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Hacienda de Argentina -- Poor

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Hacienda de Argentina -- Poor

cabrales | Dec 15, 2003 08:47 AM

I had a disappointing meal at Hacienda de Argentina recently. Note this restaurant is not particularly inexpensive either, for what it delivers (or not).

Perhaps I visited at an inopportune time, as the restaurant is not able to import beef from Argentina due to governmental regulations (query how long this has been the case). The restaurant is utilizing Australian grass-fed beef to mimic Argentinian beef. It is quite explicit about this fact on the menu (appropriately). The other choice is USDA, which is fattier. Both are presented with chimichuri (more on that latter).

We began with champagne cocktails at the bar -- a cocktail the bar team member indicated was the restaurant's version of a Mojito. It tasted alright, and was appropriately made with champagne instead of sparkling wine (Vranken). However, the cocktails, even though they were champagne, set our party of two back by over $30 and had (horrors!) the "cocktail-type" red cherries abundantly included at the bottom. Now, certain fresh cherries are my preferred fruit and I can even tolerate marinated cherries in certain preparations, but those "cocktail" cherries are not a good component of a restaurant's signature cocktail.

We ordered as appetizers the blood sausage and sweetbreads. The blood sausage was quite nice, with heavy blood connotations that pleased me. It was served besides small, raw, quasi-sweet halves of teardrop tomatoes that were not unhelpful to the dish. The sweetbreads puzzled me a bit, although my dining companion liked them. They were simply grilled in a slow process (like the beef at the restaurant), and had received a bit of lemon jus at the end. They arrived unadorned, except as described and except for a white ceramic spoon containing chimichuri sauce (the same as that utilized for the beef later). They tasted, and this is not indicated in a joking manner, like fatty chicken, and had an unusual texture. I've tasted a lot of sweetbreads, and they didn't quite taste like sweetbreads I had previously sampled. Still, they weren't bad. Perhaps the slow cooking had affected the texture (?).

It was at this point that we placed the order for the steak main course, which I shared with my dining companion. The minimum order for the steaks, which are priced at a different level per oz, was 10 oz. Sharing is permitted at no additional cost. We ordered the grass-fed, Australian shell steak (this was recommended to us over the corresponding filet mignon). We asked for our steak a true medium rare.

At this point, the restaurant indicated that our steak might take 45 minutes because of the slow-cooking style of the restaurant. This induced us to order a $20+ sausage sampler platter, containing three varieties and excluding the blood sausage. (The platter was average, and seemed to include purchased sausages.) We were explicit that we were only ordering the sausage platter to have whilst we were waiting for the steak.

Anyhow, low and behold, the steak arrived at the same time as the sausage platter about 15 minutes afterwards. The steak was tough and full of veins. Expectedly, it was not particularly fatty. However, the texture of the steak and its flavor left a great deal to be desired, causing me to rate the meal at Hacienda as poor.

Another reason I would rate the meal as poor (or worse) was the limp, wimpy chimichuri (spelling) sauce. It was too thin, and did not augment the steak. Although I am obviously not knowledgeable about Argentinian cuisine, I would imagine the quality of the chimichuri sauce would be crucial to a facility that defines itself based on Argentinian steak preparations. :(

Miscellaneous

The decor is slightly better (in its own quirky way) than I had imagined, but I had imagined a hole-in-the-wall. It is dark-ish, with tables and chairs that slightly resemble those of a "knights of the round table" type of setup. Tall wooden chairs that one might think a knight might sit on. There is a coat of armor towards the back. The largest table had two nice-looking candlesticks that each held multiple candles, which were dripping abudantly their wax in an interesting way.

The restaurant is not BYO. The wine list was not as poor as one might imagine, but it was also not as inexpensive as one might expect. For example, I believe they had Cristal champagne and 3-4 other nice champagnes, but at prices comparable to the name restaurants. We settled on a bottle of Argentinian red for $30-35.

The cost of the meal (excluding the champagne cocktails) was about $65 after tax and before tips.

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