A newer member of the natural trend in a country where the cuisine is geared towards the carnivorous, Naturaleza Sabia is one of San Telmo’s spots to find Argentine-style vegetarian food. With affordable prices for lunch and dinner and the combination of yoga classes, therapeutic massage services and the converted loft-type interior the result is a retreat style all-in-one wellness venue.
Tucked away in a traditional two-story mansion on Balcarce Street, half a block from the famous Bar Sur tango show, Naturaleza Sabia can be easily missed from street level but word of mouth seems to have attracted a steady flow of customers, even on weekdays.
Co-founder, Alberto Llamas, the former co-owner of the popular nearby bar, La Resistencia, grew tired of the late nights and turned to Buddhism and vegetarianism. Naturaleza Sabia, realized in conjunction with his actress wife, Estela Garelli is the result of this lifestyle conversion.
Argentina Vegetarian Cuisine
The venue is part of a small but growing herbivore wave in this beef dominated country. Previously a vegetarian would struggle to maintain a healthy diet and find freshly cooked vegetarian food in restaurants. The options just weren’t on the average menu unless they included a lot of cheese, pasta or eggs.
With polenta and quinoa featuring in some of the main dishes Naturaleza Sabia scores points already. Where things go south is the attempt to adapt ‘typical Argentine food’ into ‘vegetarian Argentine cuisine’— a tricky venture that seems to easily result in flavorless vegetables and an over-reliance on cheese. Dishes such as eggplant ‘milanesa‘ (breaded cutlet), seiten ‘steaks’ and grilled Provolone, served with a greasy side of sautéed vegetables, are the reason that carnivores in Argentina still have a good reason to scoff at homegrown vegetarian food.
Naturaleza Sabia’s prix-fixe lunch menu gives you an appetizer of brushetta with a shot of steaming soup presented on a cute leaf-shaped tray, a main dish from any a la carta, and fresh lemonade with ginger to wash it down. The delicious homemade chocolate truffles, served with herbal tea at the end of the meal, finishes things off on a sweet note.
On Sundays, Naturaleza Sabia hosts a small design fair and with its location, just a block away from the San Telmo street market, provides a good place a to stop for a fresh-squeezed juice or super licuado, (shake) made with sesame milk and spirulina.
Naturaleza Sabia is a peaceful spot with very reasonable prices — if only the cook were sent on a vegetarian or Asian cooking course to learn how to bring out the flavor of vegetables instead of killing it, they may well be on to a winner. However, for anyone missing their five-a-day, they’re here in plenty.
—by Alice Josselyn
• Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 12-4 pm, 8-11pm
• Cash only