This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but upon arriving back in Argentina, we felt the pinch on our wallets… unfortunately, that feeling only lasted for a grand total of one night.
On our second night in Bariloche, we found ourselves heading to one of the more expensive restaurants in the resort town for our dinner.
For Some Reason, after a day in Bariloche, we felt it would be more than a little unfair to ourselves if we spent the rest of our time in Argentina munching on cheap (but good) panchos and oversized (and also good) hamburgers.
Anyway, the restaurant we were headed to – El Boliche de Alberto, was supposed to serve the best steaks in Argentina. And since Argentina is supposed to serve some of the best steaks in the world, theoretically, that would mean that we could have the best steak in the world at this restaurant.
See! Mountain Air Logic.
I’ve never been a big fan of steak, seeing that I… don’t normally eat them. But even I could smell that there was something special cooking in Alberto’s from two blocks down.
We arrived at the restaurant 10 minutes after they were opened. It’s not that we WANTED to be early, but even after all this time, we were not really used to the South American dinner time yet. Anyway, this meant that there wasn’t much of a queue and we were whisked straight to our table.
For (allegedly) the best steak restaurant in South America, the decor in de Alberto is surprisingly low key and down to earth. It conjures up a “family-restaurant-I-have-been-visiting-since-I-was-a-kid” kinda atmosphere and not the “you-are-going-to-give-us-all-your-money-while-we-serve-you-tooth-pick-sized-servings-and-we-will-be-looking-down-our-noses-while-we-are-at-it” snotty vibe.
One of the things that I love about El Boliche de Alberto is its open concept kitchen. Monster sized slabs of meat are barbecued in the Godzilla of ovens behind the counter, and the (rather good looking) chefs slather on the seasoning and slice up the beef in front of our eyes. Great stuff.
So what about the food?
Well… I don’t normally eat beef back in Singapore, so I am not really an expert on the matter (I suddenly came to the realization that for me, steak falls under the same category of “things I don’t normally eat” along with dishes like rotten horse meat and rabbit heads).
I just know that somehow we ended up with a steaming plate of blood and meat in front of us. To be honest, this was the point when I started to panic a little. The smell of the bife de lomo we ordered was AMAZING, but it’s not every day that the meat I am cutting into would ooze/squirt blood in my general direction.
It was all very Dexter-esque for me, but apparently this type of meat is quite common for the rest of the dinner crowd.
We’ve since learnt that beside being totally incapable to take an order for steaks that are cooked beyond “medium”, the scale the Argentinians use to measure how cooked a steak is is one rank off the one that we are normally used to. So if you’ve ordered a “medium rare” steak, expect it to be “rare” by normal standards, and if you ordered your steak “rare”, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just left a live (still moo-ing) cow on your table.
Well… it took some time, but I finally cut a sliver of the bife de lomo and took a tentative bite into it.
The meat was ridiculously tender and every bite of the bife released a literal burst of herbs and blood. The fatty portions of the meat melted in parts of my mouth I never even realized I had.
I think I might have peed myself a little.
All along, I’ve always pooh-pooh-ed at some people when they describe how certain wines have certain characters and how some wines must be paired with particular foods. I’ve always found this to be more than slightly pretentious.
I am a pretentious douche bag.
Impossible as it may seem, the overwhelming experience of eating our dinner was brought to the next level when we accompanied it with a sip of the $12 bottle of Malbec that we bought.
It was the first time that I think I can understand what people mean when they say that the wine adds a new “dimension” to the food they are eating. Or in my own words, damn friggin delicious, can?
So far, much of our trip had been pretty much unplanned. We would wake up and go wherever we felt like. But right there in that restaurant, I started drawing up a schedule for a meal at de Alberto EVERY DAY we are in Bariloche.