After an inauspicious start experiencing the ghastly creation that Argentinians think is pizza at a much-vaunted place called Guerrin – comfortably the worst food I’ve eaten on the trip – I hoped for rather better fare at the well regarded Don Julio parrilla.
By well regarded, it is considered by many as the best steakhouse in the world. It currently sits at number 55, just outside the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It is number 6 on the Latin America’s 50 Best list.
On the corner of an otherwise unremarkable street, Don Julio instantly had a homely feel to it. With dark wood and a wagon wheel light fitting it felt oddly like the country inns in which I did much of my formative eating.
But this was rather a different beast as I quickly saw as I took up my seat at the bar in front of one of the most fantastic open grill set-ups you’ll ever see. It was open coals and colossal slabs of meat as far as the eye could see on the splendid parrilla. They were also grilling a fair amount of asparagus and broccoli, too, of which more later.
The battalion of black-clad waiters and waitresses buzzed around the room as chefs in immaculate white hats tended the fire and conducted their meat orchestra.
I was soon brought good bread and local olive oil, along with condiments and sauces for the meat feast to follow. I took a moment or two to consider the menu before my attentive waiter returned.
He dissuaded me from ordering all three of their house sausages to start, instead recommending the pork sausage as the best. This promptly arrived from the grill looking plenty substantial enough. It packed excellent flavour and was a power-packed way to kick things off. Could I have eaten more? Probably, but my straining waist band was glad to be spared further tension.
I’d ordered the bone-in entrecote to follow. This was as comedically massive as I’d hoped. The bone provided an excellent handle if I’d been in Henry VIII mood, but thankfully my fellow diners were spared that particular spectacle.
The steak was mighty fine. Was it the best steak in the world? I’m not sure it was but it had been prepared with care, had excellent char and was a colossally enjoyable eat.
I’d ordered grilled asparagus as an accompaniment. It came in almost as much profusion as the meat with an enormous number of spears. I munched through most of it and was glad of its freshness.
Sadly Nespresso seems to be the coffee paradigm in restaurants in Argentina at the moment which was very disappointing to see, but once that was dispatched I was left to reflect on a fantastic experience in a really characterful restaurant.
In many ways, Don Julio’s high esteem, particularly in the World’s 50 Best list, is a triumph for more accessible, simple restaurants as opposed to the extremely complex, high-concept places that dominate consideration. While I don’t think it served me the best steak I’ve ever eaten it did provide me with a really memorable and top notch dining experience. As such, I’m very happy for it to be the standard bearer for the steakhouse and to make sure that some places that simply showcase a high quality ingredient gain consideration alongside places looking to blow all your sensory circuits at once.
Blythe scores Don Julio
4.5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for setting
4.5/5 for service
giving an overall 17.5/20
I ate: pork sausage, entrecote, asparagus
I drank: malbec, sparkly water, shit coffee
I wore: Hawaiian wear
Total bill: 2,300 pesos
Address: Guatemala 4699, Buenos Aires