Steak holders: a guide to Argentine parrillas

 

We got the meat.

Novecento
Medallones de Lomo at Novecento Miami Beach. Photo: Hector Gabino
 

By Maria Chercoles

Here's the deal: your friend takes you to an Argentine parrilla - Spanish for grill. You've heard great things about the meats, those thick and tender steaks that come from grass-fed cows in La Pampa and contain less fat than the meat from the corn-fed cows here. You open the menu determined to order the best steak possible, only to realize you have no idea what each dish is. Vacío, lomo, colita de cuadril, asado de tira; Argentines have more than 40 meat cuts. Don't panic: most likely you'll only run into 11 of them, so take this as an Argentine parrilla survival guide.

One last word: Argentines like their meat extremely raw, and even a asking for well-cooked steak doesn't guarantee it won't come out red inside. If you don't like your meat like this, make sure to specify it. It's okay to ask for your steak to be cooked a little longer -- as long as you say it in a natural and polite way. It's not them after all, it's you.

Most common meat cuts found in restaurants
Asado: Short ribs or roast prime ribs, it's rich in flavor although it comes with a lot of bone and fat. It becomes very tender when cooked at low temperatures.
Bife de chorizo: Don't be confused, this has nothing to do with chorizo or sausage. It's a similar cut to the sirloin steak, New York steak or sirloin steak. It's the tender muscle next to the rib but it's separated from the bone. It can be thick or thin depending on whether it comes from the upper or lower ones. It's a little dryer than the lomo but still a favorite.
Bife de Costilla: T-bone steak in English, it's the meat next to the ribs but with the bone left inside.
Chinchulines: First section of the small intestines.
Colita de cuadril: Tail of the rump steak.
Entraña: Same as skirt steak, it's a flat and long muscle from the inside of the cow.
Lomo: Same cut as tenderloin or filet mignon. It's the most tender, delicious -- and expensive -- meat. It's a conic and long muscle that goes from the cow's hip to the center to the ribs here the bife the costilla begins.
Matambre: The thin part of the flank steak. Can be served either as a thin cut or can be rolled and stuffed with egg, dry plums or other filling.
Mollejas: Sweetbreads.
Peceto: Beef round steak/ roast eye of round.
Vacío: Flank steak. Covered by a membrane or layer of fat, it's the muscle that goes from the ribs to the back of the cow.

Now that you're ready to order, here's a list of Argentine restaurants around town:

Miami Beach
Parrilla Liberty
This family-owned parrilla is the best place to catch a soccer game while drinking a Quilmes beer -- Argentina's most popular. Liberty recently moved from the hidden Liberty Avenue location to the heart of South Beach, but the flavor is still the same. Order the parrilla for one to sample the best meat cuts, or the chorizo for a meat so delicious you won't want to swallow it. Did I mention the prices are affordable?

Novecento Miami Beach
This upscale, New York-based steakhouse has a location in South Beach and one in Brickell and offers the best Argentinean meats and pastas in a trendy décor. You'll find a lot of dishes that aren't necessarily Argentinean - i.e. curry chicken - but the restaurant's menu still carries everything any home-sick Argentinean would dream of, including milanesa napolitana - breaded beef or chicken with ham, cheese and tomato sauce. The restaurant is a little pricy, but has a lunch menu with lower prices.

Other options on Miami Beach
Baires Grill
Café Charlotte
El Campo Argentino

Las Pampas
Matador Steakhouse
New San Telmo Argentinean Steak House
New Olivos Café
Rancho Argentino

Coral Gables
Graziano's
Graziano's is known as one of the best parrillas in Miami, and any of its three locations (Kendall, Hialeah) will prove it. All the meats are tender and just delicious. There's a good wine list with lots of Malbecs - Argentinean red wine. The wall artwork showcasing the Gaucho culture and the sight of the asadero - grill- simply enhances the experience. The place is known for its meats, but those with a sweet tooth can't leave without trying some of the desserts, such as panqueques con dulce de leche - flamed pancakes with caramel. Celebrating Argentina's Italian roots, there's a Graziano's Pizzeria next to the Bird Road location that serves exquisite thin-crust, brick-oven pizza the way Argentinean's enjoy it. Also, each restaurant has a market were you can find all kinds of Argentinean products, including meats, so you ca repeat the experience.

Other options around Coral Gables
Chocolate
Pampa Grill
Rincon Argentino Restaurant
Viñetas Porteñas

Downtown/ Brickell/Key Biscayne
The Knife Argentinian Steakhouse
This restaurant is the best place to go if you've never tried Argentinean food. Access to the all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurant averages $25 and varies depending on the day and time. This will grant you access to the salad bar with the most traditional Argentinean salads, a selection of appetizers and sides and, most importantly, anything you can eat from the grill. If that's too much to swallow, try doing it with the half-bottle of wine that comes included in the price. Traditional Argentine desserts and coffee have an additional cost.
Five locations: Bayside Marketplace; International Mall; Hallandale; Sunrise.

Other options around Downtown/Brickell/Key Biscayne

Novecento
Tango Grill

Kendall/South Miami/Coconut Grove
La Estancia Argentina
This place is more of a deli-style market, butcher and bakery that sells ready-to-eat foods, fresh meats and facturas or pastries. Originated by a group of Argentine friends who longed for their specialty meat cuts, chorizos, empanadas, provoleta cheeses and Malbec wines, this market sells everything you need to prepare an Argentinean meal at home. It also has a large selection of chocolates and sweets that would make anyone who grew-up in Argentina weep of nostalgia.
Four locations: Kendall; Coral Gables; North Miami; Miramar.

Other options around Kendall/South Miami/Coconut Grove
La Nueva Argentina
Pampa Grill
Tango Grill
The Knife Argentinian Steakhouse
Rincon Argentino Restaurant

Doral/West Miami/Sweetwater/Hialeah
La Patagonia Argentina
It's a little hidden and difficult to find parking, but La Patagonia Argentina is a great option if you're in this area. It serves homemade-style appetizers such as berenjena a la Napolitana - breaded eggplant layered with tomato sauce and cheese - and makes its own pastas and has all the traditional meat cuts. Its wine and champagne list is also great, as is the list of desserts.

Other Doral/West Miami/Sweetwater/Hialeah options
Carniceria Argentina La Estancia
Graziano's
(See review under Coral Gables restaurants)
The Knife Argentinian Steakhouse
(See review under Downtown restaurants)
Los Parrilleros
10775 NW 41 St., Doral; 305-597-0019
Olivos
Tango Grill
11401 NW 12th St., Miami; 305-716-8682

Broward

Beef Eater
This is Broward's finest Argentinean parrilla, located at the heart of Hollywood. The food selection includes all the Argentine favorites at an affordable price. Try the Gaucho plate for a sample of three meats. The spicy chimichurry at Beef Eater is said to be the best in the area as well. The restaurant also has an excellent Argentinean wine list. Go during peak hours to enjoy a complimentary glass of house wine while you wait.
1902 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood; 954-920-4450

Other options in Broward
La Estancia Argentina
(See review under South Miami restaurants)
The Knife Argentinian Steakhouse
(See review under Downtown Miami restaurants)

Published: 11/08

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