La Estancia Argentina: A San José meat retreat
From the print edition
The people of Argentina seem to have thought up 1,001 ways to make animals taste delicious, and the idea has spread. The latest Argentine restaurant to open in Costa Rica did so just a month ago in Barrio Amón, in downtown San José. La Estancia Argentina now serves up all the meat one can imagine, including its own smorgasbord of the finest beef and pork concoctions thought up in the South American country. The menu lets one choose steaks like flank and flap or stranger delicacies like mollejas (calf thymus and pancreas) and chitterlings (pig intestines).
La Estancia Argentina fills a moderately-sized space on a street perpendicular to the enormous National Insurance Institute building. Replete with romantic arches and inlaid brick, the restaurant is also defined by a large window that leads out into the street, inviting a comfortable draft.
The menu’s selection will appease the most serious of carnivores. The restaurant does have lighter choices, a few salads, a couple fish dishes and poultry selections such as chicken milanese. La Estancia Argentina also offers beef milanese, a tender Argentine tradition. However, we decided to go right for the signature dish – the Argentina barbecue.
Hunks of meat are laid out on a barbecue known as a parilla (the more expensive, juicier cuts are imported from Argentina). While we waited for the chef to cook up the meat, we placed an order for carpaccio, an appetizer that takes little time to prepare. The thinly sliced (although we would’ve preferred it even thinner) raw beef topped with capers, served as a pleasant warm-up for the barbecue.
All meals also come with bread and a trio of sauces: Spicy chimichurri, a pesto and pico de gallo. Drinks to wash down the lunch or dinner include a thirst-quenching lemonade, Argentina’s favorite caffeinated beverage, mate (in teabag form) and Malbec wines.
When the main course arrived, the barbecue’s presentation looked overwhelming. It’s difficult to make so many cuts of meat placed together look glamorous, but their appearance does make one’s mouth water. Four slabs of ribs cover a third of the plate. The rest of the space was taken by chunks of sweet bread, strips of flank steak, chorizo and blood sausage. Spices and boiled potatoes accompany the platter.
Take a deep breath and go for broke. The barbecue comes either as a meal for two people or four people, and it’s more than enough food to satisfy one’s hunger. Ordering such a tempting smattering of meats can ruin the idea of “saving room for dessert.” But here the desserts are recommended.
Several traditional treats are on the menu. We chose a Don Pedro. Our waiter carried over a heap of sparkling vanilla ice cream drizzled with walnuts – and because every Argentine dish seems to want to toughen you up – the ice cream also is drenched in whiskey. The dessert refreshes, an invigorating complement to finish off a superb sampling of Argentina’s renowned carne.
Note: Prices on the menu do not include the 10 percent service tax.
*Prices for meat cooked on the parillada depends on the cut and whether it’s imported.
Argentine barbecue for two people:
For 4 people:
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