Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Suffering from a meat deficiency? Palermo Viejo has a cure

September is here and we're still getting settled in our new home, our new city and our new life. You would think I'd have my mind on something other than a fall vacation...but you'd be wrong.

Nick and I have a vacation system (as I've probably mentioned before). Since we love to travel so much (and there's SO much to see in this great world of ours) we split our vacation time into two, one week vacations and about 4 or 5 (or maybe more if I'm lucky!) long weekends. He picks one destination for us (always warm, always sunny, always relaxing and always around March or April), and I pick one destination (always action packed, always to a new part of the world and always around our wedding anniversary in September or October).

This system works wonderfully. We get to see so many different places each year, and quite honestly, everyone gets what they want. I know, I know...genius right!

This year I feared we may have to skip our "my choice" fall vacation since just a few weeks ago we uprooted and moved 12 hours away.

But have no fear...the hubby is here! He swooped in and insisted we take our fall vacation regardless of our recent move. He said it was because he didn't want me intruding on "his" vacation idea come spring (and trust me...I can intrude something fierce)...but I think it's just because he loves traveling as much as I do...and secretly loves the places I choose.

So the plan was Peru. Ahhhhh Peru. What an adventure! Lima, Machu Picchu...what fun! I love South American cuisine. So rustic. So flavorful. Sooooo, yummy!

Unfortunately it looks like most South American destinations, Machu Picchu especially, would involve A LOT of flying for a 6 day vacation. So in the end we decided on The Netherlands (more on this to come...but the good news is the flight is booked and we're well on our way to eating herring while wearing wooden shoes).

So what to do when you have to postpone your trip to South America (ok...don't cry for me Argentina...I mean...we're still going on a bitchin' trip)?? You get as close to the destination as way of my stomach.

We walked to dinner at Palermo Viejo last Friday night. They specialize in Argentinian cuisine...which is to say...on meat.

The decor at Palermo Viejo was quaint. Simple yet inviting. We sat down without a reservation (luckily we ate early that evening because the place filled to capacity by the time our meal was finished) and perused the menu. Lately we've been pairing beer with our dinners instead of wine. I have a feeling it has something to do with the temperature outside (freakin' hot) and we'll go back to wine in the fall, but until then, I have to say, beer is the new wine for us.

We chose South American beers...both Brazilian...a Xingu and a Palma Louca, and skipped the appetizers once we spotted the house specialty, La Parrillada(pronounced lah-par-ee-shah-dah). P.S. I love it when they put the pronunciations on the menu. Nothing worse than ordering the luh-parilla-da. And trust me, I would have.

La Parrillada was a mixed grill (very true to Argentina) that consisted of house-made chorizo, short ribs, flank steak and sweetbreads. Yes. That's a lot of meat. No started needed (but a defibrillator might come in handy). They serve it with an oh so good chimichurri and a traditional salad of lettuce, tomato and hearts of palm, which added some much needed refreshment after the mountain of meat. At $18 a person this meal was a steal.

They brought it to the table on a cute little portable grill and we dug in.

I have to say, the reason I ordered La Parrillada was the sweetbreads. I love 'em and was happy to see them on the menu. I've had them MANY times, cooked MANY different ways, but these were by far the most rustic I've encountered. They were, quite simply, grilled. They were cooked well, tender inside and smokey outside. I have to say, however, that if someone's first experience with sweetbreads was this one, they may not come back for seconds.

I enjoyed them. Honestly. They gave us extra for some reason (like 5 portions) and I ate almost all of them. But even the hubby, who will eat just about any organ off of any animal said they were pretty hardcore. Typically they're swimming in butter or deep fried. Chefs tend to celebrate their texture but play down their taste(which is that of the thymus gland). But I think this time they had a plan, albeit a simple one. Serve the meat...whatever the it is. Grill it, maybe season it with salt, and present it. I respected that and would order the sweetbread again.

Nick thought that the chorizo stole the show, and in fact, he made me throw our leftover chorizo in an omelet the next morning (super duper good by the way). The chorizo WAS delicious. Just greasy enough to keep it moist, but not so greasy that it leaves an oil slick on your plate. Seasoned just right and delicious. Sometimes I wish restaurants would sell their homemade sausages to-go so you can take some home for later. I would have bought a few from Palermo Viejo for sure.

Now for the sad part. The beef was overcooked for my liking, but a few dunks in the delicious chimichurri helped. It was flavorful enough and of good quality, but cooked medium well. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not. Perhaps it's true to Argentinian meat cooking methods, but I wished it was more on the medium rare side. We weren't asked how we wanted our beef cooked so that might have been the culprit as well(you know...when I'm reviewing a place I try to let them make things "as the chef would", but sometimes I leave wishing I had spoken up).

Ok, so long story not so short, would I go back? Yes. I think I would go back and try some of the other menu items. I was intrigued by many things I saw listed and would like to taste them (they had one dish that sounded like a breaded piece of meat topped with cheese and vegetables then bad could that be!?). The prices were fair and the wait staff was fine. I have a hard time forgiving over-done beef but like I said, we didn't specifically order it a certain way so I can't really complain too much (just a little though...I mean come on).

So if you're looking for an international dining experience that mixes familiar tastes with some more exotic ones (I urge everyone to try sweetbreads at least once in their lives) I would give this place a try. Perhaps request your meat done to your liking or order one of the fish dishes that looked yummy. And please, if you do visit let me know how your Argentinian culinary trip went. No matter how the meal turns out, exploring the world through food is certainly one of my favorite ways to travel.

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