Let’s play a word association game. I’ll say a phrase, and you say the first word that comes to mind.
Food in Buenos Aires
You said steak, right? And if you didn’t, quit messing up the game. You said steak. Because in Argentina, that’s what people eat. Even the vegetarians.
OK, that’s a lie. Probably.
Last night we were finally ready for some carnivorous activity, so we caught the Subte to Palermo for the secret happy hour at La Cabrera. This restaurant is something of a legend in travel blogging circles, because everything on the menu is half price during the happy hour.
Of course, there’s a catch:
The happy hour is only between 7-8PM on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The restaurant officially opens at 8:30, when the main dinner crowd starts to trickle in.
Oh, and another catch:
There are two sneaky charges that aren’t half off – $16 per person for a ‘table charge’ and $26 per table for ‘cubiertos,’ or cutlery. Remember that those prices are in pesos, so for two of us the extras only came to about $12 USD.
But we were ready. Too ready, actually. It was a gorgeous day, so we got there at 5:30PM to find the restaurant.
Ah! One more catch:
La Cabrera has two locations, and the happy hour deal isn’t always at the same one. Fortunately, if you turn up at the wrong one, the other is approximately one minute away.
We confirmed the location of the night’s happy hour and went for a walk, stopping for a pre-dinner Iguana. The woman at La Cabrera told us to be back at 6:50, just to be safe. If it’s too busy and you get there too late – bad luck.
We came back at about 6:45, because I was paranoid that it would be packed. It wasn’t. Only one other girl was there, knitting on the bench in front of the restaurant.
At this point I still wasn’t convinced that it was happening – it’d been impossible to find any ‘official’ information on the internet, because the restaurant doesn’t advertise the happy hour. I decided to confirm with the doorman.
I stood in front of him, and my mind totally blanked. I couldn’t think of words in Spanish or English.
“Uh…siete? Siete horas?” I said. Seven hours? What was that even supposed to mean? Two weeks of Spanish class and I’m still incompetent.
His face revealed nothing, except that he thought I was an idiot. The light shone off of his bald head. I started to sweat.
Finally, he spoke.
In perfect English, of course.
“Seven. Happy hour starts at seven.”
We took a walk around the block and were seated instantly when we returned. It was fancy inside; neither of us had been in a restaurant like this for a long time, where the waiters wear long aprons and there are wine glasses on the table. I think I saw two wine glasses the whole time we lived in Yeongwol.
Our waiter gave us our choice of table and asked, in Spanish, if we were familiar with the system.
“Soy Australiano,” Jared responded, misunderstanding his question. I’m Australian.
After the briefest of pauses, the waiter switched effortlessly to English. Luckily, ‘the system’ was easy to follow – order whatever you want, but get out by eight.
We only needed a quick glance at the menu to make up our minds: a bottle of water, bottle of Malbec, and starter of chorizo, followed by one steak to share – the 600 gram portion of ojo de bife, ribeye steak. While we waited for our meat feast, we munched from a bread basket.
The chorizo was good. Admittedly, it could have been an all-beef hot dog and I wouldn’t have known much different, but I enjoyed every bite.
And the steak – I could not find a camera angle that adequately captured how big it was. Thicker than I’ve ever seen, and still pink inside (our choices were medium or medium rare – we went with medium), it was accompanied by seven mini-sides. I’m going to go ahead and tell you about them, because they were delicious.
- Fried provolone (good old fashioned cheese sticks)
- Lentils mixed with stuff that tasted good
- Beans mixed with stuff that tasted good
- Corn mixed with stuff that tasted good
- Mashed potatoes
- Mashed sweet potatoes
- Couscous and cherry tomatoes
Whew. Good thing I’m not a food writer. That was tough to describe.
When we were halfway through our steak, the waiter replenished some of our side dishes. I reached for another cheese stick, not sure if it was the right move (my head said no, but my heart said yes).
That was when I noticed Jared. His eyes were kind of unfocused and he was swaying gently, gazing at a point on the wall behind me.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I feel kind of weird,” he said. “Not sick. Just…weird. Not all there. Like I’m high on something.”
It wasn’t until later that we understood – Jared was in the throes of a meat coma. This was easily the most meat we’d consumed in one sitting for 2 years. Starting with the chorizo might have been a mistake.
With or without the sausage, I don’t think we would have managed to finish the whole steak. I’m not sure humans were meant to consume that much beef in one go.
I still asked for a dessert menu, though. The waiter checked his watch, confirmed that we still had about 10 minutes, and brought it out.
Chocolate cake, creme brulée, fruit and ice cream, bananas flambé…in the end, I couldn’t do it. Plus I’d already had an alfajor cookie before dinner. (What? I was hungry.)
So we made a selection from the lollipop tree (a lollipop tree!) and paid our bill – $190.20 pesos, or $40 USD.
Forty bucks. For all that plus a lollipop tree.
This morning we told our Spanish teacher about our noche de bife and she nearly fell over when we told her we’d eaten at 7 o’clock. As Jared said later, she almost looked offended.
“Even 8:30 is early for dinner,” she explained. “I never eat before 9PM on a weeknight.”
I wanted to ask her if she’d ever been in a meat coma, but I wasn’t sure how to phrase it.
Some things you just can’t put in words.