Bar de Gallego
No, this isn’t chicken fried steak. It’s not a schnitzel either, though it could be. This blobby, pounded, battered and pan-fried beef cutlet is a milanesa, and they’re quite popular casual fare in Argentina (and other parts of Latin America too—it’s a common filling for Mexican tortas).
I had to try one, and old-school Bar de Gallego, holding-out on a corner in gentrifying (fied?) Palermo Hollywood, seemed like the right place to try one during Saturday lunch, mere minutes after we arrived in town. I saw quite a few milanesas coming out of the kitchen, some decked out with melted cheese and tomato sauce, napolitana-style with giant mounds of mashed potatoes on the side. I had to draw the line and stick with the lemon juice-only purism. French fries are part of the combo. French fries are always part of the combo.
This was my first meal in Buenos Aires and I noticed a lot of things. One, women were eating seriously hearty food, leaving no leftovers and they were all quite svelte. Argentines challenged my notion that only Asian girls can eat whatever they want. In fact, I’m more convinced than ever that pretty much everyone else except me can eat whatever they please to no ill effect. Two, no one eats ketchup with their fries. I’m ok with this, but I don’t recall ever seeing a bottle anywhere and papas fritas are on like every menu in town, high and low. Three, Argentine food is essentially meat and potatoes to the point where the blandest American palate wouldn’t be offended.
Which isn’t to say that the cuisine is flavorless, they just don’t like spicy food. Neither do Spaniards, Swedes and plenty of residents on the planet. (As an aside, I’m not sure where the notion that all Latinos eat hot food comes from. Mexican food certainly is picante, and other nationalities use chiles, especially in condiments, but I wouldn’t characterize most of these cuisines as fiery. And I don’t know that all Argentines even consider themselves Latino, which is a whole other aside.)
So, my thin crisp slab of meat and surprisingly crunchy, non-mealy steak fries (normally, I don't like fat fries) were satisfying, and perfect as is, I was just speculating that if I were eating them at home I know I would break out the Sriracha. Maybe I’m afraid of naked food.
To me, costillas are ribs, but here they turned out to be deliciously meaty, properly fatty ‘50s-style pork chops. None of that lean other white meat business. And for approximately $5 we weren’t expecting two slabs. Also with fries, of course. I only had one (ok, two) bites because this was James’s dish.
I’d much rather be downing a breaded cutlet and bottle of Quilmes than the peanut butter toast and iced black coffee I’m looking at this Saturday afternoon.
Bar de Gallego * Bonpland 1703, Buenos Aires, Argentina