After having a whirlwind adventure traveling around Chile with my friend Ali, I decided to spend a few days exploring Buenos Aires with just me, myself and I. I wasn’t sure what to expect in BA, as both a first-timer and a solo female traveler of color, but I ended up having a great time with some very memorable experiences. One of those experiences being the five-course dinner I attended by myself.
Before going to Argentina, I had read about the closed-door restaurants of Buenos Aires, otherwise known as puertas cerradas. They’re essentially what the name suggests: restaurants behind closed door, or hidden, from public view. They're also often in chefs' private homes. I knew I wanted to experience a closed door-restaurant but one in which everyone sat at one large table since that's more communal and good for solo diners like myself. I also wanted to experience an Argentine asado, which refers to not only the method of cooking meat but also the gathering of family and friends – the communal aspect. And, of course, this meant trying some of the country’s famous steak. Enter Steaks by Luis.
After doing some research and narrowing my options down to a handful, I came upon Steaks by Luis, which, though not the most unique name, fit the bill in terms of what I was looking for, plus it got some pretty amazing reviews. So, I made a reservation for a party of one, and prepared myself (both mentally and physically) for the five-course asado dinner with wine pairings (oh, yes) that awaited me.
Upon making the reservation, I was emailed the address to a loft in Palermo, one of BA’s trendiest neighborhoods. I arrived right on time as they suggested, was warmly greeted by Augustine, our host for the night, and immediately taken upstairs, where I met some of the people I would end up sitting next to at our communal table for 27 people (one of their largest groups – hey, Saturday night in Buenos Aires!). We were also given our first wine of the night, a sparkling white wine from Mendoza, before going into our courses.
First Course: The Picada
In addition to the sparkling white wine, we enjoyed a picada as our first course, which is a platter of finger foods mostly made up of meats and cheeses. We also enjoyed beef empanadas — my favorite — so I was immediately a happy camper. Then, we were introduced to the talented people who would be making our food, including our asador Luis. He talked us through each cut of meat that was displayed in front of us, waiting to be cooked, and showed us the provoleta cheese that would be grilled.
Second Course: The Salad
The second course was the most straightforward in comparison to the other courses, though it was very good in its own right. We were served a simple green salad with sliced apples, a sprinkling of cheese and a honey mustard dressing. It wasn't anything complicated, but it was better than I anticipated. We also enjoyed the salad with a white wine (from Argentina, of course).
Third Course: The Achuras
Next came all the meat, and I really do mean all. the. meat. In an asado, achuras is a typical appetizer of different types of meats like chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), pork flank steak and more. For our achuras, we were served all of the above plus three “surprises” that we were not told about beforehand. I tried every single thing, including the surprises, because why not? Turns out they were kidneys, intestines and sweetbreads. I’ll be honest, I preferred all three surprises to the blood sausage. That morcilla was just not my thang. This all came with grilled provoleta cheese (so good!), chimichurri sauce and one of my favorite wines of the night, a light Malbec from Mendoza.
Fourth Course: The Steak
The fourth course was the main reason we were all there – to eat a hearty slab of Argentine steak. Before sitting down to dinner, Luis described to us his process for preparing the steak, something that came passed down from his grandfather. His typical process includes salting his steak and then letting the salted cut of meat sit at room temperature for several hours before cooking it. He then grills the steak so that it’s medium rare (not well done like I’ve heard Argentine steak is usually cooked). The result? A very good and juicy cut of meat, which was served alongside two kinds of potatoes and a more robust Malbec. I’ll be honest, at this point, I was beyond stuffed and experiencing what surely must have been meat sweats. Buuuut it was worth it.
Fifth Course: The Dessert
Last but most definitely not least, we ended our delicious, communal and hilarious (I sat next to some very funny people) meal with a classic western dessert with an Argentine twist: Dulce de Leche cheesecake paired with a late harvest sweet wine. The wine itself was incredibly sweet but when eaten after trying the cheesecake, the pairing was no less than perfect. We also sang happy birthday to two strangers turned new friends who were celebrating turning another year older.
Before ending the night, I exchanged contact information and warm hugs with the people sitting around me. That was the beauty of Steaks by Luis – not only did it represent the food aspect of an Argentine asado but also the community.
Muchas gracias, Luis!