Which is all a long way of saying that when you come to Argentina,
you are likely to be eating steak. A lot of it. And so herewith a guide
for enjoying steak here:
1. Temperature. Argentines generally like their steaks cooked
medium well to well-done (much like Obama likes his burgers), partly I
suspect because they leave some fat on them and like to render it down.
If you prefer your steak rare to medium rare, like I do, you'll want to
ask for it either "vuelta y vuelta" (basically, a "turn and a turn" of
the steak on the grill), which is a true rare, or "jugoso," which
technically translates to rare but actually ends up medium rate, or all
too often, medium or medium well, in which case you'll need...
2. Patience. Odds are (I would put them at 7 to 1) that your
steak will come out one to two temperature grades above what you
ordered. I usually smile and politely tell our waiter that the steak
isn't cooked properly, and then they take it back. A few minutes later,
we'll have a different steak on the table, cooked right. It's important
to not be afraid of sending your steak back here, because you'll run
into the problem regularly.
3. Tools. Argentine beef is (mostly) free-range and
grass-fed, and I think it's a good idea the first few times to take the
steak as they serve it, and add just a little salt, to get to know the
delicate flavor. But come steak number three or so, you'll be wanting to add a
little depth. One option, which won't be on your table, is ground black
pepper. But if you ask your waiter, they'll be happy to bring one for
you (most of the more popular steakhouses have them). Or you could just
pack your own heat.
Another option is Argentina's steak sauce, chimichurri,
a tasty pesto of sorts made with parsley, garlic, cracked red pepper,
oil, and vinegar. This adds a little heat and flavor, and is most
welcome. But many places cheat and use a dry mix of the spices to which
they add oil and vinegar, which mutes the flavor and gives you a brown
sauce. So I usually ask if they make their chimichurri fresh and in-house before adding it to my order.
4. Wine. On nearly every wine list, you can find a decent
Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon for around ten dollars, an excellent deal.
While more and more Argentines are choosing beer to go with their steak
(thinking that it's cheaper, and there's more to drink), wine pairs so
much better than watery beer, and won't fill you up as much.
5. Share. Steaks here are cut to a size that make them perfect to share. Since you'll want to have some fries, provoleta
and maybe a chorizo to start your meal, and need to save room for
dessert, the 16 to 20 ounces of steak are more than enough for two
people. Some steakhouses like La Cabrera recommend sharing all of their
steaks, but also offer a half-portion for solo diners.