Wednesday, June 1, 2011

De Antaño Parrillita - El Calafate, Argentina

El Calafate is a Patagonian town well known to those who seek natural beauty, and it is a magnet for international hikers, climbers and backpackers. It's also  the take-off base for many less energetic folks to explore UNESCO Heritage site Los Glaciares National Park and hike numerous beautiful trails. Walking (with crampons) on spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier is a must-do! We heard that seeing it by a full moon is a special treat, especially as bits of glacier break off with a loud "crack"!!
Putting on Crampons Before Climbing Perito Moreno Glacier

The Face of Perito Moreno
 The blueberry-like, blackberry-tasting calafate berry is used for many recipes and remedies. Restaurants like  lovely Pura Vida, and simple pizza at La Lechuza  are common tourist destinations. We had a great time horseback riding and dining at Estancia Nibepo Aikewe. We wanted more of a local's spot for a dinner. When several locals recommended De Antaño as a favorite, we knew we were in for a special evening.
It's a couple blocks or so off the main Avenida del Libertador. The small brick building is perhaps a hundred years old, with corrugated steel roof and an authentic oven.
 It's known for its grilled foods, and the co-owner-chef is a master!
The Alchemist's Grill
His wife manages the front of the house's two small dining rooms.
We ate there several months ago (I'm slow on posting) and wanted to try some of the less common dishes. We were very pleased, er, ecstatic with our grilled selections.
When we arrived, there were tables filled with locals who finishing as we sat down.
 Soon arrived a fun quartet hailing from Portugal, Great Britain, France and Australia.
The restaurant menu is in Spanish and English.
We started with a delicious bottle of Altas Cumbres Malbec. A selection of freshly baked breads came to the table (I think it's part of the 12 pesos cover charge). We chatted with our fun neighbors, and soon had a good rapport going.
The  28 peso ($7 US with a 4 to one peso: dollar conversion)  Salteado hongo dish of fresh local mushrooms is an earthy ambrosia! A good-sized collection of lightly sauteed mushrooms elevates the selection to a gourmet's feast.
 This treat puts the usual reconstituted morels, black trumpets and other mushrooms available in the US to shame with their fresh, bold tastes and meaty textures. Highly Recommended!

The menu is surprisingly all encompassing for a little spot. There's lamb, asado or ribs, rump steak, flank steak, skirt steak, fried provolone, chorizo, morcilla and various combination platters. A mixed grill, or parillada would be the best choice for three or four diners. There's even goodies for vegetarians.

The 64 peso Mollejas, or grilled sweetbreads were the best sweetbread preparation I've Ever, ever had- so delicate in taste-tender inside with a crisp outer texture and a slight char. Off-the-scale delicious!
 One woman at the next table said she'd never eat such a thing. Pamela, as if on cue, boldly got up, walked two long steps to their table with a fork-sized piece and said she'd not leave them until the woman tried it and loved it! The woman, after some vino and urging from her companions gamely tried it, and her subsequent smiles were all we needed to see! She said " I've never had anything so delicious. I can't believe I've avoided sweetbreads all my life!" We assured her that after these, any others prepared outside of a good parillada could be a disappointment. Highly recommended!

More adventuresome, we shared Chinchilins, or grilled chitlins for 35 pesos.
 Again, we were amazed at the tender, not rubbery texture and crisp exterior. The chef is a culinary master of heat and timing. No, we didn't offer these to the brave souls at the next table- that'd be really pushing our luck. We quickly made "all gone" with the order.  Recommended!

We had some other tapas that were delicious, one was a Tapa con guarni with nicely seasoned meat and potatoes. Good, but not outstanding. Argentinean grilling is where the gold is!
Frutas flambeadas con rhum y helado for 28 pesos or $7 was local and imported apples and berries richly flambéed with rum, accompanied by a creamy vanilla ice cream, making a lovely end to a most wonderful meal.
Overall our multiple delicious plates, dessert and bottle of Altas Cumbres Malbec, plenty for three healthy eaters, came to only $70 US, or 280 pesos. I'd go back there in a heartbeat!
Owners with Cook in Middle.
While you're in town, visit the wildlife refuge near dusk, to see numerous wary flamingoes, waders, birds of prey and horses.
Flamingoes at Far End of Lake at Dusk
A several hour drive to El Chaltén, to hike by the stunning peaks of Cerro, or Mount Fitz Roy is well worth the day, and an overnight stay! El Chaltén means "smoking mountain" in the local Indian dialect, as clouds usually cover its peak. Climbing this peak is for experienced climbers. Robert FitzRoy was the captain of the HMS Beagle, who hired Charles Darwin as naturalist for the 5 year voyage.
Pami, Mi Guia!
De Antaño Parrillita,  Gob. Moyano y 9 Julio, El Calafate, Argentina, 02902496486

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