We began our trip in Buenos Aires. Encouraged to see the Sunday flea market in the San Telmo neighborhood we made our way there from our hotel in the city center. It was fun walking around the market and seeing all kinds of antiques and kitsch.
Don Julio, which came highly recommended. It's a charming old school parilla (that's steakhouse) with leather topped tables and wine bottles from customers all over the walls above the asado or grill area. What was so special about this place? The food was exactly what you have in mind when you think of great Argentine asado!
Beef in Argentina, as many expect, is fed clean grass, is free of antibiotics and growth hormones, and not stressed out in a feed lot. The spicy, garlicy chimichuri (a condiment of parsley, garlic, paprika and olive oil) is good on your steak, but better on the warm bread while you wait. The steak is good enough that you don't want to mess with it. The rump steak has a grassy clean and lean if only slight chewy quality, but only because a muscle like that works hard and packs a lot of flavor. The magic of asado is not just great meat, it's how you cook it. You need plenty of salt to draw the moisture on the surface and caramelize as the meat sears to create a first layer of flavor. But, wait there's more. Wood is burned to create coals and these hot embers are pulled from the side of the grill at the right time to add smoke and heat as the meat cooks. This provides an amazing char that seals more flavor on the meat as it cooks.
Of course, it's not all beef there. Grilled pork "rose meat," which was described to us a being somewhere around the ribs was juicy and perfectly done. We enjoyed our hearty, satisfying empanadas: onion and cheese and also sweet corn. Boiled vegetables were a uninspired side dish we ordered that along with wine helped us between bites of salty meat. Before we ordered, we were given an iPad that allowed us to quickly discover a bottle in our price range and with characteristics we liked. I'm not sure that it was Wine List Pro, but I am sure that this tool will help consumers tremendously as it increases in popularity. Rather than replace the sommelier, this ought to compensate for the poor memories of some waiters. Of course our wine choice had to be malbec, the originally French grape that is synonymous today with Argentine wine. I finally settled on a malbec/cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend.
After a fun first day in the city, I pronounced this tremendous asado a 9/10 (I actually was being cautious since this was the first day!).