It was a beautiful contrast to the overload of ham and cheese in which I had indulged. Apart from steak, these two seem to be the staff of life in Buenos Aires. And I was ready for something else.
I found it when, by accident, I wound up in Chinatown. I had gone to Belgrano to visit the Museo de Arte Espanol Enrique Larreta, a mansion that is now a museum of Spanish art and furnishings. But I arrived too early. it hadn't opened.
There was nothing to do but explore the neighborhood. Walking along Avenida Juramento, where the taxi had let me off, I passed the usual cafes and shops. And then I stumbled upon Arribenos, a cross street crammed with Chinese restaurants, markets and shops selling the sort of Asian trinkets you find in Chinatowns everywhere.
But where to eat? There were too many choices. Midday bargain lunches were tempting. For as little as $4.50, they offered several options. But which would be best?
And so I asked a man who appeared to live in the neighborhood. “Go to that one,” he said, pointing across the street. “Everyone likes it.”
And that is how I came to eat at Todos Contentos, a traditional Chinese restaurant fitted out with red lanterns, red walls and placemats with Chinese horoscopes. Instead of chopsticks, tables were set with knives, forks and big spoons.
My $7.60 choice from the "menu con platos combinados" (combination plates) included just two dishes and a drink. All three were very, very good.
Pollo con almendras (almond chicken) was light, fresh and perfectly cooked. The moist and tender chicken chunks were tossed with diced carrot and red and green bell peppers, then finished off with a handful of fried whole almonds.
The chop suey beside it showed off impeccably fresh, crunchy bean sprouts combined with shredded carrot, green onions and cabbage.
The sauce for these dishes appeared to be nothing more than broth seasoned lightly with soy sauce. And so I was able to taste the food directly, free of extraneous flavors.
The drink choices were mineral water, a gaseosa (soda) or cold tea. Even the tea was exceptional, at least to my taste. It came in a tall glass without ice but sweetened, just as tea in Indonesia is sweet unless you specify no sugar.
Todos Contentos means everybody content. After that lunch, I was no exception.
Todos Contentos, Arribenos 2177, Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Local Tel: 4780-3437.