When we arrived in Mendoza, we’d spent a lot of time eating croissants, Argentinian asados (roast), parilla (grill), and visiting local parks… which were simply the best. However, we later found ourselves short on time to visit what Mendoza is most known for, WINE! Here, I review the award-winning, Casa El Enemigo, an exquisite Argentinian wine bodega and the place to get the best wine and food in Mendoza.
We had one afternoon available to visit one or perhaps two wine bodegas (cellar/vineyard). Since we only had time for one or two, I did not want to go to any bodega: I wanted to go to the best. I asked the hotel concierge for the name of the best bodega. I then asked the bicycle rental owner, the hotel receptionist, the doorman. All had given me one name in common: Casa El Enemigo.
It is common practice to do wine cellar tours in Mendoza by bicycle, and I had originally wanted to cycle to the Casa El Enemigo, but time was not on our side. The local concierge arranged a taxi to take us to Casa El Enemigo, which in hindsight, was an extremely good idea. Casa El Enemigo is situated far out from the main strip of wine bodegas, out in where I would call ‘middle of nowhere’, which is why it surprised me when we arrived and the bodega was full of people. The concierge had warned us that people usually reserve a couple of weeks in advance, but we had decided to try our luck anyway.
Upon arriving, we were immediately greeted by a warm smile and an offer of wine by the maître d’. She informed us that there was one spot available…after a two hour wait. Not to worry, a bottle of wine and some appetisers could be served while waiting. We sat on a park bench in the vineyard, served with a bottle of their award-winning wine. It was cold outside, so the maître d’ even offered us beautiful, thick blankets to keep us warm while we waited.
After a couple of hours of exploring the vineyard, drinking wine and breathing the fresh, Mendozonian air, a table was finally prepared for us. At this stage, we were incredibly hungry, especially triggered by the beautiful aromas of fresh, organic food.
The food: meat, fish, vegetarian
The menus were simple, offering two or three options per course: meat, fish or vegetarian. This way, the chefs could concentrate on ordering and working the freshest, local ingredients. The menu changes seasonally since the philosophy of Casa El Enemigo is to offer food and wine of lasting quality and eco-ethos.
We were first served with a plate of stone ground bread and dips. There were three types of bread, all from different types of ancient flour and leavening processes. The dips were also extraordinary, all homemade and full of flavour. Following the appetiser, we were served entrees of empanadas, a typical Latin food.
I ordered trout as my main, a little concerned that the trout would not be fresh, considering that Mendoza does not border an ocean. Then I finally clicked: trout is a freshwater fish; the trout would have been caught from the local river earlier that morning.
Main Dish: Freshwater Trout
The main was to die for, as was the dessert; a rich chocolate fondue accompanied by seasonal fruits. The wines accompanied the tastefulness of the food, not drawing away the attention of the food, nor letting us forget it. Our waitress explained to us the philosophies of the food, wine, and the naming of the Enemigo: in English, Enemigo translates to “frenemy” or “friend and enemy” which is used as an analogy of the internal battle within ourselves; of being our own worst enemy, and our own best friend. A healthy equilibrium between these two extremes can result in a highly critical, productive self.
After finishing the faultless three-course meals, and the wine, we headed to reception. The reception contained a little boutique store of local creams, pictures and trinkets, which distracted us as we waited for our cab arranged by the restaurant receptionist. Co-director and owner of the El Enemigo, Alejandro Vigil, was present, intent on ensuring that we had a first-class experience. It goes without saying that Mr Vigil is a world-class winemaker, director of Catena wines- which could easily class as some of the best wines in Argentina and in the World.
We were some of the last guests to leave, leaving with bags full of Enemigo wine to take back to our friends and family. I bore witness to a Brazilian guest buying 12 bottles of wine to take back home; a testament to the prestige of the brand’s products.
El Enemigo is a highly sought after restaurant, which is by no means overrated. I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Mendoza. The location is picturesque, the service is attentive and generous, and the food… absolutely extraordinary. I can guarantee you that a visit Casa El Enemigo will provide you with one of the best culinary and wine experiences of your life.
Outside the Restaurant
It will take an hour and a half bike ride from a local bike rental place. Otherwise, a half hour cab ride will get you there for no more than USD$7-10 from the centre of the district of Maipú, a wine district on the outskirts of Mendoza centre. We stayed at the Esplendor Hotel by Wyndham, a great and recommendable hotel located close to the town district of Maipú.
The recent crash of the Argentinian economy makes a luxury experience such as this relatively cost-effective to foreigners. No more than USD$60 was spent per person for the wine and a three-course meal, including the wine and gifts to take back home.
It’s Malbec is it’s most sought after wine. I personally enjoyed El Enemigo Bonarda 2014, which is a variety more or less exclusive to Argentina.
Through the El Enemigo website, tourist advisor or concierge. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner during high season (summer months), and lunch during low season (winter months). Wine bodega tours are also available upon request.