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Immigration Problems

The Argentine parrilla loses its charm in the move north to La Estancia

Falchetti was cursed with a difficult dream. Even if he had opened the real Buenos Aires La Estancia here on West Gray, I'm not sure it would succeed. Argentines and Americans don't eat in the same way. "I know," Falchetti said. "Americans are picky. When they see kidneys, they say, 'Ew, what's that?' " he said mockingly with his hands prissily extended in front of his face. "We have great tongue we could be serving here, but I don't dare even mention it."

I told Falchetti that my bife de chorizo was a great improvement over the filet de lomo, but that I missed the exuberance and the family-style side orders of Argentine parrillas. It was his opinion, forged no doubt as a waiter at Tony's and other high-dollar eateries, that picky Americans wouldn't like big bowls of salad or plates of french fries. He told me that he had adapted the Argentine parrilla to accommodate American tastes. I was sure Falchetti saw this as a move to scale up the concept, but the affected formality just made the place boring.

I also told him that the wine he had praised at the bar was terrible. I pushed my half-finished glass across the table and dared him to taste it and tell me it was good. He picked it up, sniffed it and set it back down. "You should have told the waiter you wanted better wine," he said. "We could have cracked a bottle."

"I did ask the waiter for better wine," I said. "And you were sitting at the bar when he came over and asked about it."


For my own selfish reasons, I wish I could convince Alberto Falchetti and his partners to serve good wine by the glass and inexpensive side orders like they do in Argentine parrillas. But I'm not sure it would make any difference. As I walked out the front door of La Estancia, I ran into the couple from the next table. "How was your meal?" I asked.

"Mine was awful," said a woman named Terri Bamberger.

"First time you've been here?"

"Actually, I've been here three times, and it's been three different restaurants," she said.

"What did you have?"

"I had the fillet. It was dry and chalky on the outside and mushy and tasteless in the middle," she said.

"Will you be back?"

"I don't think the restaurant will be back," she said, laughing as she headed for her car.

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