I discovered this upscale parilla by chance while waiting for a table at the restaurant next door, Cabaña Las Lilas. I decided to take a little trip next door to glance at the menu -- no harm in looking, I say. On my approach to the menu, I briefly laughed at the flock of people hovering around the doors to the restaurant waiting for a table, sticking together to stay warm. The menu looked enticingly carnivorous with most of the entrees being different cuts of meat. I knew I’d be taking a trip back here at some point to do more than window shopping.We arrived around 10:30pm on a Wednesday night to find that this weeknight was no exception to me becoming part of the crowd of people I once laughed hovering outside and waiting for a table. The wait, we were told, would be nearly an hour. For a brief moment my friends considered walking down the strip of Puerto Madero restaurants to find another place. Never a good idea with a group of people, in my book, to start thinking about a new restaurant when the wait is only an hour -- by the time you figure out where you want to go there are only twenty minutes left anyway. We walked around for a little, thinking of another place to go, and by the time we reached a consensus, it’d already been fourty minutes. So, we headed back to the restaurant and decided to wait it out. It was possible to wait inside, we discovered, so long as we ordered a drink at the bar. Great excuse for a Capiairinas. The time started to pass much faster once inside with our Brazilian national cocktails until we were seated around midnight. The restaurant, like every other restaurant in Puerto Madero, had that new restaurant smell. Or, a surprising lack of smell, that is. Everything was impeccably clean, well-lit and, it was clear that on my departure from this restaurant, I would not be smelling like a grilled sirloin. The warm space was impressively large; but low ceilings and wooden tables with gaucho artifacts broke up the space into more approachable areas. The interior was very similar to Cabaña Las Lilas; but something, hard to pinpoint exactly what, just seemed more genuine. Perhaps it was because the restaurant wasn’t trying to trick me into thinking I was eating on cattle farm ... as in, there were no lassos hanging from the ceiling. And, while all were completely packed, everyone appeared to be speaking spanish. Nice.
When the waitress came over to introduce herself, she didn’t proceed to explain how things were done in the restaurant, nor did she bring over plates of “traditional” appetizers to feast on as one would imagine being done somewhere in Argentina-land, Epcot Center. She pointed out the meat section of the menu, took our drink orders, and left the decision process up to us. And a tough decision we faced -- why can't we try all the cuts? We decided to split two simple vegetable salads to start, and I opted with the bife de lomo, juicy, for a main course.
There was nothing particularly memorable about the salads except that one of them used canned corn, which is never good. The aluminum flavor was masked by the strength of the vinaigrette; but the telling chewy texture and dull yellow gradient said everything. To be fair, it’s pretty common for Argentine restaurants to use canned corn in salads, even relatively nice places. Vegetables just aren’t taken very seriously. But still, there's no excuse -- it tastes terrible.
Then came the good stuff. The bife de lomo was served a la carte, just a great cut of meat on a fresh white plate. A really nice smell, one of the firsts of the evening, came my way as the plate was set in front of me: the smokiness of the parilla. They honored my request for rare, which I appreciated, as my plate soon filled with nature’s natural sauce. While a little leaner than I would have hoped for bife de lomo, it was incredibly succulent, tender, and earthy -- more thumbs up for grass-fed cows.
None of the desserts on the menu looked particularly interesting in this steak-centric restaurant; but, I wanted something sweet. So, I asked for vanilla ice cream with dulce de leche and fresh raspberries on the side. I was brought a mountain of ice cream (4 scoops), a second bowl of dulce de leche, and a third bowl of raspberries in syrup. Very kind, my waitress was. My bowl of DDL likely had twice the caloric intake of my appetizer and main course combined. While it was satisfying and was more than I had asked for, I ultimately could have taken a trip to Freddo or Persico for more variety of flavor.
At first being disappointed by the salad, I was immediately cheered up by the tender steak, kind service, and abundance of porteños eating beside me until 2am. The steak was certainly the highlight of the night, which is what one would hope for, as this is a parilla. I would recommend this place as an alternative to Cabaña Las Lilas, both for quality of service, authenticity, quality of food, and price. Just don’t set your expectations sky high for food other than steak.