Buenos Aires holds many secrets, many of them are restaurants. Following the economic crash in Argentina around the millenium, many high street rental spaces proved to be far too expensive. In a genius move regular people began opening restaurants in their own home. We were about to experience one of the most talked about – Steaks by Luis.
A banker by day and a chef by night, Luis opens his swish penthouse to a select group of diners who book their experience online. It’s very much a case of if your name’s not down, you’re not coming in.
A meal here is a five course journey through home-style Argentine dining. A cost of $2823.79 ARS (£59) covers the menu with a deposit of $1412.04 ARS (£29.52) to secure your reservation, the difference is just paid after the meal.
We walked to the restaurant from our hotel in nearby Palermo. I could reveal the destination but that would take away the mystery surrounding this place, it is only given when a reservation is confirmed.
We knocked on a random door in a random street to be met by a smiling host, we didn’t realise the operation would be this slick. Luis had not only got his own staff but a dining room that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a magazine shoot.
This penthouse was something extraordinary. A huge communal table was set with the open kitchen and Parrilla grill out on the balcony, serious thought and effort had gone into this design.
Sitting in a room of random strangers was a little awkward to begin with. Various nationalities were in attendance including Japanese, Kiwi’s, Brazilians and Americans. Luckily the language of food and in particular, alcohol, got us socialising a little better.
The first course is a session standing around a barrel heaving with cold cuts and cheeses known as a ‘Picada’. While chatting and enjoying the nibbles we could gaze out over the full view of Buenos Aires. This was like being on a film set at times.
Our second course, now sat at the table, was a salad. A plain salad in appearance but with a sweet, sharp dressing. It was a clever way to disguise a palate cleanser. Incidentally, we were given a different wine with each course all included in the price.
As the plates were cleared, Luis was getting busy on the grill outside. The relaxed vibe of the place meant that if your Spanish was up to it, you could even walk outside and chat to Luis about all things barbecue. Some did take the opportunity.
We all sat down for the next stage of the meal. The ‘Asado’. This is a mixed grill of various animal parts. Pork shoulder, grilled provolone cheese, morcilla, sweetbreads and a ‘surprise’ dish. All served with a wedge of lemon.
I was really enjoying the ‘surprise’ and eagerly awaited the big reveal. Each and every item was delicious with the pork and provoleta cheese proving popular around the table. Every 4 people got a board between them to fight over, it created the family atmosphere perfectly.
So what was the ‘surprise’ then? Well, these were chicken intestines. Coated and deep fried served with a wedge of lemon, what’s not to like? Well, quite a lot actually judging by the reactions of some. I thought they tasted pretty good.
We returned to normality with the arrival of the main event. A steak so big that it physically frightened me (especially after all that food). Anyone who asked for their steak anything other than medium rare was jovially going to be tossed over the balcony, funny sense of humour these waiters have.
Fortunately, I was spared from a heavy fall into the street. This beast arrived on my plate flanked by chips and a drizzle of sauce, the sides looked tiny by comparison. The steak was grilled to perfection, even if it did place me in a temporary meat coma.
The alarm bells in my stomach began to ring louder as dessert came along. A Dulce de Leche Cheesecake, dear god. The presentation was beautiful with the artistic drizzle of caramel sauce over this rich cheesecake but it was a real life Man vs Food effort to get it down.
I managed a fair amount of it but that was me done. Finito. What a wonderful evening it had been. We spoke to the staff regularly throughout the evening and the lead host told us that he used to work in a five star hotel restaurant but gave it up to do this because it made him a lot happier. A great story.
We shook hands with Luis before heading off into the night. It seemed like a surreal evening to say the least. Meeting some lovely people from New Zealand and Canada was a real highlight as well as enjoying some of the best Argentine food that we probably will ever eat. This is an experience not to be missed.
Opening Times: Monday – Thursday and Saturday 2000-2230
Nearest Metro: Secret (shh!)