Chimichurris – a quick visit to Buenos Aires
October 25, 2018
One of the pleasures of living in London is that you can experience the food of other countries without the expense of the airfare.
I haven’t visited Buenos Aires (yet) but I have acquired a taste for its food, by going no further than ten minutes’ walk from The Old Vic at Waterloo.
Chimichurris opened in November 2017. It’s a typical Buenos Aires experience, with a few twists “because we’re in London”.
It’s dark, it’s friendly and relaxed. The soundtrack when I arrived was a reggae cover version of ‘Strawberry Fields’, by a brass marching band, with lyrics in Spanish. (Yes, really). There are cocktails, and a varied menu, but really it’s all about the meat.
The entrance is dominated by the Vedette, a charcoal grill with chef Nico Modad running the show. The grill is right inside the door, it’s Nico’s stage, and he greets families coming in for an early dinner (they’re clearly regulars).
Nico’s grandmother was from Emilia Romagna, and he makes pasta every day to his mother’s recipe.
Octopus from Galicia is served with polenta from Italy, “that’s Buenos Aires, no?” says Nico. It comes with Salsa Criolla (Creole sauce): red, green and yellow peppers, peeled fresh tomato flesh, garlic, fresh oregano, parsley, onion, all diced finely and dressed with olive oil and sherry vinegar; it’s tangy and light, I preferred it to Chimichurri with steak.
Chimichurri is the definitive Argentinian condiment, here it’s made in two versions, regular and spicy. Nico says “here in the UK, everybody wants sauce with everything. For me, salt is enough (he salts his beef liberally before grilling and after). In Argentina we would serve maybe one Chimichurri with a meal. We use Mediterranean seasonings, olive oil, tomatoes. Everything here is simple; like home.”
Argentinian beef cattle are grazed extensively on grass; “the cows have about 100 square meters per animal, so they walk, and walk, and walk”. Grazing is their exercise.
To go with your meat, you choose from chips, mash or salad. Potatoes for chips and mash are washed, peeled and cut in house. “All the people are talking about them….” The chips are light, crisp outside, soft inside and taste as they should, of potato. I couldn’t stop eating them.
I asked the waitress, Beatrice, to recommend a glass of wine for me. She poured me her favourite, “it’s Malbec, of course!” (read more here in “And to drink?” https://wp.me/p7AW4i-uk )
Nico may insist you order Secreto de la Casa, a cut of Iberico pork from the middle of the shoulder, grilled pink in the middle, its fat melting and light. It’s a nod to his time in the Spanish kitchen at Tapas Brindisa.
“You should try the Octopus too, do you have space?”
There’s no children’s menu, but that night a special request for lamb chops and morcilla (black pudding) was going out to one of the families.
“It’s nice and warm here”
observed Dario from behind the grill, he helps in the kitchen and front of house. Owner Federico says Chimichurris is like a family.
Nico asked if I had space to try the ribeye and octopus. We agreed I would do that next time.
When Beatrice asked if she could clear my unfinished tomato salad, I said “it’s enough for a family of four”.
“It’s typical for Argentina” she replied, “you start to eat, and you don’t stop”.
I was beginning to understand. Obviously, I had to go back.
Next time, I called for reinforcements. Andrew is an accountant to some leading chefs and restaurants, Chris is in the film industry; neither of them is a stranger to a steak knife.
We had to order the ribeye, but we wanted to try a variety of dishes from the menu, so we ordered a steak to share, and asked Antonio, our waiter, to look after us by choosing the rest.
For wine, I asked for the Cabernet Franc that Beatrice had recommended. “No,” said Antonio, “I don’t like it.” To read his suggestion, go to my post in “And to drink?” https://wp.me/p7AW4i-uk
Food started coming: Provoleta Porteña, smoked cheese grilled in a pan with red pepper and mushrooms. Mollejas, delicate sweetbreads with lemon; we had one each, which left us wanting more. The octopus, Pulpo Asado, was perfectly cooked on the grill, tender, and fragrant with smoked paprika. We had the Secreto again, then the Ribeye, which was nicely charred and salty on the surface, pink and juicy inside.
Antonio talked us into desserts, each one made “with Dulce de Leche,” which is like caramelised condensed milk. He brought us one of each, an ice cream, a pancake, one with chocolate, and a kind of cheesecake, all very sweet but not heavy, and we made an efficient job of demolishing them.
We were there on a “boys’ night out”, but Chimichurris has no shortage of female clientele. A table of twenty young women had booked for an 18th birthday celebration on the same night; they arrived rocking silver lurex, leopard print and heels; it was going to be a busy night for the kitchen….
132 Southwark Bridge road SE1 0DG