Steaks By Luis: A Closed Door Parrilla
By Kevin Vaughn. (You should know who he is by now.)
It’s not every Tuesday night that I end up at Soria sharing Honey Sours at 2am with two complete strangers. But that’s the wonderful part of the Buenos Aires closed door dinner scene. For one night you share an intimate meal with people you’ve never met – whether they be passing travelers, porteños by birth or long term expats – you share the same table, get tipsy on wine and engage in a silent fight over the last chorizo, and for a moment you feel like part of a strange little family.
The evening began at Steaks by Luis, a closed door restaurant that features a decadent five course asado. The space is not new to the scene even though this particular dining experience is. Home of Anuva Wines, it’s a swank loft space on an unassuming corner of Palermo Soho that has hosted dinners by Chef Mun, El Tejano and others.
A banker by trade, Luis told me that he arrived in a suit and tie before changing into his full chef garb. For the last twenty years he has been the asador, a time tested tradition passed to him by his grandfather Rodofo, who worked as a professional grill master in a bustling downtown parrilla. It began innocently enough looking over his grandfather’s shoulder and mimicking all his moves but by 15 he had already taken over the role of asado patriarch. And for the next two decades he perfected his skills (to the great fortune of his family and friends) before opening up the dinner club a little over a year ago. The idea is to turn the project into a more frequent event in hopes of leaving his day job and dedicating himself full time to the grill. And with steaks like this, it’s not entirely unlikely.
Upon arrival hosts Maggie and Tyler ushered me up the long staircase and directly to a table filled with the picada. Those that arrived first were treated to first dibs on salame, prosciutto and a variety of cheeses.
Once the full party, an intimate group of 6 international diners arrived, Louis ushered us over to the open kitchen where all the meat we would be eating was on display. Luis carefully explained every cut of meat, why they were chosen, there role in a traditional asado and how each one was prepared while Maggie patiently translated for the non-hispanohablantes. He smartly left the mollejas and chinchulines (sweet bread and small intestine) out of view because according to him, it was better that our first impressions of them be built on “taste and not sight”.
The four courses were fantastic. Luis has a wonderful sense of when to liven up typical dishes with new ideas and when to let tradition speak for itself. And the sommelier had a knack for choosing wines with distinct flavors that stood out without detracting from the plate it accompanied.
Luis shared that anchuras are his favorite part of the asado. On large shared platters was chorizo, morcilla, pork flank steaks, short ribs, sweet bread, intestine and provoleta. I couldn’t choose a favorite. The chorizo was perfectly cooked, with a slight spice and an even slighter outer crunch. The morcilla was wonderfully gooey. This was my first time trying sweet bread, which were soft and delicate, and provided a nice contrast to the earthy intestines. The flank steaks and ribs were the perfect taste of the steaks that would come next.
And what came next was one of the best steaks I have ever eaten. Luis recommended medium-rare, and proved wrong the stereotype that Argentines overcook their meat; he doesn’t do well-done, not only because of an issue of timing but because it is, well, pointless to overcook some of the world’s best cuts of beef. The steak was exquisite, the perfect balance of textures and flavors. I struggled to eat slower because I didn’t want it to be over. But alas, my romance with the rib eye came to an end quicker than I’m particularly proud of.
But then came a dulce de leche cheesecake and all was forgotten in that crisp pie crust and thick elegant filling. But only for a minute. Because I’m still dreaming about that steak.
Steaks by Luis – Reservation Only.