Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Sonja Bricker.
Malevo gets the ambiance right. The small dining room, located within a cozy house in Manila, is crowded with Argentine books, a collection of guampas and bombillas (what you drink mate out of, Argentina’s traditional beverage), antique knives, historical art and, inexplicably, a Victrola phonograph from 1907.
Joel Arguello, Malevo’s Argentine owner and head chef, came to Medellín six years ago. He wanted to create a restaurant that presents a faithful rendition of Argentina’s cuisine. There is absolutely no fusion with Colombian food here. Instead, all recipes are directly sourced from Argentina. There is a mixture of grilled steaks, sausages, pastas and comfort food.
In order to present Argentine meat dishes in their full glory they need to be grilled a la parrilla, over a wood-fire barbecue. Malevo uses a charcoal grill, which is close. Second, the beef should be grass-fed.
Malevo almost exclusively uses Colombian grass-fed beef. However, the cuts of beef are Argentine: vacío, ojo and cuadril, to name a few.
Menu at Malevo – Meats
Sinking your teeth into any of Malevo’s juicy, tender, beautifully marbled steaks, seasoned simply with salt, black pepper, oregano and red pepper, is unforgettable.
Except for the tira de asado, and the grilled platter for two (though three is most accurate), all the steaks weigh 300 grams and range in price from 32 – 36,000 pesos ($10.66 – 12). The most expensive cut, entraña, is 66,000 pesos ($22).
Argentine-style beef is lean and fine-grained and consequently can have a beefier flavor. This is due to the cattle feeding twice as long as grain-fed cattle before reaching full weight.
American steaks are often juicier and more tender, with the mouth-filling flavor that only fat can deliver. Malevo has two cuts that are imported from the states, tira de asado and entraña.
The minor meats are well represented. Malevo serves a first-rate morcilla, or blood sausage, uncompromisingly rich, with a black, fluffy interior. Sweet peppers and olives make the ideal complement.
Marinated tongue is served with egg, capers and delicious little crackers. The grilled sausage is divine, intensely flavorful and juicy.
Menu at Malevo – Other Items
Empanadas, or savory pastry pies, offer an excellent starting point for dinner. Some are actually meatless, like the empanada stuffed with tomatoes, cheese and basil for 6,000 pesos ($2). Another option is one bursting with vegetables, a rare sight on the menu.
I wish the ground beef empanada for 7,000 pesos ($2.33) was available on every Medellín street corner. It’s a can’t-miss combination of well-seasoned meat, tiny flecks of hard-boiled egg and flaky pastry.
If you aren’t in the mood for steak Malevo offers the distinctly Argentine pasta sorrentino. Unlike ravioli, which strive for a balance between dough and filling, sorrentinos are plump and overstuffed. They are also large and round.
Malevo’s are house made and come filled with spinach/ricotta, tomatoes/mozzarella or salmon/ricotta. All priced at 27,000 pesos ($9).
Malevo also offers a three-course menu (with four different options per course) at lunch or dinner for 56,000 pesos ($18.66). This can be paired with wine (one glass per course) for 78,000 ($26), making it an excellent value and sampling of the diverse menu options.
Menu at Malevo – Drinks and Desserts
The three page wine list is devoted to Argentine wine. Most are modestly priced at 45,000 to 70,000 ($15 – 23). Although there are a few Malbecs in the 130,000 and 190,000 peso range ($43 – 63). Finally there is one house red available for 12,000 ($4) but it is not particularly memorable.
Also there are plenty of cocktails to keep everyone happy, both classic and Argentine, plus sangria, a selection of beers, rum, and inventive fresh lemonades.
In addition there is one dark beer on the menu, made locally especially for Malevo. It was odd and not popular with our group but perhaps worth trying for the novelty factor.
Go ahead and quiz the waiters about the wine list, or about anything else for that matter. All but one is from Argentina and their level of expertise and professionalism is high.
It takes the power of a strong black coffee to deal with the restaurant’s most potent dessert. Alfajores, a combination of sugar and butter cookies layered with dulce de leche and then dipped in chocolate, somehow managed to be extremely dry.
Proceed directly to the exquisite flan with its flourishes of dulce de leche and caramelized nuts. It couldn’t be any better. I also found the dense bittersweet chocolate ‘tentación de chocolate’ with passionfruit sorbet to be heavenly.
How to Get There
Malevo is located in the Manila barrio of El Poblado. It’s also located within walking distance from Parque Poblado and Parque Lleres. The restaurant address and a map are found below.
To further seal the Argentine experience come on Saturday nights for live music provided by Federico Aranda.
Sonja is from Whidbey Island, WA. She has traveled to 46 countries but never wanted to settle down in any of them until she discovered Medellin. She is currently living here in Medellín for six months until she figures out how to be a permanent resident.