Postcard From Tom: Buenos Aires
Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema's monthly report from the road.
Buenos Aires looks and feels like Europe, except when it comes to prices: $150 a night for a great hotel and less than $50 a head for a memorable steak dinner, including wine.
CABANA LAS LILAS (Alicia Moreau de Justo 516, 011-54-11-4313-1336)
Yes, you'll be surrounded by tourists. But of all the places where I tried Argentina's famous grass-fed beef (and there were many), this handsome 400-seater in the Puerto Madero docklands area delivered the most bang for the buck. My formula for fun is to ask for an outdoor table overlooking the water, tap the sommelier for a great malbec and order a rib-eye steak, smoky from its charcoal grill. The meat, which comes straight from the owner's ranches, is preceded by a feast of gratis appetizers. Throw in some veal-stuffed empanadas and blimplike souffle potatoes, and you'll wish you had a second stomach. Steaks $14-$20.
OLSEN (Gorriti 5870, 011-54-11-4776-7677)
Whether you're sitting in the lovely garden, with its vine-covered walls and splish-splashing fountain, or in the airy, two-story dining room and bar, with its low couches and center fire pit, this watering hole with a Scandinavian theme in Palermo serves up prime people-watching, along with delicious open-face sandwiches, deer spring rolls and herring with potato salad. Wash back your snacks with the signature aquavit -- liquid barbed wire! Plates to share $5-$10.
PATAGONIA SUR (Rocha 801, 54-11-4304-5917)
The run-down waterfront neighborhood of La Boca is host to one of the finest restaurants in the city, watched over by one of South America's most acclaimed chefs, Francis Mallman. Leather walls, burgundy drapes, Klimt reproductions -- and a mere 22 seats -- set this gem apart from the competition. So does the cooking, which yields stellar chopped beef empanadas, sweet king crab with shaved fennel and long-cooked lamb enhanced with fresh chimichurri. Three-course menu $65.