Where to eat in Buenos Aires – Don Julio
Vegetarians, look away now – when you’re looking at where to eat in Buenos Aires the chances are very good that meat is on the menu.
Don Julio is a parrilla, or grill restaurant. Parrillas are literally everywhere in Buenos Aires so, for this restaurant to gain ranking 55 on the extended list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2018 (the top ranked from Argentina), it must be doing something to stand out.
The restaurant is housed in an old two-storey building on a corner in Palermo, a 15-square kilometre district in northern Buenos Aires. It opens for dinner at 7pm, also the time of our reservation. We arrived with a couple of minutes to spare and found a long queue down one side of the building.
But, all good. The queue was for hopefuls without a reservation, looking to get their beef fix. It was a bit of a party atmosphere. A stand at the front door dispensed an Argentine sparkling wine, and waiters moved around bearing platters of empanadas.
We helped ourselves to a glass of the sparkling and waited to be escorted to our table, which was facing the huge grill but a little to the side. There, several chefs toiled in what must be some serious heat, with some serious cuts of meat.
The menu is in Spanish and English (thankfully) and tells you a bit about the various cuts and the provenance of the meat.
The walls are lined with empty wine bottles, where patrons have been invited to sign them and leave as a memento. We were a little conservative when it came to the wine consumption and opted for a few local reds by the glass – no option of signing the glass to leave behind.
And so to the serious business of selecting the food. The waiters spoke reasonable English and it was easy to communicate how we wanted the meat prepared.
But first, we had to lower expectations of what was feasible. We asked for two starters, two mains and two sides. Hah. Our waiter first suggested we only have one side. OK. Secondly, he recommended a half serving of one starter, the sweetbreads. OK. Thirdly he suggested we share the cut of beef selected by gluttonous husband. Not OK.
Given gluttonous husband eats his steak still mooing, that’s never an option for Greedy Girl. We stayed with our original selections. The waiter gave us a look that I think translates to: ‘Don’t say I didn’t warn you’.
And so we settled in. Greedy Girl ordered a glass of a local red blend, while gluttonous husband took the ubiquitous Argentine Malbec.
Given the warnings about the amount of food we were about to receive, we largely ignored a gigantic hunk of bread brought to the table, with two small bowls. One contained chimichurri and the other a tomato salsa. That’s pretty much it as far as sauces go. Dishes are remarkably unadorned here.
Our starters arrived – a half serving of the steer sweetbreads for gluttonous husband and a chorizo sausage for Greedy Girl. Chorizo is a traditional starter for an Argentinian barbecue and this deep pink sausage looked particularly good, albeit not very spicy. It seemed to lack the paprika Greedy Girl is used to.
The sweetbreads were utterly delectable. Seared to perfection, with a lovely crunchy crust, they melted in the mouth. Delish.
And so, to the main event. Gluttonous husband chose an entrecote – one of the ‘bone-in’ cuts, cooked ‘blue’. He didn’t need to explain this to the waiter who knew exactly what he wanted. And here it is …
Normally I don’t post pictures of us ‘in action’ but this will give you a better idea of the size of the steak.
Greedy Girl opted for the ‘bife de lomo’ aka tenderloin, one of the lean cuts. This was ordered medium rare or ‘jugoso’ (juicy).
Both steaks were perfectly seasoned – we’d watched the chefs salting each piece just so before it was put on the hot grill. The bife de lomo was incredibly lean and tender. Delicioso.
For a side, we decided to go green – grilled asparagus. And it was another huge serving.
Gluttonous husband opted to try the other Malbec available by the glass (the wines available by the glass are quite limited here).
And we soldiered through our huge slabs of meat. And, in case you were wondering, did gluttonous husband actually finish his gargantuan serving? Well lookee here …
And we were done. We just laughed at the waiter when he brought the postres (dessert) menu. He understood perfectly.
On Greedy Girl’s previous visit to Argentina (a very long time ago) there were very few vegetables or salad on offer when you ate out, so the addition of greens to the menu was a definite progression. Cuisine seems to have much more variation in Buenos Aires now, so there’s likely to be something for all tastes.
But if you’re a meat eater – accompanied by some very decent red wines – don’t miss the chance to dine at Don Julio. There’s a good reason it’s so highly ranked – and the continuing queue at the front door as we left is testament to that fact.
Guatemala 4691, Palermo, Buenos Aires