“Not bad. Not bad at all.”
– Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady
Buenos Aires – Continued on this last week with a visit to another of the septet of parrillas that Dereck Foster listed off in the Herald a few weeks back. We headed out to Belgrano, to El Pobre Luis, Arribeños 2393, 4780-5847, a place that’s actually been on my list to try for several years. I’m not really sure why we never got there, other than, perhaps, it’s a fair distance out and when we get to there, in the heart of chinatown, we usually eat chinese. I’ve met Luis Acuña, the chef/owner, at a couple of food events, and he’s been exceedingly gracious and friendly, so I should have gone long ago. And not just because of that, it turns out, but the food as well.
The room… not my style, but I get it – it’s dark wood everywhere, which is fine, but there are also a zillion pieces of soccer memorabilia all over the place, and the few surfaces that aren’t covered with that, are covered with wallpaper that my great-grandmother might have appreciated. The room is split in levels, a bit on the ground level, a bit down a few steps, a bit up a few steps, there are tables everywhere. The young host was cute, and he gave us our choice of tables. The waiters, amazingly attentive, perhaps overly so – menus delivered within seconds of sitting down, bread already on the table (and clearly there for awhile, which was the one food negative), and ours returned in under two minutes to see if we were ready yet, and another two minutes after that… a little pushy actually. On the other hand, knowledgeable about the food – with recommendations, and when Henry decided he didn’t want wine, the waiter offered that the sommelier had earlier opened up a bottle of Gascón Pequeños Producciones Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 for the staff to try and they still had half a bottle left if I wanted a glass at cost – not bad, especially in comparison to the “house” wine by the glass, which was nearly the same price and a quarter the quality – of course, that was pure chance and fortuitous timing.
For appetizers a really tasty chorizo sausage for Henry, perfectly grilled, and a provoleta for me – I like the liquido style where it’s grilled on one side then popped in the oven in a small dish to get all melty and gooey. This one was quite good, nicely seasoned.
Henry opted for his usual favorite, a strip of crosscut ribs, the tira de asado, and I went for the house specialty, an Uruguayan one, the pamplona de cerdo (stuffed rolled pork – also available in beef and chicken versions). Really, really tasty, stuffed with cheese and peppers, though I have to admit, it was the smallest pamplona I’ve ever seen – about the size and shape of very fat cigar – still, with a little salad and a honey-baked sweet potato on the side it was plenty of food, though, being the house specialty and more complicated to make than just throwing a steak on the grill, it was also the most expensive item on the menu – and probably the smallest. A toss-up I suppose – quantity and quality both come into play. I’d order it again, so I guess quality wins out here. With tip we spent 120 pesos – 2 apps, 2 main courses, 2 bottles of water, 1 glass of wine.
Overall, quite good. I wish Luis had been there to say hello to, but his staff clearly know what they’re doing in the kitchen. In the dining room, and with timing, they need to be a little less aggressive – we were in and out of the place in 50 minutes – and we did feel like we were being rushed through everything. It wasn’t just us – I noted that this was happening around the room – we’d come early, around 8:30, and it seemed as if they were trying to get all the early folk out so they could reseat the room. I’d be curious if there’s the same hurried atmosphere for people arriving around, say, 9:30 or 10:00.