The classic Spanish, like what it is spoken in Spain, is Castillian. The version spoken in South America is different. In much the same way that English at home is different from the US or Australian versions, the language in South America has suffered what is known as colonial lag. This is a (disputed) hypothesis which postulates that migrants who move far from their homeland tend to preserve their native language in the form that existed at the time of that migration. So although the season used to be known as fall in the UK, the latinate form – autumn – became more popular later while the original persisted in the US.
It would appear that a similar phenomenon exists in South America. This is somewhat annoying for me as it appears to impact the very few words and pronunciations in Spanish with which I am actually familiar. So, when I greet the locals with a jolly and robust “Buenas dias”, the response drops the endings. It appears that the ‘S’ is silent here, so I get back “Buena’ Dia’.” Similarly, I know that the rule is that when a pair of Ls appear in the middle of a word, I should pronounce them as a Y. So if I want the chicken from the menu, I should pronounce pollo as paw-yo. No. Here, the double L is pronounced like a soft ZH, so I need to say paw-zho. Or, more likely, just point.
This is all a lead up to our big Argentinian meal. I had heard recommendations for a place called Don Julio, a grill restaurant or parrilla that is so popular, it gets booked up months in advance. I had actually missed the availability for dinner on any date during our stay, but I had managed to get a 1pm lunch slot with which I was perfectly content. We took an extensive stroll around the Palermo neighbourhood before presenting ourselves at the threshold of the restaurant.
Although bookings are difficult to get, they do also offer a queuing system for the sufficiently patient. You can show up at the door and put your name on the list then wait for the requisite period to get a table. They were quoting 90 minutes to the guy in front of us as we arrived. When booking, they make a point of telling you that your table will be held for 15 minutes only. We made sure to be prompt and felt slightly smug as we gave our name to the host and were ushered immediately indoors and seated at our table for two.
Although smug, we were also ever so slightly envious of the outdoor hopefuls. It turns out that, every twenty minutes or so, small glasses of fizz are distributed to the queue together with miniature empanadas. We weren’t envious enough to stand outside and wait, though.
I had heard that portion sizes here were large and, given what we’d already experienced in Argentinian restaurants, there was no reason to doubt this intelligence. Accordingly, we skipped starters and went straight to main courses. We played it safe and each ordered a sirloin steak. After all, how excessively sized could that be?
Really quite large indeed, turned out to be the answer. Mashed potato, roasted red peppers, and splendid red wine accompaniments made for an excellent lunch. We also had the kitchen theatre going on right behind me as the chefs worked their magic at the grill.
This is a place that should be on your list if you come to Buenos Aires.
After that meal, there was nothing to do but try to walk off the weight of food. A small stroll through Palermo and then a relaxing evening sorted us out for the rest of the day. But, have no fear! We did undertake some planning for Saturday so that we would do something other than just eating lunch.