Argentinian grilled meats and dulce de leche at La Cabrera
FOOD FOR THOUGHT - Millie & Karla Reyes (The Philippine Star) - September 25, 2014 - 12:00am

MILLIE: One of the countries on our must-visit list is Argentina. This is mainly because a very dear friend and former schoolmate of mine, Frank Ansel, now lives in Buenos Aires and owns a vineyard in Mendoza. Frank used to be vice president of Hyatt International and was responsible for the food and beverage trends of the entire chain. We used to see him more often when he was based in Hong Kong but when he moved to Chicago, we would plan to meet elsewhere like Kuala Lumpur, Paris and, just last year, we spent a week together in Switzerland.

So when the doors of a new Argentinian-inspired restaurant called La Cabrera opened at 6750 Ayala Avenue in Makati, Karla and I were excited to try it, to savor a bit of Argentina. We reserved a table to be sure as my friends Verne and Hector Reyes and Emi Mendoza from Los Angeles were joining us for dinner.

As we entered the restaurant, we noticed a bunch of PSG personnel and were surprised when President P-Noy walked in for dinner with a small group of friends.

Since the Friday traffic was bad, Verne called to say they would be late, so Karla and I ordered some pica-pica to tide us over as we had both skipped lunch so that we could enjoy a good dinner.

KARLA: While going through the menu, my face lit up as soon as I saw chorizo. Really, who can say no to chorizo? Mom and I ordered the chorizo criollo, which was a creole-spiced lean pork sausage served in a cast-iron plate and chimichurri. Chimichurri, as Jun, restaurant manager of La Cabrera mentioned, is the gravy of Argentina. It is a condiment but can also be used to marinate meats and is usually made up of parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano, and wine vinegar.

We also ordered empanada de carne, traditional minced beef stuffed in pastry pockets, which also arrived with a side of chimichurri sauce. 

MILLIE: When Verne and Hector arrived, we ordered a bottle of Argentinian Malbec, Altas Cumres. They also ordered the empanada to try, a Caesar salad to share and the pancetta, or pork belly marinated in chimichurri.

Our server recommended we try the polito con queso ahumado y tomates, which looked interesting, but instead we settled for the 500-gram USDA rib-eye steak to share. The rib eye was juicy, tender and huge but just right for the five of us. It came with an assortment of sidings like olive tapenade, caramelized garlic, sundried tomato pesto, and green olive pesto, to name a few.

KARLA: While my mom and her friends were chatting away, I started taking photos of the restaurant, noticing the cute chandeliers made of utensils. We were approached by one of the part owners with a small wooden chopping board and a marker. Apparently, one of his co-owners recognized us so they asked for our autograph to put on their wall. Mom and I were, of course, thrilled.

We also met the Argentinian chef, Juan Barcos, and exchanged pleasantries. I made him promise to make me Argentinian alfajor next time. He showed us the parrilla using firewood, where the meats are grilled. Mom asked why only USDA meat was served and not Argentinian beef, which is also world-renowned. He explained to us that as of now, there are restrictions on importing meats from certain countries.

MILLIE: We stayed until almost midnight and truly enjoyed the evening. The coffee was so good, I was almost temped to order a second cup. Verne and Emi are fantastic ballroom dancers and were hoping to dance Argentinian tango if La Cabrera introduces tango evenings. Surprisingly, the bill wasn’t so pricey after our senior discounts and splitting the check between five diners.

A few days later, Karla and I decided to dine at La Cabrera again. The restaurant was busy, like it was the first time we came, the service was good, the staff well-trained and pleasant, accommodating all our requests with ease. 

Karla was dreaming of the chorizo criollo but was so disappointed when we were told it was out of stock. Apparently, the chorizo is a bestseller and production can’t cope with the demand. We ordered the provoleta con jamon crudo, which is grilled provolone cheese with Parma ham, sundried tomatoes and basil. It is like crispy Raclette but I found it difficult to cut up and it was a bit chewy for comfort. We also shared an order of the pollito con queso ahumado which was juicy, grilled chicken covered with smoked cheese and tomatoes. It was served with an assortment of side dishes called lupa and among those we tried were the artichoke pesto, chimichurri, black olive pesto, shiitake mushroom in balsamic, sundried tomato with capers, couscous, mini Caprese salad, roasted garlic, pea puree, ratatouille, hummus, carrot puree … the list goes on and is endless.

KARLA: For dessert during our first visit, we ordered the rogel de dulce de leche, layers of crisp biscuit and Argentine dulce de leche topped with meringue. I actually found it too sweet but it was really good accompanied by coffee.

For our second visit, we ordered the chocotorta, an Argentinian birthday cake with layers of creamed dulce de leche and chocolate cookie crust topped with cacao powder. The cake, which was soft and light, had just the right sweetness for me.

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La Cabrera Grillado and Bar is located on the ground floor of 6750 Ayala Avenue Business Tower, Makati City. Call 0905-290-0703 for reservations or inquiries.

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Send email to milliereyes.foodforthought@gmail.com and karla@swizzlemobilebar.com. Find us on Facebook and read articles you might have missed: Food for Thought by Millie and Karla Reyes.

ALTAS CUMRES ARGENTINIAN ARGENTINIAN MALBEC COM KARLA KARLA AND I LA CABRERA MOM AND I ORDERED
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