Don Julio – Buenos Aires : An honest opinion

Coming to Buenos Aires for the 5th time was a measured decision. This is a city that I love for the architecture, large promenades, vibrant energy along with phenomenal food and cocktails.

Don Julio is a parrilla, or grill restaurant. These restaurants are all over Argentina, so how does one place standout among the masses and draw people to their building? Also how does one get to be #13 in the world? In fact, Parrillas are literally everywhere in Buenos Aires … so how does it get to be the best in the city and then #13 in the world. Here’s a snippet from the the Top50 site.

The restaurant is housed in an old two-storey building on a corner in Palermo, a 15-square kilometre district in northern Buenos Aires. While it opens for dinner, I was dining along so I had to wait till 11pm to have my meal. No issues with that, since a Top50 bar in the world : Tres Monos was a 4 min walk down the street. I’ll have something more detailed on them later. There were a lot of well dressed people on anniversaries and dates there … while I was in a pair of shorts and t-shirt 🙂 It was a bit of a party atmosphere. A stand at the front door dispensed an Argentine sparkling wine, and waiters moved around bearing platters of empanadas.

So after having a couple drinks and entertaining conversation at Tres Monos, I came back and promptly seated outside with a glass of the sparkling wine.I could see the chefs toiling away at grill … I can’t even imagine the heat and all the grease on the floor.

After the usual pleasantries and introduction to menu, I wasn’t about to go full hulk mode here. I know these people will just bring tons of grilled dead animals that will melt in your mouth. I chose to be pretty sensible. This is after a few cocktails at Tres Monos. I respected myself the following morning. I ordered a butterfly sirloin with fries. As usual, the meal came with fresh bread, chimchurri, tomatoes and salt for your meat.

The fries came out shortly after and they were perfect. They were super crispy on the outside and mashed potatoes on the inside. I need to know how to perfect this magic. I would have been happy just with the fries and bread alone for the meal. However that butterfly sirloin was lurking.

This was a massive piece of meat. I did order it medium rare but what came out from the grill was a cold medium. I was not happy with this meat. It was not perfect for me and the waiters were experienced enough to see it. They inquired and kept inquiring especially when I finished and I left half the meat untouched.

Before we move on … here’s a little primer on cuts here in Argentina

  • Entraña: Also known as skirt steak, entraña is a thin but extremely flavorful cut of meat. It comes from the diaphragm area on the ribs, making it rich and juicy with a chewy bite. At Puerto La Boca, our signature entraña is by far our most popular steak, and available as a single entrée or a shareable plate.
  • Asado de tira: The Argentinian version of short ribs are cut extra short, but they still burst with flavor and feature a delectable crispy exterior. Asado de tira is grilled and served bone-in for maximum juiciness.
  • Churrasco: Sirloin center cut steak, the churrasco, is sliced and served hot on a sizzling platter. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds, especially when enjoyed with a heap of chimichurri.
  • Bife de Lomo : Commonly known as the tenderloin or Filet Mignon, the bife de lomo is one of the most popular lean cuts of meat.  The bife de lomo has a more mild beefy flavor compared to other types of steak, but is still extremely tender and juicy.
  • Bife Ancho: Otherwise known as prime rib or rib eye roast, bife ancho is cut from the rib-eye roll and comes either boneless or bone-in. The bone-in option provides even more flavor in the already flavor-packed steak. While most of the steak cuts come in 12-ounce size, you can find larger.
  • Picaña: The picaña steak, also known as a culotte, is boneless and cut from the cap of the top sirloin. Hailing from Northern Argentina, it’s lean yet amazingly flavorful, with a texture similar to sirloin. At most places, the whole culotte is sliced and served sizzling on a platter, for an individual entrée or a larger portion to share.

In the end, the waiters didn’t give me choice and took the whole thing away and brought me back this : an entire Entrana along with an Arugula and Avocado salad.

That salad was the best Argula salad I have ever had in my life. Three ingredients, fresh argula, 1/2 an avocado and dressing. I can’t even begin to explain how good this was. The Entrana was also as exceptional. It was soft, juicy, flavorful … It definitely was the best steak I’ve had here in Argentina. Here’s some honest talk about the food.

However, it didn’t stop there. They offered me a 20% discount on the bill for a “poor” steak and some dessert : Pear Sorbetto. They also remembered my no lactose policy.

In the end, the initial execution wasn’t great but the fixing of the mistake was phenomenal. The food quality is exceptional. For meal of this quality in Canada would cost about 175$ with tip and tax, while here in Argentina… the land of runaway inflation and spectacular meals.

The bill was a hefty 6000 pesos AKA 30$ USD

If meals like this can’t convince someone to come visit Argentina, then nothing can. Remember, this is one of the most expensive places in Argentina and #13 in the world. There is no food experience like this in Canada.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at [email protected]

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