When we started planning a trip to Buenos Aires last Christmas we had eating as a top priority on our to-do list. Argentina is world-famous for its beef. A key concept of travel that we’ve grabbed throughout our trips is to do or try what a country is best known for/takes the most pride in. It should be noted that my birthday is December 28th, which in my estimation, is as fine a cause as any to spend a little coin on culture! I was researching the best steak houses in Buenos Aires when I came upon something interesting lodged at number three (at the time) on Trip Advisor, a closed door asado by the name: Steaks by Luis (The number one option at the time was to do a meat cooking class taught by a Brit…in Argentina… so naturally you keep scrolling).
As you can see, we indeed chose the third option on the list! An asado is truly something to take into your repertoire of lovely life experiences. To do asado in a closed door restaurant setting, takes it up a notch.
Steaks by Luis is as mentioned, a closed door restaurant. This is a concept we were completely unfamiliar with, but often times we’ve found unfamiliar to be a good thing! Essentially it is a modern loft/apartment that is renovated to entertain a set number of guests. Closed door restaurants are growing in popularity in Buenos Aires and offer a variety of niche cuisines. They forgo serving a full menu with various options, in lieu of serving a set, expertly prepared specialist menu. Its name comes from the fact that they do not take walk-ins, opting for slot-reservations instead.
Immediately after ascending the stairs into the waiting area, you are greeted with a glass of sparkling wine while you get a good look at the fine selection of various meats that will be served to your group throughout the night. It’s that Quentin Terrantino style, where you see how it will end from the beginning and spend your night figuring out the in-between parts. That, but in a meaty…Argentinian malbec-y way.
One of the highlights of this dining style is the familial feel created by the group nature of the event. You’re dining with around 20-30 other guests that you know are going to be there from start to finish. The conversation is invariably less superficial and quickly moves towards finding out where everyone is from and how everyone decided to end up here on this night, in this city. Usually, you’re dining with other travelers from around the world. Finding out about their experiences and insights adds a whole new dimension of connect-ability to your trip as a whole, as well as your dinner in the present.
The grill for asado is a mixture of Fergie and Jesus. It. is. mindblowin-gah. The construction is set up in two parts. To the left is an ember chamber, in which Luis heats each of the embers to an ideal temperature. No “too hot over here, not hot enough over there,” for Luis. From the ember chamber he scoops them up with his BARE HANDS and…just kidding, he’s all about safety-first…places them evenly throughout the cooking chamber. This is where the Argentine meat-grilling brain supersedes the rest of the world: After setting up the embers, he then swings the grill surface down from the top of the chamber to create the most evenly heated manual heat source known to man! He took all 30 of our orders (ranging from rare-to well done, sigh, yes, there was a well-done) and if not for the super picky woman from Portland who’s steak was “just a touch too pink, just barely off but…”(Luis graciously whisked Portlandia’s steak back to the grill to add the infinitesimally small amount of cookery needed) he would’ve gotten a jaw-drop from all 30 of us. Spot on perfection. Respect sir, respect!
One does not simply show up, eat a steak, down a glass of wine and bolt. This is all about an experience. From the start of the night to the door closing behind the last of us to exit, everything is new. New cuts of meats, new types of meats (some meats, aren’t meats, luckily that information was withheld so I at least tried it before the mental image ruined it for me…blood sausage is tasty, until you know it’s blood sausage), new cheeses, local everything, new wines and all while meeting a group of fellow travelers in a cozy loft. Ideal.
The five courses included:
1st course: Traditional Welcome Picada, Charcuterie Platter
2nd course: Mixed Greens Salad with Confit Tomatoes and a House-made Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
3rd course: Achuras, assorted cuts of meat, grilled to perfection and served with typical Argentine Sauces
4th course: 350g Premium Steak with a side of Roasted Vegetables
5th course: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake, Whipped Cream and Candied Orange Peel
No need to worry that you are going to biff the wine pairing as their staff has each of the five courses perfectly paired with a specific wine that will keep you sipping and smiling.
I am all about dipping sauces. I guess Luis is too. My man!
This was my first time trusting the chef enough to go “medium,” while C really got into the festivities with her one-upping order of “medium rare.” What a night, happy birthday to me!
Steaks by Luis is now the standard by which we judge steaks. Easily the juiciest and most tender steak I have ever eaten, and the best part: the only seasoning used was salt!
What a top notch way to celebrate my 27th Birthday! Tasty food, incredible wines and to top it all we met some really cool Finns. We ended up going out for another drink with them afterwards. There is so much more to that story, but that’s another post entirely. More to come…