In the midst of the 2001 crisis he founded a “restaurant and store” that today is a Palermo classic.

In the midst of the 2001 crisis he founded a “restaurant and store” that today is a Palermo classic.
In the midst of the 2001 crisis he founded a “restaurant and store” that today is a Palermo classic.

June 17, 2024

Hear

Neither Swiss nor French. Although the name of his restaurant suggests some link to the mountainous center of Europe, José Luis Yeregui, owner of La Fondue, is of Basque descent and grew up in Emilio Bunge, a town 500 kilometers from the capital, where his father was a manager. from a cheese factory.

In the 80s, when he was 21 years old, José Luis arrived in Buenos Aires to open a delicatessen on Beruti and Salguero, which operated for 30 years. Upon returning from that business, he had the psychoanalyst José Eduardo Abadi’s office, a client and friend of the house. “He brought me to this neighborhood, he told me that it was an area that was going to get nice and he found me this place, which was for rent,” explains José about his move to Seguí 4674.

At his new address, he decided to set up some tables. At first they only offered cheese and cold cuts boards; Then they added pizzas, and finally the restaurant’s emblematic dish arrived. “When we moved here I didn’t know what to name the business and my wife came up with La Fondue. That’s how people started asking for it and we added it to the menu,” she recalls. Today, on cold nights, on all the tables you can see pots full of melted cheese into which diners sink their skewers.

Thats not all. La Fondue is also a gourmet store. Ham legs hang side by side from the ceiling. In the refrigerators, cheeses are stacked next to jars of caviar and a can of foie gras. The wooden shelves are overflowing with packages of Italian pasta and all kinds of preserves: from artichokes and Catamarca olives to Patagonian jams.

At first they only offered cheese and cold cuts boards; Then they added pizzas, and finally the restaurant’s signature dish arrived.Mercedes Pallotti

–When did they open?

–In 2001, a difficult year. We started with the business full of merchandise, but without customers because there was no money or credit cards. Furthermore, this was a dead block, there were only 50 percent of the buildings that are there now. Very few people passed by because there was almost no business. Afterwards, many towers were built, a supermarket opened, and there began to be movement. But at first it was difficult. For four or five years I had to row it.

–What was here before?

–A small bistro that operated for a short time, and before that, El Oso Charly, which was a very well-known restaurant. When I arrived, it was empty. We started with a common kitchen, like those in homes, and a friend came to prepare pizzas. Then we got equipped. We installed an industrial kitchen with six burners and a pizza oven. We have been making pizzas with bacon and spicy cheese, or those with confit tomatoes with goat cheese since we started and people continue to order them.

Gourmet products are sold inside the room.Mercedes Pallotti

–And how do they prepare the famous fondue?

–We use approximately half a kilo of cheese for two people: Gruyere and a well-seasoned fontina, which is very important for it to be tasty. In season we need a block of 35 kg of each of these cheeses per week to supply demand. Before we used to put emmental but now it is not coming in. To prepare it, you start with dry white wine and once it is hot, add the previously grated cheeses. The secret is to add a little cornstarch dissolved in water so that the preparation binds and turns out like a cream. Before bringing it to the table we add kirsch, a cherry brandy that we bring from Bariloche.

The fondue is accompanied by bread, cherry tomatoes, smoked sausage, papines, chicken, plums, pickled onion and green apple Mercedes Pallotti

–Is the recipe the same one they made when they started?

-Yeah. We accompany the fondue with nine ingredients: bread, cherry tomatoes, smoked sausage, potatoes, chicken, plums. Also pickled onion and green apple that go very well because the acid cleanses the mouth. Every year we change some of the accompaniments so that people don’t get bored. Now we are making some meat croquettes and crispy polenta.

–Do you offer any other fondue?

–We have another cheese one, but based on beer, which is a little more bitter, and the chocolate one. We make the latter with Fénix brand cream and chocolate. It comes accompanied by seasonal fruits, brownies and vanilla.

