“Meating” in Buenos Aires
Continued from Eating my way through Buenos Aires…
Thursday- Joe headed to lunch with his colleagues at Osaka, which I should mention was the best sushi experience he has ever had – in Argentina, no less. I spent the day with a new friend, Alison – a wife of one of Joe’s colleagues. They live in Buenos Aires now, so I felt privileged to be receiving a guided tour of the area. We had such a nice time, talking, eating and sight-seeing.
Alison took me to La Recoleta Cemetery. La Recoleta Cemetery is a must see when in Buenos Aires – it was an educational, yet somewhat emotional experience. We walked slowly through the corridors that housed over 4,500 mausoleums, each unique – each with its own family history and story. One of the most famous is the mausoleum of Eva Peron.
Friday- Friday I worked most of the day, but we did have a chance to head out for lunch at a local Hungarian restaurant, Turandot. Joe had the chicken paprikash; I ordered something similar, but with shrimp. I must say we were a bit stumped when ordering since the menu was completely in Spanish. After stumbling to place our order – we waited in anticipation to see what would be delivered to the table.
The chicken paprikash was good, more oil based than cream based – but very flavorful. The flavors reminded me of my mother’s chicken paprikash – so of course, I liked it. The shrimp dish was served with a similar sauce next to rice. I love saucy dishes that are served with rice – I think that is why I enjoy Indian food so much.
For dinner, we headed to La Cabrera, well known for its steaks. La Cabrera was located in Palermo Viejo, a few blocks from our hotel. If you do a search for La Cabrera you will read reviews from people all over the world praising their prime cuts of beef as the “best in the world“, “the best steak I ever had” and so on. For those vegetarians, don’t bother – this restaurant is strictly for carnivores.
This was hands down the culinary highlight of the trip, as well as one of my most memorable meals I have experienced. Rumor has it that this restaurant is extremely difficult to get a reservation at, especially on a Friday night. Luckily, the group we were going with had some “connections.”
We arrived around 8:30 and the place was packed, a line extended out the door onto the sidewalk. That alone told me we were in for a treat, considering that other restaurants are dead at this time.
Our group of eight was led back to a cramped circular table in the back corner of the restaurant. The décor was shabby chic meets steakhouse, the atmosphere was vibrant and fun with several waiters swirling about the small space.
Since we were dinning with locals, they knew exactly what to order – thank goodness, because I sure didn’t. We started with a few orders of the Chorizo, and some provoleta, a grilled provolone cheese that is mixed with herbs. The Chorizo was served with chimichurri and a cheese sauce; very gluttonous indeed, sausage eaten with cheese sauce. The provoleta was brought to the table hot and melty, and then scooped onto your plate. Spread on bread or eaten straight – simply put, it was a mound of melted, gooey, cheesy goodness. The Chorizo was just amazing – there are very few things that I would describe as succulent, but this was one of them. The snap of the outer skin as you bite into it, then a rush of fatty, salty, juiciness rolls over your tongue – incredible.
Each cut of meat arrives at the table on a long wooden board, accompanied by several small ramekins filled with a variety of sides and sauces. Not only do you get these ramekins with your entrée, they bring out additional ramekins filled with even more sides for the table to share. I love this concept – it encourages sharing. There were so many little bites to taste. It also appeared that each main came with a different combination. All night these ramekins were making their way around the table for people to sample. They included pureed sweet potatoes and squash, potato salads, roasted sweet peppers, marinated garlic, tapenades, hearts of palm, a variety of cheeses, dips, sauces…the list goes on and on. I could write an entire post about these plentiful sides alone.
Joe ordered the Bife de Chorizo (a strip sirloin) which I would assume is the house specialty. It was enormous – resembling a small pot roast that could easily feed four. Joe described it as a lean, juicy, flavorful cut of meat that was cooked well with a noticeable chew. I asked if that was his way of saying it was a bit tough? Perhaps, but he did say that overall that the Bife de Chorizo was one of the better steaks he has eaten.
I choose a skirt steak that was very rare, barely cooked. I noticed this same chew – but the flavor was incredible. Definitely one of the more flavorful pieces of meat I have ever eaten. If I could do it again, I would have ordered the Bife de Chorizo, rare.
Most of the cuts on the menu would be considered a bit more common, perhaps even lesser cuts of meats to Americans. Yet, these cuts were all transformed into something spectacular – there is something to be said for that. The menu consisted of rib eye, rump, sirloin, flank, and skirt – traditionally not prime cuts. The Argentineans want robust flavors and big portions; they prize these qualities over fine marbling and supple textures.
To top this amazing meal off, the waiter brought over a huge tower of lollipops for our table to share. Mind you, this was after the desserts and coffees we all indulged in. Again, another magical touch that I fell in love with. I highly recommend La Cabrera for those looking to indulge (and indulge you will) in a classic Argentine steak dinner.
Saturday- We knew we needed to do some shopping, of course – we were in Buenos Aires. I kept hearing about the amazing deals you could get on leather goods – we had to check that out. So we headed to the shopping area of Palermo Viejo. I made a few purchases, then we stopped for lunch at Bar Uriarte. I recognized the name from Frommer’s, or Fodor’s, or one of the other travel websites I scour for informative tidbits before a trip.
The restaurant was stylishly decorated; with a very chic bar area.
I started with grilled vegetable bruschetta. It was topped with goat cheese and then layered with grilled vegetables. My main was ravioli in a lemon dill cream sauce. The sauce was very rich and not too lemony, with a slight hint of fresh dill. The restaurant was modern, the service was attentive – lunch was very tasty.
I have never had an empanada before that night, but I now completely understand why they are so popular. First off, they are handheld – so they make for easy eating. Second, the fillings are extensive – so you get variety. Third, the dough is awesome. The dough reminds me of pie crust with more give…maybe a cross between pie crust and pizza dough.
Empanada means simply, “in dough”; they can be baked or fried; the baked being more popular. The fillings range from beef and chicken, to ham and cheese, to egg and olive and everything in between. I personally liked the picante empanadas – with their juicy filling and slight spice.
If you look closely at the picture above, you will notice that each pattern on the empanada is different. This is how you distinguish what is on the inside – similar to how you distinguish vanilla creme from raspberry creme in your favorite chocolate sampler.
Sunday – We were getting ready to head back to the States…ughh, the travel portion of the trip. We had one final meal at Campo Bravo, another parilla, or barbequed meat joint. I had the barbequed salmon with grilled vegetables and a side of chimichurri. Very fresh fish – but the best thing was the chimichurri sauce. I “heart” chimichurri, I do. This simple mixture of olive oil, parsley and garlic can make anything taste zippier, flashier – better. I plan to start making it to serve alongside my steaks at home. The trip was coming to an end…
What made this trip so memorable was the group of people we spent the week with. We were a group comprised of so many different cultures and backgrounds – it really made for an interesting and educational time; oh, and the food wasn’t too bad either…