Saludos from Argentina!
Argentines are famed for their barbeque, or asado. People here eat lots of meat, lots of bread, and very little vegetables, which can be frustrating, especially for people on my program who are vegetarian and/or celiac. I am not a big meat-eater, and so I have really tried to avoid having asado, surviving instead on empanadas, any veggie places I can find, Mexican, and Chinese food. Buenos Aires, like any other large city, has a wide variety of restaurants, making the carnivorous food culture of this country easier to bear. But I realized that spending three months in Argentina without having an asado is like spending three months in Paris without eating a croissant. So last week I began my search for a good parrilla, a “grill,” or a restaurant that serves asado. The New York Times had recently come out with a “36 Hours in Buenos Aires,” and one of the restaurants recommended was “La Carnicería Parrilla y Ahumados,” located in the young and hip neighborhood of Palermo.
I haven’t really adapted to the Argentine custom of eating dinner very late, so when the restaurant opened its doors at 8 pm, I was their first customer, eagerly waiting on the sidewalk. Seated at the bar, I had an excellent view of the grill where huge chunks of meat were being cooked. I ordered a bife de chorizo, otherwise known as a sirloin steak, which came with a baked potato and squash puree, traditional trappings of an asado meal. A warning to all steak-loving Americans: Argentines generally have their steaks well done (I know, gross), so you better know how to order a less-cooked steak in Spanish. Jugoso, literally “juicy”, is the word for medium-rare, a punto is for medium, and bien cocido is for well done.
I waited some 30 minutes for my food, watching my large chunk of sirloin being cooked on the grill in front of me while I munched on some delicious bread. When I go out to eat by myself, I love sitting at the bar because I think that it is very entertaining. I watched the chef as he took out every piece of steak from under the counter, carefully seasoned it, and slapped it on the grill. When I got bored of watching the sizzling steaks, I would turn my attention to the bartender effortlessly mixing up delicious-looking tragos, or cocktails.
But then my food came, so I all of my attention was diverted to the food in front of me. The steak was humongous, and, as you can see in the picture, the salt crystals used to season the meat were still visible. I picked up my fork and asado knife, and began to devour the meat. Cooked just to medium, my sirloin was juicy and flavorful, and very well seasoned. I ate it with some hot sauce, some chimichurri sauce, or dipped it in some of the squash puree on the plate.
I definitely would not say that I am a meat-lover, but this meat was good, and I am very happy to say that I have been to Argentina and actually had an asado. Overall, it was an excellent experience: friendly staff, good food, and a very nice vibe (once I wasn’t the only person there). Kudos to the New York Times for coming to the rescue as I ventured into meat-eating territory!