Tucked away in a quiet corner of CityCentre next to The Tasting Room and across from the much more grandiose Texas de Brazil is Sal y Pimienta. A new project by Gianfranco Percovich (one of the original founders of Tango and Malbec) the restaurant opened this past May, offering South American cuisine.
Percovich, who comes from Uruguay, has created a restaurant in the spirit of the many South American parrillas (grills), essentially the South American equivalent to a steakhouse. To that end, guests who plan to indulge in meat are presented with a huge tray laid out with all manner of meat cuts. A few of the cuts on offer the night we were there included: Uruguayan grass-fed, Australian grass-fed, Niman ranch dry-aged tomahawk long bone-in ribeye, pork tenderloin, lamb chops, pork chops, American Kobe short ribs, Niman ranch ribeye, filet mignon, water buffalo, and more.
It's a bold move considering the fact that CityCentre is already home to several prominent steakhouses, among them Eddie V's, Capital Grille, and Texas de Brazil. Percovich says that's the reason why he's marketing Sal y Pimienta as a South American restaurant rather than a steakhouse, but for anyone who goes there, don't be fooled: It's all about the meat.
When you go, the thing to get, the real piece de resistance, is the first line item on the grill menu, a parilla mixta (or mixed grill) simply named Parilla "Sal y Pimienta."
Though the menu denotes that it is for two people, the grill, which comes topped with inside skirt, flank steak, lamb chops, short ribs, chicken breast, Argentinean Sausage, blood sausage (and includes a side of salad and potatoes) is definitely enough to feed three or four, especially if you plan to order other things.
And it's glorious -- a definite, head-turning spectacle. In fact, necks were craning all around us as patrons from the surrounding tables tried to get a glimpse of what we had ordered. Huge and sizzling, a custom-made, raised rectangular iron platter arrived at our table heavily laden with glistening, mouthwatering meat.
You can customize the meat selection (with the appropriate up charge) if you don't want the set menu, which is what we did, sampling Australian grass-fed tenderloin, Uruguayan grass-fed tenderloin (bife de lomo), water buffalo, American Kobe short ribs, and Argentinian chorizo sausage.
The meats were cooked to our medium rare specifications, and exhibited different textures and flavor profile. Seasoned with nothing more than salt, they all had this beautiful, smoky flavor from being cooked over a mesquite wood grill. Dipped in a side of chimichurri (a green sauce often served with the grilled meat of South America), the Uruguayan grass-fed bife de lomo was our favorite for its butter-like tenderness, but in truth, everything was darn good.
The only thing that could make it better was the wine, and here, too, Percovich delivered. Having spent 10 years working with the Cordua Restaurant Group as their beverage director, his South American wine list is well-curated with selections from Argentina, Chile and Uruaguay. But the best thing about it? He had one of my favorites by the glass -- a Clos de los Siete Malbec blend from Argentina by famed French winemaker Michel Rolland. Made in the the higher altitude regions of Valle de Uco in Mendoza Argentina, the bold, smooth vino tinto seemed to get more silky and luscious with each sip and bite of steak. Talk about a perfect pairing.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.