Barcito: Argentina Arrives in DTLA

Barcito sits at an unassuming corner of 12th St. and S. Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, a stone’s throw from the behemoth Staples Center and at the street level of a 300-unit loft-style apartment building. The Argentine-inspired Barcito is the realized dream of General Manager and Owner Andrea Borgen, who grew up in Los Angeles but spent summers visiting her grandparents in Buenos Aires. This small-plate restaurant pays homage to that cross-cultural experience through every detail.

Borgen’s uncle Flavio Bisciotti, an experienced furniture designer and interior architect, crafted the 130-seat space—an airy, contemporary building with high ceilings, black and white bistro floors, stained tabletops, rustic street lanterns and TVs discreetly positioned at opposite corners of the bar so that patrons can watch games if they want, without feeling they are at a “sports bar.” Murals of Argentine streets and landscapes adorn the walls, a wonderful backdrop for enjoying carefully curated wine, beer and five rotating draft cocktail selections from Beverage Director Angel Meza. Executive Chef Chuck Abair, who hails from Los Angeles’s Troquet, The Water Grill and Providence restaurants, developed the affordable small-plates menu with Borgen. Here’s what we sipped and savored:

Empanadas are ubiquitous throughout Latin America, likely originating with the Spanish working class that needed a hearty and portable meal. In Spanish, empanar means “to wrap or coat in bread,” leaving plenty of room for interpretation, but typical fillings include ground beef, onions and spices. The rich short rib and mushroom empanadas at Barcito stood up well on their own, but we couldn’t stop dunking them in the tangy remoulade that accompanied them. We wished we could have swiped some to take on the road with us!

This dish stayed true to the original . . . almost. Provoleta is typically a simply seasoned and grilled round of special Provolone cheese, but this gooey disc of seared goat cheese was bright and beautifully dressed with a splash of fresh lemon juice and crispy bread for the dipping, smearing, and lip-smacking.

“I am really proud of the ñoquis,” Borgen says. “I fought with my chef for that spelling instead of the Italian way.” No wonder. These crispy, melty, tangy ricotta-potato dumplings served with pistachio pesto stole the spotlight.

Asado might be Argentina’s most famous export and this dish of braised short rib perfectly demonstrated why. Although asado is typically grilled, this crisp, tender cut “from the plancha” maintained the traditional condiment of fresh chimichurri sauce with the pleasant addition of roasted sunburst squash.

These delicious morsels took the proverbial cake: crisp fried dough stuffed with dulce de leche cream perched atop a thick layer of caramel sauce and sprinkled with more cinnamon sugar than one could shake a stick at. This preparation elevates the popular street food to a gourmet level, with its rich sauces that must be enjoyed while seated.