A decent steak done to perfection is one of life’s greatest simple pleasures
Now if you have the good fortune to ever travel to Argentina, you will frequently hear these 3 words mentioned quite often: parrilla, asado and alfajores. The first two terms have to do with meat, the last one, alfajores are possibly one of the most decadent little dessert cookies on the planet and are worthy of their very own blog post. But for now, we shall just focus on our carnivorous tendencies. Argentine asado or barbeque is possibly one my best memories from my travels to the country back in 2010. Huge grids called parrilla loaded the hilt with thick cuts of prime beef steaks, blood sausage known as morcilla, chops, and any cuts of meat you can imagine. You really cannot believe the amount of meat these guys can cook at one time on a grill.
Many people think of barbequing as a purely summer activity. You can just imagine it, right? Everybody sitting around the pool, sipping cocktails, the smoky aromas drifting over from the grill. All that kind of thing. And, while that does have its place, I’m a firm believer that the barbeque is the kind of event that should be embraced year-round. In Southern Hemisphere, barbequing is a big deal; the stuff of legend, it is taken mighty seriously. Gas grills are laughed at and seen as something for amateurs or for people who just don’t know how to do things right. In South Africa, we call it a ‘braai’ and there is even a day dedicated to it – National Braai Day; in Australia they call it the ‘barbie’ and in most southern parts of South America it is called the asado.
Different names, same ethos. Meaning that, essentially, it is not just a barbeque; but a pleasurable way of whiling away the hours of the weekend along with your nearest and dearest. And, if you make the mistake of alluding to it as a barbeque, your words shall be met with rolls of the eyes and shakes of the heads. For you are just a young grasshopper then. As green as they come and have got a lot of growing up to do.
The point being that asado is an art form. Or, taken as seriously as one at the very least. From the type of wood chosen for the grill, to cuts of meat selected as well as the arrangement on the grill…asado is not just a barbeque; it’s a way of life. It is not just a cooking method. It is about friends and family gathering together for the day (sometimes continuing into the early morning hours), catching up on one another’s lives. Preparing good coals to cook on takes time, you need to light the fire and then wait for the wood to burn down, letting the heat settle and make sure that it is perfect temperature before chucking the steak on. So, you have a beer or a glass of red, chat some more, make some salad, chat some more, have some nibbles, more red wine and … chat some more. It’s a process. One that cannot be rushed. It is not about efficiency. It is about flavour, quality meat, and quality time with the people you choose to spend your weekend with.
Now, you can always put together your own asado at home (which I highly recommend) but if you feel like indulging and going a little more upmarket, then the following places around town are well-known for delivering quality straight off the grill and onto your plate:
Located at The Palace Downtown Dubai, a large parrilla or grill is at the physical and emotional heart of this fine-dining establishment; where casual meets sophistication. You can get the feeling of being on an estancia or ranch in the middle of Patagonia while simultaneously being wowed by the beautiful views of the Burj Khalifa Tower from the terrace. Take a look at the wine list – the Bordeaux selection is pretty extensive and pairs well with the meaty cuisine on offer. This place has soul and spirit in heaps. We recommend.
Meaning cowboy in Spanish, Gaucho is contemporary yet gives a nod to the hardworking men of the cattle ranches throughout South America. Go straight to the beef section on the menu and select Churrasco de Chorizo. The marinade for this sirloin cut is loaded with garlic, parsley and olive oil and we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. If you feeling a bit more decadent than go for the rib-eye medallions. Pure heaven any day of the week.
Located on JBR at the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Beach hotel, Pachanga has a new Chilean chef, Esteban Gomez, who knows first-hand how central parrilla is to a South-American way of life. Every Monday night, you can get 50% off your steak at Pachanga, and they have the grill ready and waiting for you. With all the usual steak cuts, such as bife de chorizo (sirloin steak), ojo de bife (classic ribeye) and bife de lomo (tenderloin), you will be hard-pressed to not to find anything to your liking. Chef Gomez is also famous for his empanadas, so don’t forget to order a few to nibble on while waiting for your mains.
Oozing elegance and sophistication, La Parrilla is a great date place for all you carnivores in Dubai. It has style and loads of Latin American flare added to the major plus of being situated on the 25th floor, thereby giving you unparalleled views of the city. This place is festive and has live entertainment and tango dancing every night except Sunday. So, if you are looking for an upscale place which is fun and lively, then this place offers it all.