Montevideo – Back in the capitol and a nap to clear the head, with a plan to meet up later and head for what’s often considered one of, if not, the best, places in town to try classic Uruguayan cuisine, Le Perdiz. Unfortunately, the place also doesn’t take reservations, and is amazingly popular. Despite our hopes that the increasingly nasty weather (at that point only light rain, but lots of wind, and an announced “cyclone alert” – shades of my visit in August) would make it easier to garner a table, we were disappointed. The place was packed to the rafters with a minimum 40 minute waiting list and no real room to hang out inside left – which would have meant sort of hovering in the doorway or outside. Luckily, the cab hadn’t departed, so we hopped back in, and the driver very nicely offered to just add on the extra distance to the original bill rather than the “start” fee that cabs generally have. After a bit of dicussion we headed to La Casa Violeta, Rambla Armenia 3667 (the ramblas in Montevideo are the boardwalks that line the beaches along the Rio de la Plata). It’s a large, pretty restaurant, with a nice view, and packed with tourists. In fact, we got the last table, most of the dining room being covered with three respective parties of 25-30+ people, two of them loudly rattling away in mid-American English, the third in a mix of German and Spanish. Live tango music, singing and dancing was being rotated through various corners of the restaurant. A huge salad bar dominates the center of the room.
La Casa Violeta is very simply a steak house, a parrilla, in Uruguayan style. The biggest difference from a parrilla in Argentina is simply the cuts of beef, which are different and/or go by different names, in Uruguay, and of course that it is Uruguayan beef rather than Argentine. There’s an immediate difference in the basic presentation of beef in Uruguay that I’ve noticed – while in Argentina, a butcher shop or restaurant often proudly displays their meat in large slabs or racks or what have you, and then cuts to order; in Uruguay every bit of meat I’ve seen has been vacuum packaged – not cryo-vaced where it would be frozen, but just simply, individual cuts in their individual plastic vacuum packs. And, that’s what’s displayed in the restaurant’s meat case, and it’s what chefs use to cook. There’s also a reliance on technology, and you’ll notice that there’s a little plastic flag waving above my cuadril (rump) steak, along with the little plastic baggie that the flag had come in, complete with a description of what it is and how to use it. It’s a Cook’d Right® temperature sensor from Volk Enterprises (the same folk who brought us, years ago, the Pop-Up® Timer for our turkeys), specially labelled for this restaurant – one side with the restaurant logo, and the side you can see with a “Canelones Foods” for the province, and a USDA certification stamp (it is U.S. made after all).
I haven’t enountered these sensors before – they are supposedly multiple use, which worries me, despite the various discussions about the cleaning and reuse of them I read on the ‘net. The one in my steak, in particular, did not seem to have functioned. There are three small colored bands on the tip that are in various shades of a sort of purple red. One by one they are supposed to turn orange as the steak moves to rare, then medium, and then well-done. My steak was cooked a perfect medium rare, but the temperature sensor remained with three shades of purple red. Has it been used too many times? Is it merely a silly idea? All I know is, that despite it indicating that my steak was not even cooked to a bloody rare, my steak was cooked well beyond that. I’m bringing it back with me to try it out, just out of curiosity, at home. Laura opted for a lovely brochette of beef with onions, bacon, and peppers sandwiched between cubes of tender steak. We started off by sharing a plate of chipirones encebolladas, which literally are a type of small squid cooked with onions; it was also advertised as being served with the chef’s “secret sauce.” Nicely sauteed squid, more or less pickled onions on the plate, no sauce of note. On to the main courses – good steak, good brochette, neither particularly special, the meat of decent quality. We were too full for dessert, in fact too full to finish more than half of our respective main dishes.
Overall a fun place, good but not great food, but relaxed and enjoyable.