Argentina is a place where closed-door meals are common. Secret entrances, small groups, one family table, reservations required. It feels exclusive and welcoming at the same time. A fabulous oxymoron.
We'd heard Chef Luis prepared the best steaks. Alondo said it was one of the best steaks of his life. Our expectations were high.
So we reserved two spots at a Steaks by Luis asado dinner, $80 per person for five courses (including wine pairings). Not bad, eh?
Take a picture of a parilla in Argentina for me, Ryan insisted. Here's your damn parilla picture, Ry, and a bonus picture of us with Chef Luis.
The meal was incredible. But of course it was, we knew it would be.
We started with a charcuterie and bubbly, mingling and getting to know our dinner companions. The blue cheese was phenomenal. Overall, the blue cheese I've tasted in South America has been quite bland. I want blue cheese to taste funky as hell. This one did not disappoint.
We moved on to a perfectly light salad (vegetables! real vegetables!), paired with a "liar's wine" - fruity on the nose, but decidedly dry. The grape was one I hadn't heard of. Torrontés, from Salta, Argentina.
Our next course was meat, of course. Two varieties of chorizo sausages, blood sausage, kidney, intestine, pork shoulder, sweetbreads, and the eponymous asado (short ribs). Of course I ate it all. Stop gagging, Amanda.
Fun fact: you technically cannot have an Asado without short ribs. An asado dinner is named for the asado cut of meat.
The main course, strip steak, came next. Luis served it with potatoes and a red wine reduction. And an Argentinian malbec, of course.
The steak was the first time I've tasted medium rare in South America. Beef here is incredible, but nearly always overcooked. Not this one.
Jeff and I were next to each other, but honestly didn't speak to each other all night. Not because we were eating, and no, mom, we didn't get into a fight.
We were busy talking to the people next to us - fascinating couples from around the world. Couples from Trinidad, Japan, Hong Kong, England, Scotland, Australia, Canada.
Before you wonder why this is blog-worthy, know that we're introverts and hanging out with strangers is an absolutely terrifying endeavor.
Jeff spoke to Ian most of the night, a wonderful man from Sheffield, England. We're going to try to visit Ian and his wife when we're in London.
I sat with Sonya, a hilarious woman from the Gold Coast of Australia. We swapped travel stories, teased our dinner mates, and just enjoyed each other's company. She told me about her daughter and I explained the concept of digital nomadism. She invited me to come see her at her beach house. I'm frankly thinking of taking her up on it.
I don't want to forget Sonya. Here's a picture of us:
I'll remember our evening at Steaks by Luis, but not because of the (incredible) food.
We broke out of our comfort zones, completely accidentally, and shared a travel high with delightful strangers. And now we have more people to visit, all over the world.
Truly a favorite travel memory.