Barney and Fred

I have never seen a wine list working undercover as an encyclopedia before. Stick to the day job, I say, that’s a lot of work going on for one menu.

But that is exactly what the poor wine list at Cabaña Las Lilas does. Works harder to take home an extra peso or two, feed the kids. Inflation is walloping its way across the nation, meaning I can’t afford to buy tomatoes yet asparagus is on the menu every evening.

Still, when someone tells you to order a rib eye steak at Las Lilas, you’re going to fly with it. This Puerto Madero resto, famed for its high prices but excellent steaks, has a mixed clientele, but some reviews I’ve read seem to take a sadistic pleasure in saying “well, actually, it ain’t all that.”

Las Lilas uses beef from their own farms dotted around Buenos Aires province, thereby cutting out the middle man at Liniers market. So the company’s farmers know what their cows are fed, and so do the owners. Did you know that Sao Paulo and Madrid both house Las Lilas restaurants albeit under other names? Good to know…

I have a crooked old neck at the moment so I let the in-house sommelier hold the three-kilo encyclopedia for me. Really, though, where the hell was I meant to begin? There are more than 600 varietals on the menu with a further 100 being tried and tested to see if they make the cut.

I let the man do his job. What do I like? Robust, Malbec works for me, and yes, I’ll be eating a medium rib eye. So if you suggest a 2006 Melipal Malbec Reserva from Luján de Cuyo, I will gracefully accept it. As I will the pre-meal glass of Champagne on the house.

Ker-pow! It was pepper power. A mighty dose of Malbec with a river view if ever I had one. Probably a bit foolhardy to not wait for the bleeding goodness that was on its way, but it’s hard to resist once it’s rosily twinkling at you and so close at hand.

Manager Matías from Brazil (whose favourite dish is the picaña summus rump steak) recommended that Dom, who could do with a feed, give a bife de costilla a go. See the picture. It was a Flintstone special with enough for Barney Rubble to munch on once Fred was done. (In this scenario, I am Barney). Giant, falling off the plate, and totally delectable with some Melipal inhalation, a quick swirl and down. A true pairing.

Dom couldn’t beat the T-bone, especially when he got stuck into these incredible evaporating chips. But I cleaned up with the rib eye, which had been hung for 21 days before reaching my oval plate, and working my way through it with that Flintstone-size knife was a true pleasure.

A note about the bread. All baked in-house, with some particularly addictive rolls made with cassava dough.

Dom, in fact, just mentioned to me that, a day later, that he had a bit of a meat coma and didn’t have any supper, while I can confirm, 30 hours later, I’ve only eaten some cornflakes since yesterday lunchtime.

Expensive, at over 100 pesos for a steak, yes. But the experience is worth every centavo. With seven waiters to a table, 400 kilos of meat sold a day, a wine encyclopedia, and diners such as Bill Clinton and Thingy Messi merrily signing the guest book, all speak volumes. Don’t tell me that Las Lilas “ain’t all that”. It bloody well is.

Photo courtesy of Dom Instone.

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