Buenos Aires is a city full of puertas cerradas, or closed door restaurants. We know the concept here as the underground dining club, where guests are allowed in by invitation only. Sometimes you pay in advance; sometimes you offer the chef a donation on your way out. At the forefront of the modern closed door restaurant movement is chef Diego Felix, who, along with his wife Sanra, operates Casa Felix in Argentina's capital city.
Since 2008, the pair have been hosting tourists and locals inside their work/home space near El Centro, the city center. Theirs is a tightly knit network of people-in-the-know. Felix does very little in the way of promotion; most diners find out about the closed door Casa from a friend of a friend. Within the last year, Colectivo Felix has taken their show on the road. Last week, with the support of Central Coast Wine & Food, the Colectivo popped-up at Full of Life Flatbread in Los Alamos, Calif.
In Argentine Spanish, colectivo means 'bus.' Felix considers himself the driver, and periodically lets guests on and off for a tasty ride. The word it's often mistaken for in English, 'collective,' completes the play on words.
At Full of Life Flatbread, with chef/owner Clark Staub's assistance, Felix prepared a multi-course menu using only the restaurant's wood-burning hearth as a cooking source. Smoky and bright, the dishes featured produce and seafood from the ripe Central Coast, including Santa Barbara spot prawns, fennel-stuffed arctic char, and Cipollini onions with local avocados and honey. The chef and his wife cooked and served; they paired and poured wines with each dish. Stopping to chat with guests throughout the meal, their touch added an easy grace to the usual experience of dining out.
Felix admits that he's a bit misunderstood in his home country, where meat rules every meal. "Sometimes people in Argentina say they don't like what I do. I do a lot of seafood, and when there's a menu without meat—as many of my menus are—they say, 'what? this isn't a dinner—this is like a snack.' But Argentina has one of the longest coastlines in the world. And all of that beautiful seafood... it's mostly exported. So I try to take advantage of the sustainable varieties both at home and on the road."
Before he heads back to Argentina, Diego Felix is making a stop in L.A. Colectivo Felix pops-up with Haute Chefs for one night only this Saturday, June 22 in Sherman Oaks. The six-course menu includes cocktails and wine pairings for $125 per person. Only 12 seats are available. Reservations must be made in advance.