Sunday, November 8, 2009

Steakhouse, Buenos Aires

For a while I was concerned that some of my coworkers hated me. There are two sides of the office, one being younger and more talkative, the other a bit older and quieter. I'm on the quiet side, and for the most part, no one spoke to me for 6 weeks. Suddenly on Monday I was invited to have coffee at the end of the day with the other guys on my side of the office, which I take as a sign that the haze is now over. For one reason or another, maybe it was just a test.

During the conversation the guys asked me all about steak and what I've eaten. I haven't had much experience with the Argentinian grilling, and they invited me out for lunch on Friday to try different kinds of meat. They go out to eat lunch together every day while I eat at my desk, so I was pretty happy that I was invited. We went to a parilla that was packed with business suits and skirts. So packed, in fact, that we had to sit at the bar.

One of my coworkers spoke quickly to the waiter and ordered four different kinds of meat that I had never heard of. I explained that while we have different cuts of meat in the U.S., it's nothing like down here, and I couldn't match up the different names with my own personal knowledge. The first dish brought out was a sausage and some grilled cheese--provolone I think. I'm not a culinary whiz, but I know good food when I eat it, and this food was above good.

There were three kinds of sauces: chimichurri, which is about the only thing put on steak here, if something is put on, a red sauce that tasted similar to the aji I used to get at La Viña restaurant in Cuenca, and a tangy tomato and onion sauce. They warned me that the red sauce was spicy, but Argentinians don't know anything about spice, so I piled it on as they watched and expected water to form from my eyes. Of course it was mild as mayonnaise, and they seemed impressed. The interesting thing is that the only way for that sauce to taste the way it did would be to have tomate de arbol, or tree tomato. But that doesn't grow here, and as far as I know it only grows in Ecuador.

The next plate that came out was an enormous platter with enough steak to feed four grown men, which it did. Everyone got a fair share as they put a different kind of each on my plate and explained what it was, as well as where on the cow it came from. They all definitely had different tastes, that's for sure. But I just don't know how to explain it. There's a clear difference between ground beef and Filet Mignon, but with these different cuts, I couldn't say which was better or what the taste was. One of the other guys was able to clearly distinguish and name every cut of steak.

On top of all the steak, we also had two plates of steak fries. I don't know why, but for some reason fries just taste better as steak fries. They go together so well. Once the food was finished we had espresso to wake us up--full bellies of steak make you sleepy and are not conducive of going back to work. A coworker paid for all of us and I thanked him graciously as we stepped into the drizzle and back to the office, where we joked around and eased into the weekend.

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