When the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants was released last September, there were a few skeptics wondering whether or not a restaurant like Buenos Aires’ La Cabrera–known more for large slabs of meat than dainty plating or the utmost in modern technology–should have a place on the list next to restaurants like D.O.M., Central, and Boragó. However, once you go inside La Cabrera, meet the waiters clad in leather aprons, and get a taste of the classic side of Argentine fine dining that they’re serving up day in and day out, you begin to understand just why their presence on the list makes perfect sense. Below, Como Sur contributor Anna Virkama de Cabrejos tells her tale of dining at what has become a staple in the ever-developing culinary scene in Buenos Aires. If you, too, decide to go, go hungry. The portions are massive, the extras are incredible, and the experience is unlike any other.
By Anna Virkama de CabrejosWhen asking around for a good place to try a classic Argentinian parrilla in Buenos Aires, La Cabrera was often mentioned by the locals. ”It is a little bit expensive, but worth it,” I was told. At that time I didn’t even know that La Cabrera actually is ranked among the 50 best restaurants in Latin America, currently holding number 17 spot.
When I arrived at La Cabrera it was still early in the evening. I saw that there was already a line outside. By looking at the people who were waiting, I first thought I was perhaps mislead by my local sources. Isn’t this just another touristic parrila restaurant among many others? I did not see many locals waiting there in front of the restaurant, which is located in the corner of Thames and Cabrera streets in the trendy Palermo Soho neighborhood. What I saw were only obvious tourists: many North Americans, a couple of French and a few Brazilians. But, as it soon turned out, there were two reasons for this ”tourist invasion”. First of all, Argentines do not dine at seven o’clock in the evening! That is still many, many hours too early.
The second reason was that from seven to eight, La Cabrera has a happy hour when all the plates are at a 40 percent discount during the week days – on the condition that you leave your table for the next diners before eight. Considering this time limitation, the happy hour may not be convenient for those who want to enjoy a full menu with starter, main course and dessert, but as the service was rather efficient, one hour was sufficient to enjoy a dinner with plenty of meat and side dishes.
Considering that people were getting unpatient to get in, the staff was friendly and handled the situation well. As I was pregnant, I was given the priority to go in first and choose the table, which was very considerate. Our waiter, Luis, who as it turned out was Peruvian, was helpful and carefully explained the different types of beef cuts.
Inside of the restaurant, there are different rooms which create more intimate spaces. The decoration is interesting with various objects hanging from the roof: trains, toy cars and hats, but the general imperssion is still stylish, not kitsch. I also liked the big image of a cow, pointing out different beef cuts: certainly helpful for foreigners to whom names like ”churrasco” or ”bife angosto” do not mean anything.
According to Luis, La Cabrera’s clients’ favorite meat is bife de chorizo, aged for 12 days at 2?C and over 85% humidity. However, what I tried was their Kobe beef, which was as juicy and tender as expected. The meat was served with small side dishes and when they were served I was hesitating to order also some french fries and/or a salad as they looked very small. Would that be enough? The small side dishes turned out to be very filling and savory. There were small olives, apple and pumpkin purées, caramelized garlic, potato salad–it all added up and made a complete meal (although the french fries eaten at the next table did look very appetizing). In addition, the meat itself was surved with traditional salsas such as chimichurri. On the wine list, as one can expect, is a good selection of Argentinian wines.
I did not try their dessert, although I heard that their dulce de leche ice cream is particularly delicious, but the house offered some lollipops to end the meal with a sweet note.