And when you’re in Argentina, you need to go for steak. My apologies to our vegetarian readers – you can stop reading here.
Argentina is one of the world’s largest beef producers, and Argentinians eat more beef per capita than anywhere else in the world. So we knew that we had to go to a parilla, i.e. a steakhouse, for a feed of the red stuff. When in Rome…
Actually, when in Rome, you should go for the pasta.
Ok. Getting back to things.
This one might be a bit short. Cabaña Las Lilas is the restaurant of the famous Las Lilas brand – they have been raising cattle of over 50 years, and just opened a steakhouse to capitalize on their brand and bring their delicious beef directly to the mouths of consumers.
Yes, this restaurant serves delicious steak. Yes, it is probably going to be some of the best steak you’ve had. Maybe the best, maybe not. It’s good, and at $89 pesos, it’s not crazy expensive.
But – this isn’t the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten in. Its prices keep all but the most well-heeled Argentinians out, and instead it is a restaurant that it seems to mainly cater to business travelers who have an expense account and find that paying American dollars for this kind of steak a great deal. And perhaps, on that level it is.
The sides didn’t blow me away, the salad didn’t blow me away. The service was actually somewhat impersonal, and décor was solidly “Yaletown meets The Keg” more than it was ‘welcome to the estancia’. The steak was great – really great – but the rest of it was a bit lacking, and I would have preferred a meal in a restaurant that was Argentinian head-to-toe rather than in a restaurant that seemed to be catering to the expectations of expense-accounting-business-travelers.
I guess the question is – would you go for a middle-class dining experience just to have great (but not the best ever) steak? And I guess my answer would be, “no”. I’d rather eat in a dirty, tiny, smoky restaurant that had been open for 50 years, where the waiters didn’t give a damn what I thought – because they had been working there for 40 years, not just because they just didn’t give a damn what I thought. I’d rather have the best-ever steak and the worst-ever experience rather than have great steak and generally middling experience.
So I think I’ll hold off from recommending Cabaña Las Lilas as a dining experience. If you’re taking clients out for dinner, sure, it will be a good experience. But that’s not what I like, and that’s not what I just flew 18 hours for. We’re going to try at least one other parilla (La Brigada), and I’ve got my fingers crossed.
And for the details, D had the ribeye, and I had the strip (both recommended by our waiter). The ribeye was blue-rare (ordered rare), and the strip was medium-rare (ordered rare). The ribeye was the better of the two, with absolutely amazing thick char-crust on it that had an insane amount of flavour. They bring you a plate of antipasto when you start your meal without asking which they charge you 21 pesos per person for (we didn’t mind, we love antipasto, and it was pretty good). And the fries are OK but not anything to write home about – probably they get most of their tastiness from what I suspect is the tallow they’re cooked in. The salad was the house special salad – a vinaigrette dressing on mixed veggies, just about so-so. We skipped dessert and went to the Faena Hotel for coffee and petit-fours, which was a whole other experience altogether.
Recommended for entertaining clients, not for bon vivants.
Cabaña Las Lilas
Alicia Moreau de Justo 516 – Ciudad de Buenos Aires