Stick to the Steak at Buenos Aires in the East Village

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[Photographs: Nick Solares]

Buenos Aires is an affordable value restaurant in the East Village, and one of few places to find Argentinian food. The trick of eating there is learning how to navigate the confusing menu and how to play to the restaurant's strengths. The once easygoing list of $25 to $40 wines was nowhere to be found on my last visit (the cheapest bottle was $60 and the wine by the glass price started at $16), but the food is mostly good and easy to recommend. Long story short: stick to the grilled meat.

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Ensalada Buenos Aires ($8.95) with lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, radish, and hard boiled eggs in a simple vinaigrette is easy to share, the olive oil and balsamic flavorful, and the pepper mill on the table a good upgrade from the pre-ground stuff. A good value for the money.

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The only real disappointment was the Canelones De Espinaca ($17.95), which looked not unlike two flaccid burritos under a burnished mass of mozzarella.

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Considering what $18 can get you in pasta around town, was just not up too snuff. The red sauce was cloyingly sweet, the "white" sauce seemed to be just melted cheese, and the whole dish was egregiously under seasoned. It was also served so pipingly hot as to make one suspicious about the use of a microwave.

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You're on much firmer ground with the Parrillada Buenos Aires ($44), a massive mixed grill with what seems like two pounds of meat perplexingly listed on the menu as "for one." Seriously, this is enough for at least two or three people. Indeed, when I ordered it, the waiter conscientiously emphasized what came on it. I do wonder if listing it for one isn't intended as a joke; if so it is lost in translation. I did notice that the Argentine couple next to me, clearly regulars, where happily sharing one between them, so clearly the practice is not out of the question.

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Despite one misfire, the platter's delicious. The breakdown:

  • Skirt steak: An absolutely outstanding version of this cut, perfectly cooked the steak that had a pleasing minerality and succulence. The pungent chimichurri sauce served along side is also outstanding.
  • Flanken short ribs: This large, thin slab of Black Angus short rib meat is seared quickly but is tender enough to make you okay with its short cooking time. It has a robust beefy flavor and also pairs well with the chimichurri.
  • Sausage: The platter came stocked with two South American-style chorizo sausages, one mild and the other laced with red pepper. Courser and chunkier than a "chorizo Español," these had great flavor and a nice char from the grill.
  • Grilled sweetbreads: A huge portion of sweetbreads lay under the pricier cuts on the platter and soaked up their juices, making them even more tender.
  • Veal chitterlings: As with the sweetbreads, a huge portion, wonderfully dense but crunchy with great flavor.
  • Blood sausage: The only disappointment was this undercooked blood sausage. The filling was still liquid-like and the skin was too soft.

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The fries tasted far better than they looked—in fact they where superb. I initially thought the portion was rather meager for the $4.95 price tag but as soon as I finished them the waiter offered more.

I am not sure quite what happened to all the value wines that Buenos Aires used to have, nor how such mediocre pasta sits along side such delicious meats, but if you stick to salads and share the mixed grill, you'll eat well here.