Our meaty adventure began on our first night in Mendoza. Mendoza is a wine town and region in the west of Argentina. We arrived at our hostel in the afternoon, and we signed up for ‘Asado night’ immediately. Little did we know what this was to entail. We’d heard that Argentina was big into red meat and red wine. It did not disappoint.
Before I begin the adventure, you should be familiar with a few terms (definitions from Wikipedia):
Asado: Asado is a technique for cooking cuts of meat, usually consisting of beef alongside various other meats, which are cooked on a grill (parrilla) or open fire. It is considered the traditional dish of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and southern Brazil.
Parrilla: The grill for cooking asado over a bed of coals.
(Gran) Asador: The person who cooks the asado on the parrilla.
Churrasco: Churrasco is a term referring to beef or grilled meat. Brazilian churrasco contains a variety of meats which may be cooked on a purpose-built “churrasqueira”, a barbecue grill or barbecue, often with supports for spits or skewers.
Churrascaria: A restaurant serving grilled meat offering as much as you can eat: the waiters move around the restaurant with the skewers, slicing meat onto the client’s plate.
Asado at Empredrado, Mendoza, Argentina – This was the first time we tasted asado in Argentina, and it set the bar very high. First, we did a walk to the market to see what we would be eating later. The meal was multiple courses of deliciousness. The starters were salad and potatoes. This was quickly followed by empanadas de carne, chorizo, and then as much asado as you could eat. It was all cooked rare to medium-rare. It had a great char on the outside and was very tender. We also had endless bottles of red wine on the table.
Steaks at Don Mario, Mendoza, Argentina – This proved to be the best steak we had in all of our travels, and it was wonderful to share the experience with meat eaters, James and Briony. I don’t need to say much here; the pictures tell all. It was a ‘bife de chorizo’ or sirloin cut for non-spanish speakers. It weighed in around 500 grams or just shy of 20 ounces.
Steaks at Alacorte, Cordoba, Argentina – After being happy with the massive steak from Mendoza, we thought we’d try another big one in Cordoba. This steal was decently sized, but the service was poor, plus they ruined SarahKate’s steak by overcooking it. We finally got them to cook her steak correctly, but in the end the taste was just average.
Asado at El Desnivel, Buenos Aires, Argentina – This local place in San Telmo turned out to be a find! We ate here twice and had different things each time. I think this place has the best chorizo we had on the whole trip! We shared vacio (flank steak) and pork medallions on the first go. On the second round, SarahKate tried sweetbreads (also known as the thymus gland) which turned out to be awesome and morcilla, which is black pudding. I had a decent steak hoping for a good mushroom sauce, but it turned out to be drowned in a cheap milky mushroom goop. SarahKate won!
Steaks in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina – I could not remember the name of the place we went on this night. It was a repeat of big steaks with our Aussie friends, James and Briony. I believe we decided that the steak was as big as James’ head (see below). The steaks were tasty, but we decided to share the Gran Bife de Chorizo (550 grams) between couples. It was a wonderful night, but I wouldn’t rate the steak against Don Mario.
Steaks at La Escondida, Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina – We journeyed to Palermo in BA to meet some other friends on this night, Ernesto and Claire. Just like Groundhog Day, it was steak night! SarahKate had a ‘lomo’ cut or tenderloin this night, while I went back to the standard, bife de chorizo. Mine was cooked well and tasted good, though a bit on the small side. SarahKate’s lomo was brilliant though! She won again! Unfortunately, we have no visual evidence for this one.
Steaks at El Mundo, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina – This was a lovely night of tango lessons, serious steak, and a tango show! The tango went down very well, especially the female instructor. We were both sweating by the time it was over. Then, on to steaks and red wine AGAIN! This steak was very good. This was a lomo cut with a pepper sauce, and I swear they put some chili oil in it. Either way, check out this steak for it was the only one that got close to Don Mario’s amazingness!
Asado at Hostel Viuda, Punta del Diablo, Uruguay – So, we take a ferry to Uruguay; take a bus to Montevideo, then another bus (5 hours) to a small beach town call Punta del Diablo. It was warm, sunny, and ‘Oh my God’ at the asado! I call this picture, ‘Duo of Parrillas’! Two individual parrillas cooking a combination of chorizo, morcilla (black pudding), asado, vacio (flank steak), pork rolls, chicken, and sweet potatoes. Enough food was prepared to feed 25 people! I hurt after this meal, and it was all tasty.
Asado at Mercado Viejo, Montevideo, Uruguay – Meanwhile, back in Montevideo for our last days in Uruguay, we checked out the Old Town market. Just when I thought I had seen it all, this place stepped up the cooking and the parrillas. They used one parrilla for the general slow cooking of food, an they had a second one for ‘cooking to order’ for when a steak or specific item was required. We had a delicious lunch with a tasty chimichurri sauce (see POTD: Chimichurri). Also, we met the asador, who turned out to be slightly famous. He had worked in the States before, but even better, he had been on an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain (well, he was in the background). True to his word, we found the place we had eaten on YouTube. Check this out!
Churrasco at Carretao, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – The final leg of our adventure was a week in Rio. Thinking we might have a break from asado and parrillas, we were welcomed into Rio by the churrasco, Rio’s version of the parrilla. If you’ve ever been to Fogo de Chao, you’ll understand. Basically, skewers of all kinds of meat are roasted on a spit over a fire. They then pull the skewers off, trot around to the tables, and carve meat onto YOUR PLATE! It was Meat Fest all over again. We had sirloin, asado, cupim (the hump on a Brahma bull), chicken hearts, pork, chicken, sausage, etc………. We went to Carretao twice in a week, thoroughly enjoying it. Not many photos here, but it was definitely tasty. If you look in the background on the left, you can see a waiter with a skewer serving a table. Have a look at what I was able to find.