Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mariano Ramón (pictured) with Diego Ramos and Sergio Torres
What makes it special: Young chef Mariano Ramón has been instrumental in bringing Asia’s wide-ranging street-food scene to Buenos Aires. From a tiny spot in Palermo, he draws on Asian flavours and ingredients and brings them together with Latin American flair to create an original sensory experience.
Chef history: Aged 18 and with no means to finance cookery school, Ramón’s first kitchen experience was at Francis Mallmann’s Patagonia Sur in Buenos Aires. Following work placements with Narda Lepes in Argentina and subsequently in Spain, Peru and Uruguay, in 2005 he moved to New Zealand. With Asia within reach, Ramón then worked kitchens in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia and India, before moving to England with his British wife, Pip. Returning to Argentina in 2012, Ramón opened Gran Dabbang in 2014.
On the menu: With around 10 savoury small plates to choose from, it’s easy to consider the Dabbang experience a laidback tasting menu. Honing in on his Asian knowledge – and vegetarians will appreciate the leading role he gives greens – he cooks options such as artichoke in tamarillo leche de tigre and peanut butter, Swiss chard pakora, smoked lamb curry or turmeric-marinated rabbit.
What’s the vibe? It’s fast and furious with few frills at Gran Dabbang; Ramón lets the food speak for itself. At this small joint located on a busy Palermo avenue, dishes are served on camping ware and are designed to share; a hungry table of four can easily sample the whole menu. It’s first come, first served, although the queue moves quickly.
Other ventures: Ramón heads the market at Masticar, an annual food fair in Buenos Aires, working with small producers around Argentina to bring a diverse array of produce to the capital such as pomegranate or quinoa that don’t usually reach consumers.