Bad Experience At Los Divinos Closed Door/puerta Cerrada

#1
This past weekend a group of friends and I made a reservation at Los Divinos. It's a well-reviewed closed-door restaurant/bar. While it wasn't my idea, after reading the reviews, I decided to give it a try.

The only other closed door I've been to was one that Liza Puglia (owner of NOLA) used to run. The food, the experience, and the service at her closed-door were excellent. So, the bar was set pretty high.

To be fair, there are lots of positive things about Los Divinos. My first reaction when I came in was, "Wow, this is very nice." It has an urban-rustic feel. Once we sat down, we ordered some wine and cheese. Both were great, but it was downhill from there.

The service is horrible. To be honest, I don't think I've ever had such terrible service in Argentina, and I am not exaggerating. While the place is setup like a restaurant, it functions more like a cafeteria. The owner, a guy from France and seemingly the only person running the show, told us that we had to order from him directly. He even said we could yell at him from the table we were sitting at on the entrepiso.

I am not the yelling kind. So, at some point I decided to walk down to him at his bar and ask him for one of the dishes from the menu. It was my first one-on-one interaction with him. He rather rudely told me "iNo hay más!" about three times (almost like 100 other people had asked him for the same dish and he was having a meltdown), to which I asked, "Ohhhh-kay, what do you have then?" He said that he'd be right up to our table. After that exchange, I told him not to bother.

Other people at my table had similar encounters with him. One told me that he was pretty drunk. Perhaps one of them set him off, and that made him react so rudely to everyone else at the table. I can only speak for myself. I politely ordered something and was treated with total disrespect.

To sum it up, it's not a bad place to have a couple glasses of wine, if you absolutely must try it. If you're looking for dinner, I would find somewhere else to go. I will never go back.
 

Girino

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#2
What a night to remember... for the wrong reasons!

I am not a fan of this kind of venues/businesses, though I have never been to any. I'd be okay if I had to pay to join a family ethnic meal - that would be amazing. But to pay to get the same thing I'd get in a restaurant... I don't see the point.
 
#3
What a night to remember... for the wrong reasons!

I am not a fan of this kind of venues/businesses, though I have never been to any. I'd be okay if I had to pay to join a family ethnic meal - that would be amazing. But to pay to get the same thing I'd get in a restaurant... I don't see the point.
serafina, i agree with you 101%!
 

camel

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#5
Didn't NOLA start as a puerta cerrada? Puertas cerradas seem like a good way for potential a restaurant to "test the waters" before committing all the money to starting an actual restaurant. If it becomes popular, then they can open a proper restaurant if they want.

That said, if they can't provide good service as a puerta cerrada, screw 'em.
 

Girino

Registered
#6
Didn't NOLA start as a puerta cerrada? Puertas cerradas seem like a good way for potential a restaurant to "test the waters" before committing all the money to starting an actual restaurant. If it becomes popular, then they can open a proper restaurant if they want.
Can't they just start it with a bunch of friends as testers? Or start it in a small location and increase the size as the business picks up? It looks like these things didn't exist before and restaurant opened (and closed) anyway.

I have no experience in this business, but to me it is unlikely that in a home kitchen you can really simulate a restaurant kitchen. I did cook for large batch of friends at once and I had to juggle between dishes which could be prepared in advance, dishes who could be refrigerated, dishes that absolutely had to be prepared on the moment , etc. I had only so much space available on the burners, in the fridge and on the countertop...
 

Ries

Registered
#7
I have been to puerta cerradas in a variety of countries- they usually exist because the startup costs of a real, legal restaurant are very high.
In Buenos Aires, there are several that were so successful that they became real restaurants- like Sunae- which I never went to as a puerta cerrada, but it got universally good reviews. I have gone to the real restaurant, and its great.
Or NOLA, which transitioned into a simpler menu and added beer- NOLA bricks and mortar is really a bar with fried chicken, not a restaurant.

I Latina is another that started as a cerrada but is for all purposes a full bore restaurant now. Its good, if a bit precious and slow. (and expensive)

Casa Felix is a good example of a puerta cerrada that is good, professional, and has no desire to become a real restaurant. Its very professionally run, with a staff, but the chef and his partner tour the US and Europe every year, doing popups, and just dont want the responsibility of an every day year round place.

I dont think Dan, of Saltshaker, wants to go back to working full time in a real restaurant either- he has found his groove doing his puerta cerrada, which offers him more flexibility, less headaches, and more control.

There are a whole generation of chefs now, worldwide, who travel and do popups, or short term puerta cerradas. In the major cities of the US, the investment required to do a full on gourmet restaurant is 1 to 5 million, or more, depending on where- that requires a degree of commitment, partners, and hard work for years to pay off, that not every young chef wants.
So short term restaurants are definitely here to stay, and we will continue to see them- and the bar keeps getting raised in Buenos Aires, in terms of quality expectations- crummy ones wont last that long.