This is the land of the steak, but not necessarily the land of the burger. Why, after all, would you want to mince up a perfectly good cut of beef and fashion it into a uniform patty? Surely one of the joys of tucking into an Argentine steak is that every one is like an individual work of art, with varying fat thickness, weight or texture.
It’s enough to make a vegetarian vomit. Unless, of course, they head to Pérez.H for a portobello mushroom burger.
Red-blooded carnivore that I am, I’m not hugely into that aspect of this new burger spot’s menu; plus the mushie burger is very much in a coming-soon situation. So watch this space.
No, what is of interest about Pérez.H is its gourmet burger pedigree. Palermo has recently seen a number of burgeries sprout up —Dean & Denny’s, Burger Joint — but the difference is the brains behind these burgers.
Although he is not part of the business partnership as such — mainly because he is busy preparing to open his open restaurant, Astor, in two weeks — Peruvian-born, French chef Antonio Soriano is the brains.
With skills honed at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, his curriculum vitae is the stuff of a chef’s wet dream, littered with two and three-star Michelin restaurants, as well as a tenure in an executive role at Buenos Aires’ Algodón Mansion.
Despite branching out on his own with Astor, Soriano clearly decided that the burger scene needed shaking up, and was happy to jump on board to help set sail the good ship Pérez, run by IT guru Pablo P. of course.
Pablo’s never managed a burger spot before, never mind a bistro burger spot, but for a first offering the outlook is extremely bright.
A tiny spot located on Defensa, the location is pole position to catch passing trippers and office workers.
A strategically placed chalk board lures in random punters with a tempting 29-peso deal. That’s right, hungry hamburger lovers, homemade bundles of meaty love in a bun with chips with change from 30 pesos.
Eat in at one of the high wooden benches, or take away, service is brisk and food cooked to order.
With five gourmet styles on the menu, the aim is to keep it simple and fresh, with reasonable prices.
I decided to chomp down a double cheddar and bacon with fries, while Marina went for the Queso, complete with lettuce, tomato and cheese. Her fried chip selection was sweet potato, and although they were tasty, I much preferred my hand -cut, real potato fries slathered in salt with my own fair hand.
Pablo P. says patties are made with asado plus two other beef cuts in varying quantities in order to obtain that special flavour, and burgers aren’t seasoned — it’s up to you to flavour them as you see fit with the ketchup, mayo and mustard from the squeezy bottles. (Not sure how long that will last, as the sachet police are out in full force.)
Also of note is that Pérez.H burgers are cooked medium rare, a novelty for what is essentially an upmarket fast food eatery. Normally, you have to beg and barter with the average steakhouse to get a juicy piece of meat brought to your table, but thanks to the Soriano effect, Pérez burgers are cooked that way automatically.
The look is slick, with French bistro meets Shoreditch café, feel to it, while the food is comfortingly fresh and homemade.
The buns come the local bakery, seeded on top and are made to order. The salsa criolla for the Criolla burger is made in house, as are the pickles, charmingly displayed in jars usually used to store sweeties or muffins.
My double cheddar was quite a lunchtime match, and although the burger was rather smaller than the bun, I definitely couldn’t finish the breaded part.
The bacon was the legitimate stuff, porky, not too much fat, although it could have been crisper. Still, it tasted of bloody bacon and that in itself is a score.
The cheese, well, it’s the old-age problem of what defines Cheddar in my mind and in Argentina’s collective mind. And the fries were mouth-watering. I wolfed down every last crispy crumb.
Top-notch chips, great burger, smashing price. Next time I’ll go Argentine with the Criolla and provolone cheese.
Defensa 435, Monserrat
Monday to Friday, lunchtimes only, Sundays