Dining at Siete Fuegos last night was a beautiful experience for many reasons. Almost least of which was the food…
A 90 minute drive from our home meant we had to be serious about it from the start. Our driver Fernando was the perfect person to share stories of the wineries, industry, people and landscape of Mendoza. He’s grown up here and has spent 20 years touring visitors around the area.
The drive itself revealed the balance of the region. The dry and arid scrub brush next to the lush vineyards. The streets lined with 50 foot tall maple trees that seem to have been there forever though Mendoza has no native trees. Estate sized houses on one block, with disheveled huts on the next. Rolling hills for miles that rise abruptly to the heavens as the Andes.
On a little two lane highway we hardly notice the small green sign signaling the turn into Vines of Mendoza, the resort and vineyard collection that houses the restaurant. A dusty dirt road and a rickety bridge wind through the vines. We wonder why we’re headed down the service road. Just around the next bend, the resort rises from behind a small rise.
Walking in the door, we are greeted with a lobby that reminds me of many of the California wineries I’ve visited. Turn another corner, and stop. It may have been blind luck, though I like to think they schedule it wisely, but the sun setting into the Andes past the vineyard simply takes our breath away. The restaurant knows this, as they ask us to take a walk through the garden and kitchen to take in the views.
Wood crackles away in the open kitchen, equipped just enough to get the job done with no extra fluff. A calm energy exudes from the crew and I wonder if they have become numb to the majestic skyline, as one does to the year old calendar still hanging on the wall of a cubicle.
It goes without saying that the food delivers on every promise made. In fact, all I will tell you about the food is that it also reflects a balance equally deserving notice. Not just flavors that are expected to be well designed, or in a plate laid out in such a way that you eat it as the chefs intended without thought, but also realizing that you are enjoying a meal so simple yet so unattainable by many.
And then a drive back through the darkness that forces reflection on the evening through a good wine drunk. One wonders if Francis Mallman is a salesman among gods for passing off such simple foods for high dollars in the middle of a barren land, or a master of his craft that has distilled down his work to a point that nothing superfluous exists. Leaving behind all that is necessary for a memorable meal- Great ingredients treated well, and the skyline of the Andes disappearing as the sun sinks behind them.