After our experience at Cabana las Lilas, we wanted to figure out this whole Argentinian beef thing and knew that we had to visit a parrilla again to compare/contrast and see if we could find the ‘best steak of your life’ as some of the travel guides seemed to promise.
Located on San Martin, aka “the main drag” in Ushuaia, La Estancia seemed to be one of the two main parrillas. The other is La Rueda, and basically it was a 50/50 between which one we could go to. Both had the open fires and splayed meat visible in the window – but the grillmaster at La Estancia looked more the part – like he hadn’t left the fire in years.
In we went, and were greeted by a very pleasant waiter. He informed us that we could either do the ‘all you can eat’ (or ‘eat as much as you like’ for our British friends) for 60 pesos or order off the menu. We chose the former – basically you can just go up to the window of the grill room, ask the gentleman inside for whatever kind or cut of meat and that’s it. There was also a salad bar and a hot food bar with pastas, potatoes, and paella (ignore them). The meats they serve are beef, lamb, chicken, chorizo, and morcilla (blood sausage), and you can ask for meat as you like it, but not necessarily the cut – i.e. if you want the tenderloin, you’re ordering it off the menu, and paying for it.
The chorizo was very good, as was the chicken, lamb, and beef. I didn’t try the morcilla. “Come on!” you’re thinking – give us a better description than “very good” – but really, I can’t. The chicken tasted like roast chicken – a bit more smokey than the kind you get at the supermarket. The lamb was good – but a bit tough – and not as good as at Villa las Cotorras. The beef was fine – not the same quality as Cabana las Lilas, but less expensive – so what would I expect?
But then something happened.
I was going up to the salad bar, and I heard the two words that every bon vivant loves to hear – “My friend…” I spun around and saw the grillmaster, with one raised eyebrow and his huge carving knife in one hand, a plate in the other. I raised my eyebrow in anticipation.
“Tenderloin…” he said, almost a whisper.
I rushed over, got the two medallions of beef from him, thanked him profusely, and went back to the table where D protested my special treatment and accusations of an inappropriately-located horseshoe were made.
Now this beef was spectacular. Bottom line. Perfectly cooked, juicy, and with more flavour than any beef tenderloin that I’ve had. Incredibly tender – it was like concentrated steak flavour in the juiciest, softest piece of beef that I have ever had. The balance of char and beef flavour was perfect. It wasn’t the thick, tower of tenderloin that they serve you at North American steakhouses – rather, these were two, rather thin medallions of beef that had been cooked on a grill, rather than standing up over the fire.
This – finally – was the piece of beef that I had come to Argentina for.
What more is there to say? Anything else would just be excess verbiage. I’ll only qualify it by saying that I can’t believe that this place could serve steak this good all the time, and it’s not like I’d fly to Ushuaia just for the tenderloin at La Estancia. But if you’re in town – and you’re on the main drag, and you’re hungry – then don’t hesitate to give La Estancia a try – and I’d order off the menu – try the tenderloin – and leave the ‘all you can eat’ for the next time you’re in Vegas.
I think I got lucky, the stars were aligned, I was ready for it, and the tenderloin was great. I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same experience. That being said, the restaurant was clean, the service pleasant and efficient, and it wasn’t too expensive. In retrospect, I would have liked to try La Rueda – it looked like it had more character, and was busier – but for the favor that the grillman at La Estancia did for me – I owe him one. Give the place a try – and most importantly – don’t forget to tip the grillmaster at the end of the meal.
Parrilla La Estancia
San Martin y Rivadavia
(could not find phone # or website – sorry!)