Turn the meat time and time again, the secret to cooking the best steak, accordingly to La Cabrera´s chef in Buenos Aires
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Gastón Riveira, the owner of La Cabrera, the restaurant awarded as the best in Buenos Aires by local diners voting, is aware the success of this gastronomic paradise resides in three key factors he summarized in his “MAS” philosophy (meaning MORE in Spanish): an acronym for Menu, Atmosphere and Quality Service.
Riveira details the philosophy reigning in this traditional grille of the Palermo neighbourhood as follows: “Talking about Menu, we are cooks and meat. The atmosphere is the one of a humble local bistro. Related to service, we want to make you feel like a guest at our home; we provide distinguished but casual careful client attention, and we want people to choose their waiter as if they were about to choose a family physician.“
La Cabrera was inaugurated in 2001 as a small bistro on the corner of Cabrera and Thames streets. Two years later, only thirty meters from its original place, Cabrera 5100, a second establishment was open –named North La Cabrera, a little bit bigger than the first one. Over the years, this gastronomic venture began to grow. Nowadays, there is a La Cabrera steakhouse in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Santiago de Chile, Santa Cruz de La Sierra or Lima.
Together, the two locals at Palermo can host 200 diners and within them works around 90 people. The atmosphere is relaxed, and there is friendly and pleasant treatment from waiters. As the place is usually complete, outside North La Cabrera, which opens at 18:30, around 30 people are queuing to enter. Among those waiting are people from Brazil, Chile, Germany, Australia, New Zealanders, America and Argentina. “Around 50 per cent are foreigners and the rest Argentines,” says Riveira.
To make this wait pleasant -which may range from 30 to 40 minutes a table is placed near the entrance door; inside a bucket of ice, there are a sparkling wine bottle and mineral water available for customers. People may serve by themselves. Occasionally, a waiter leaves some French fries, sausage slices or small portions of the house´s specialities to nibble during the wait.
One of those waiting to enter is Alfonso Niemann, from Santiago de Chile. He is there with a group of compatriots, and after being noticed La Cabrera is an awardee of Best Grill in Buenos Aires, he smiles and says: “We are going back to Chile tonight. Then, I´ll intend to stay here until I leave for the airport. “
The House Secrets
Leandro Bouzada, master chef and general manager of La Cabrera, tells La Nación´s journalist some secrets about the particular way they use the grill: “At 9:00 AM, we ignite the fire. We use half charcoal and half hardwood firewood. Later we cover the grill with aluminium foil to “burn it” (to clean the grill from previous use), so we are ready to start cooking at 11:30 AM. The fireplace has to be hot, as hot as you can´t stand your hands over the grill for even five seconds. “
There is a particular preparation technique: “We have a fixed grill 20 centimetres from the bottom, and it does not rise to the back as most grills do. We always work with plenty of fire. Therefore, what we do with raw meat is to turn it all the time to “seal it off” very quickly. In this way, meat juices remain encapsulated inside a crunchy surface.
Regarding the type of grill used, the restaurant general manager says: “We use a round shaped rail instead of the standard, inverted angle iron; iron “V” shape fries the fat fallen there and spoils the meat taste. With the round iron, melted fat from the meat fall down from the grill over the embers producing a smoked flavour. “
About raw meat, Riveira explains: “We have suppliers who follow our handbooks about the quality meat we look for; each muscle has to have a particular characteristic of internal and external fat, size and weight. “
Bouzada provides surprising information, an outcome of long and detailed studies, on how to present a dish: “We know that, if a dish were a clock, the first bite people would choose is the one at 5:25. The last will be the one the placed at 12:00. This helps us to think about the best way to present a dish, where each flavour is going to be located. “
In terms of cut of meat, La Cabrera´s parishioners’ favourite is Chorizo Steak (bife de chorizo) – the house is the winner in this category at the Buenos Aires City´s Grill Contest; this particular cut is followed by Roast (Asado) and Eye of beef (Ojo de bife). “Outside meat, Provoleta and Chorizo (sausage) are important options in people’s preferences,” says Rivieras. Provoleta is an Argentine variant of Provolone cheese described as “Argentine pulled-curd Provolone cheese.” Usually, people barbecued it in Argentina and less commonly in Uruguay.
However, the grill is not everything at this restaurant. Garnish is also crucial. “We consider all the courtesy accompaniments we serve to make an enjoyable meal experience. We cover the table with colours. In addition, we search for a particular product that will be used only for a month, and we try to make an impact of this resource“, said Bouzada.
To ratify what La Cabrera´s general manager says, the product chosen as part of this month’s accompaniment is Yerba Mate foam (a type of green tea), a totally unusual “very crazy” way of accompanying meat, accordingly to Riveira himself.
A rigorous selection of all the ingredients became quite visible in the result.
Source: The Nacion -credit: Fabián Marelli
Notes: Many other meat lovers will smile at the differences these chefs use in cooking the meat from other Argentine establishments, but who can argue with their success. We look forward to your comments.
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Post available in: English Español