place, and a few of the meat dishes, though flavorful, tend to be on the dry side.


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