Desnivel, San Telmo, Buenos Aires | 6 December 2012
In Buenos Aires, you must eat meat. There’s steak for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it’s the best meat ever.
At Desnivel, you get the full monty.
A word about Argentine beef, and why it’s so good:
For starters, the cows spend their lives, happily roaming, and eating, among the Pampas grasses. (I’m not going to even compare the living conditions, or diet, to most American cows.)
Furthermore, the meat is cooked in a parilla, a sort of grill made with stone or brick, using a technique called asado, whereby a wood fire is burned down to hot coals, which cooks the meat slowly and evenly.
Now back to the restaurant. The San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires is home to the largest street market I’ve ever been to. (After six hours, I had to bail, and I hadn’t even reached the end.) In the middle of this miles-long market, on the corner of Defensa and Dr. Jose Modesto Giuffra, sits Desnivel, the perfect place for a lunch break.
The restaurant is filled with both locals and tourists, the latter looking apprehensive, as they walk into the raucous room where huge pieces of beef are being hacked up with sharp meat cleavers.
The first thing I see are the enormous empanadas…irresistible. Obviously, I ordered one to start with.
I can see the locals cutting into massive pieces of meat, served on metal plates with sides of salsa or chimichurri (a condiment made from parsley, garlic, oregano, hot peppers, and vinegar.) There’s no other side dishes, apart from a salad, because the meal is all about the meat.
The people keep rolling in, so the chefs keep the asada going. (I’ll admit, normally the sight of all that meat sitting out in the open would make me a little squeamish…but somehow, here, it seems normal.)
Rounds of provolone are stacked up along the side, for provoleto…grilled provolone sprinkled with herbs.
The restaurant consists of a series of rooms, each one unique from the others.
I have no idea what the significance is of the umbrellas hanging from the ceiling…
…and this charming painting was made even more endearing by the fact that it was hanging cockeyed on the wall.
I ate, and saw, all I could stand, and then stumbled back out into the pandemonium of the endless market, to continue my quest.
I’ll have salad for dinner.
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