Alberto's midnight parrilla
Tonight was the perfect introduction to this country for me. Only in Argentina can you go to a truly authentic parrilla (special Argentinean steak house) and get the best steak on the planet (along with the best wine on the planet); and only in Argentina can you turn up at midnight, and find the restaurant still jam-packed! The place in question was Alberto's, the best and most famous (and yet quite cheap) parrilla in Bariloche. Turned up at about 11:50pm, and only just managed to get a table. And the bife de lomo (tenderloin steak — three of them in a single order) was so soft and so juicy, I'd say it's pretty much unbeatable.
After chilling in the living room of Patanuk for a few hours this evening, three of us — Finlandia, Elysa (New York girl), and myself — made the trip over to El Boliche de Alberto. I really couldn't have asked for anything more: I've been holding out for a good Argentinean steak for several months now (been receiving juicy reports from every traveller I've met, up in PEB); and to go to the best one in town, during my first night in the country, was a dream come true!
As well as the bife de lomo, we also got a bit of entrañas, which is appparently a cut of beef from the lining between the cow's stomach and its intestines. Anyway, although this does sound a bit dicey and gross, the meat is a beautiful and tender piece of steak — definitely nothing gross about it. Both the lomo and the entrañas were sensational.
However, I promised myself that when I came to Argentina, I'd try and find some steak that's better than what you can get at my favourite steak house in the world, which is Hurricane, on Bondi Beach in Sydney. And I'm sorry to say that although Alberto's does do some fine grilling, Hurricane retains the title of numero uno in my books. So c'mon, Argentina: if you want to prove that you really do have the best steaks on the planet, you'll have to live up to the competition from Down Under. Anyway, I have plenty of time to find more steak houses while I'm here — and believe me, I intend to eat at as many of the daym places as I can, until I'm no longer physically capable of consuming more steak.
And the wine: ohhhhh my G-d, tonight's bottle was absolutely heavenly! Argentina hasn't yet gotten my No. 1 vote on the steak front; but there's no doubt that it does, unequivocally, offer THE VERY BEST red wine in the world. The bottle was, of course, a Malbec (Argentina's speciality — like Cabernet Sauvignon, but better); and it was, of course, from Mendoza (the area that produces 70% of the nation's wine). And incredibly cheap, too: our bottle was about $7, and they have them cheaper (and this is in a restaurant!).
I'm so goddamn sick of beer: I'm very much looking forward to living on wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, during my entire time here in Argentina; and beer can go %#$& itself. Mendoza and Malbec: 100% the perfect combination. And when drunk with an en punto ("medium-rare") parrilla over dinner, it becomes the 110% perfect combo.
And hey, I heard that in Argentina they like to do things late — but to see first-hand that "if you turn up at a restaurant at midnight, you get served no problem" in this country — that is very cool indeed. I guess it makes sense: around here, midnight is a bit early (that's right: early) to hit the clubs; so you may as well grab half a cow for dinner, before you go dancing.