“Fondue is a winter meal and since we are one of the few who prepare it in Buenos Aires, a lot of people come at night. I receive 45 covers per day, and I have to reject as many more”Mercedes Pallotti

–Now the high season begins, right?

–Yes, fondue is a winter meal and since we are one of the few who prepare it in Buenos Aires, a lot of people come at night. I receive 45 covers per day, and I have to reject as many more. But sometimes being so associated with this preparation because of the name works against us. Some customers only come when it’s cold. They think it’s the only dish we serve.

–Did you learn about cheeses since you were a child?

–In my town they produced Sardo, Brie and Cuartirolo with white starch on top, a delicious cheese that had disappeared but is now returning. My father worked in the factory that made them and from him I learned some basic notions of production: how to work the cheese masses, at what temperature, with what machines, what mold to use for each one. But I almost don’t remember anymore.

Approximately half a kilo of cheese is used in fondue for two people.Mercedes Pallotti

–What cold cuts do they have?

–I try to have all the best that is on the market because the area requires it. We have a good selection of hams: classic Spanish, Jabugo, Parma, and national. Also pistachio mortadella, pastrón, cantimpalo, homemade salami from Mercedes and Colonia Caroya, Spanish acorn-fed loin, homemade matambres, Calabrian sausage.

“We have a good selection of hams: classic Spanish, Jabugo, Parma, and national. Also pistachio mortadella, pastrón, cantimpalo, homemade salami from Mercedes and Colonia Caroya, Spanish acorn-fed loin, homemade matambres, Calabrian sausage”Mercedes Pallotti

–How did you start making pasta?

–The recipes were brought by a friend, Juan, who lived a block from my store on Beruti and Salguero. He is a civil engineer and teaches at the UBA, but his hobby is gastronomy. He studied at the IAG and taught the guys in the kitchen all these pastas that we continue to prepare today. Brain, spinach, salmon and sweet potato ravioli with prawn sauce. They are all made here and are the classics of the place. On the menu there is also a section of bruschetta and another of fish.

–Are the chefs the same since they opened?

–Yes, Fernando and Lisandro have been in the kitchen for 22 years.

–What desserts do you have?

–Homemade almendrado, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, orange and ginger flan, brownie with ice cream, and cheese and sweets. We always make the same five and I can’t change them because here people come looking for “the usual”. Sometimes Fernando, who is passionate about baking, wants to do something new. But then the clients arrive and order the same ones that he has been preparing for 20 years, and that is why they turn out so well.

–Who are “the clients”?

–We have clients from all over. Many people from the interior and also from abroad: they book me from Miami, from Brazil, from Colombia. I don’t know if they come through social networks or by recommendation. Generally, when a table of four comes, they order a cold cuts board and then a fondue, but we try to get them to try other things. We have many regulars, clients from more than 20 years ago, who stopped coming with the pandemic and then came back.

José Luis Yeregui, in charge of the restaurant-warehouseMercedes Pallotti

–How did the pandemic treat you?

–We work like never before. It was impressive. People lined up at the door all day. We sold cheeses, cold cuts, preserves and counter dishes. At that moment we started making the fondue to go. We deliver it with a piece of country bread so that at home customers can make a hole above 10 centimeters, remove the crumb and pour the melted cheese inside. If you are not from the neighborhood and when you get home it is cold, you can heat it in the microwave before pouring it into the bread.

–What characterizes this restaurant?

–It is a very small but warm place. A maximum of 45 covers fit, which makes it very manageable, the kitchen has time to put together the things that are requested. It’s very familiar. You chat with the person next door. Clients come and stay after dinner, no one rushes them. We also do not have shifts with fixed hours, you can come at any time you prefer, but the majority usually arrive at 9:30. Everyone leaves happy because of the good treatment and the food. To finish, we always give them a lemoncello.

–What was the best moment in the restaurant?

–Every day is beautiful here at La Fondue. I really like what I do: the attention, the conversations with people, and I also love to eat. I come to work and I meet friends, we have a wine, a glass of champagne and that’s how life goes by here.

A view of the Fondue roomMercedes Pallotti
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