“Age appears to be best in four things, – old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.”
– Alonso of Aragon, 15th Century Spanish Archbishop
Buenos Aires – An old friend has been visiting us in Buenos Aires this week after a whirlwind trip to Santiago and Mendoza – as long as he’d travelled this far, we became a nice surprise addition to his itinerary. A regular reader and commenter on my posts, he’s someone I haven’t seen in nearly ten years, but used to spend a fair amount of time with in the wine world. For his last evening here in the big city, he offered to take me out to the parrilla of my choice – he wanted a nice slab of steak before going back (I’m afraid I’d been taking him to places that I’m more likely to eat at, none of which involved large pieces of cow). I thought for a few minutes on perhaps somewhere like Las Cabaña Las Lilas, since it’s the sort of place that’s well beyond any amount of pesos I’m willing to spend on steaks, or La Cabrera which is one of the best, but they had no reservations available. In the end we decided on a place that’s gotten great recommendations from several people that I know in the restaurant business here. So we headed to Don Julio, Guatemala 4691, in Palermo, 4832-6058.
If I have any objection to the place, it’s simply that it’s really brightly lit. Beyond that, it’s a comfortable, old-fashioned sort of steak house, with a big parrilla dominating one wall and sounds and smells of sizzling meat flowing all through the room. The staff are friendly and efficient, the clientele mostly seeming local – quite a few folks stopped to talk to others at neighboring tables, many went over to greet one or another staff member – clearly a lot of repeat customers. The menu is pretty standard – the usual cuts of beef, the various sausages and entrails, provoletas, empanadas, salads. Reasonably extensive winelist, and well priced – plus, if you don’t finish your bottle (a scandal in my view, but…), you can put your name and the date on it, and they store it for you for your next visit (which, of course, one ought to then do quite soon) – there are shelves lined with customers’ bottles. [Edit: This place has become a favorite – the steaks are really done properly, even seasoned well, the staff are incredibly attentive, and further examination of the wine list has revealed that it’s far better than I first thought. This is the first spot I send people to when they ask for a parrilla recommendation. Oh, and the bottles with customer names turn out not to be leftovers as I’d originally, as it turns out, misunderstood, but simply empties that customers have written thank you notes on to the staff, owner, etc.]
Their empanadas are deep-fried, which I don’t see often, and quite good, the chicken one we sampled having some nice spice and roasted peppers in it. The provoleta not exceptional but very tasty. The salad, fresh, perhaps a trifle over-dressed (it’s the first time I’ve had a waiter not only bring the oil and vinegar to the table with a salad, but also dress the salad with them, something had I been paying attention I’d have stopped him from doing – I tend to like my salads with just a drizzle of dressing). We ordered one entraña, a favorite cut of both of us, and one ojo de bife, on the recommendation of our waiter who said it was far and away the best cut they offered. Both arrived sizzling, smoking, and cooked perfectly to medium rare, as requested. The steaks are seasoned well, plus they use “carbon especial”, or special charcoal, as our waiter told us – that imparted a very interesting almost herbal note to the steaks. Really excellent. A plate of fries tossed with garlic and parsley (provencal) were very good. All in all the place definitely is up there in the “better” parrillas category.
My friend hadn’t had a panqueque de manzana con rhum – Buenos Aires’ near signature dessert (other than, of course, anything with dulce de leche) – a huge crepe filled with thinly sliced apples, topped with sugar and rum and then flamed at the table until the sugar and rum caramelize on top. Always a good show, and this one was very good!