The following is a guest post by Sam Lewis, our newest contributor.
I recently got to go to a restaurant I had been eyeing up for some time, this primarily because of the promise of a large cut of Argentinian steak.
It certainly wasn’t the decor that lured me to La Pampa Parrilla Argentina which, while not terrible, for some bizarre reason had an oppressively large shiny red English telephone box wedged in the corner.
Given your average Argentinian’s mild to moderate hatred for the English on account of the Falklands War, it seemed a weird choice to have looming in the corner of the restaurant. Whether or not it was hardwired back to the fatherland, I could not comment.
The restaurant is located in the bottom corner of Primer Parque de Laureles, and is the sister restaurant to the larger and grander La Pampa Las Palmas. As to whether the rear housed a fabled Argentinian charcoal-fed, pulley-raised and Gaucho-tended asado, I could not say.
It took me a while to realize the place was lit by lanterns that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in turn of the century Paris and was soundtracked (as any Argentinian–themed restaurant worth its salt is) by the Gotan Project – essentially accordions arranged at different tempos.
You most certainly wouldn’t be forgiven for thinking you were sitting in Buenos Aires watching Tango and drinking Quilmes.
We were seated by the maître d’ and tended by a waiter of middle years whose jovial manner loitered between the ultra-informal vos and the formal usted. The service was fairly snappy, however it was Monday and there was one other table in there.
The menu was relatively large and covered Colombian, Italian and Argentinian, but for a restaurant based on the ancient Argentinian creed of steak and more steak, the menu was suspiciously free of it in its pure form.
I went for ribs in a spicy Jack Daniels sauce at 32,900 pesos ($12) and my dining partner the Baby Beef at 29,900 ($11).
Throwing every steak-related protocol out the window, my trusty companion and I opted for a large jug of sangria for 46,000 pesos ($17) as it was a particularly balmy evening.
The jug was huge, and we would later find ourselves chugging it down like giggling freshers and stumbling into a taxi. Disgraceful behavior for a school night, but the blame clearly lies with the restaurant.
Given the imminent promise of red meat, and that I had no desire for the meat sweats, we ordered just one starter to share: skewers of grilled “Pampero” cheese for 11,900 ($4.50). They came with a spicy honey dipping sauce and were lovely.
The presentation, as with the subsequent mains, was spartan, and there appeared to be no indication as to the type or provenance of the cheese. We surmised it was some second cousin twice removed of halloumi, although less salty and squeaky, and considerably less Cypriot.
The waiter must have decided I had grown fond of the starter plate, as he glanced over several times before plucking it from the table mere nanoseconds before the main courses arrived in front of us.
As with the starters the presentation was plain, but the size of the portions made the large square plates seem less vacuous than the entrée. The ribs were perfectly adequate, and the sauce was moderately hot by European and North American standards (forged in the fires of hell itself by Colombian standards).
The meat came away from the bone easily and you will find no complaint from me as to the portion size, however some form of vegetation on the plate – even if just for color – would not have gone amiss.
My partner’s Baby Beef – an endlessly unraveling fold of what we supposed was fillet – was so tender it felt like liver in the mouth, and had a lovely strong bovine flavor to it making me think it wasn’t fillet after all. Or from a baby.
I was hoping to see the odd bife de chorizo or bife de lomo cuts, so was slightly let down to find just one pure cut of steak on the menu, plus a handful of smaller, notional steak dishes that usually came between two pieces of bread or lathered with heathen chimichurri sauce.
Two burgers were teasingly swept past us as we were paying the bill and they, admittedly, looked rather good. This being said the service was as good as any restaurant I’ve been to in Medellín (staff smartphones were thankfully obscured from view for the whole meal), and the food we did order was very decent (and mercifully arepa-free), while not really showing anything too innovative or pant-wettingly exciting.
The setting was pleasant, the location good and the prices what one would expect from a mid to high-end steak joint, with the final bill coming to just shy of 130,000 ($48) including service.
Have you been to La Pampa Parrilla Argentina? Share your experience in the comments below.