While there is some debate over this, both in Buenos Aires and out, most critics point to two parillas, or steakhouses, for the best meat in the city. Cabaña Las Lilas in Puerto Madero is the flashier, more expensive, and harder to get into of the two restaurants, though I’m still going with La Cabrera, with two nearly side by side restaurants in Palermo Soho, as the best steakhouse in Buenos Aires.
It’s hard not to find good beef anywhere in Argentina. In Buenos Aires there are a dozen top steakhouses that would rank among the best anywhere in the world and hundreds of fine parillas in the city. When I arrive at 11pm for dinner there is a line out the door and several well-dressed couples are sipping champagne on the sidewalk. I put my name in and the hostess pours me a glass too. Before I finish she mentions that they have a table opening up at their other restaurant down the street, La Cabrera Norte.
“Where down the street?” I ask.
“Right over there,” she points.
It was literally a few buildings down and I could see others holding glasses of champagne in front. I walked over and after a few minutes they showed me in. What is it about Argentine beef that makes it so special. First of all, the beef is grass fed, not corn or grain fed. Hormones are rare too. It comes from vast prairies that cover much of the country and extend all the way until the ends of Patagonia. I have a theory that any sort of ingredient taste better when it is raised or grown in a beautiful place. The more natural and far away from the things of man the better. This would be a big plus for Argentine beef if my theory proves true.
It was just me dining that night, so I had to pass on the morcilla (blood sausage), mollejas (sweetbreads), provoleta de queso de cabra (grilled goat cheese),chorizo, or any of the other appetizers and instead just focus on the meat and the many accompanying sides. Though the Bife de Chorizo (Sirloin Strip steak) was tempting, I order the Ojo de Bife, or the rib eye, or the Longissimus dorsi muscle. I ordered it medium rare and it came full of fatty, buttery flavor. There was just a bit of char. I’ve had more expensive cuts, Wagyu, Kobe, you name it, but La Cabrera’s Ojo de Bife ranks right up there at the top. Every other cut of the cow (or pig or lamb or chicken) is offered too.
“To try the meat with different flavors,” my waiter said to me in English as I stared at the 13 different little sides he brought out. There was Butternut squash puree, mashed pumpkin with raisins, beet purée, sun dried tomatoes, white beans, caramelized onions, baked pearl onions in red wine, and several others. I could have just eaten the sides and have been full. After each bite of meat I would sample one of the sides and the combination produced something new and exciting. This was meat in a whole new light. New earthy, deep, and smoky flavors came out. Malbec only made it better.
With decent bottles of wine being so inexpensive in restaurants in Argentina, most don’t have a wide selection of wines by the glass. While La Cabrera’s selection isn’t extensive, they do offer three levels of wines (a reserve, middle, & standard). I started off with the reserve, the very drinkable; smoky, smooth Trapiche Malbec Fond de Cave 2008. Then finished with a Septima Malbec.
After my meal the waiter plopped a lollypop tree on my table. I would have walked away smiling without it.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
La Cabrera Norte
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.