Think Argentina and your immediate thoughts might conjure images of Lionel Messi and the Tango. But the South American country is of course, notable for another great export – meat.
And in Belgium, there can surely be no better place to sample the very best of Argentinian steak than La Nueva Buenos Aires, a lovely little restaurant in Ixelles.
From the outside, it may look relatively unexceptional but be assured that there’s some wonderful cooking taking place in the kitchen. The interior is stylish and modern, yet intimate and traditional at the same time. The walls are lined with tasteful paintings of Tango dancers which recreate this great Argentinian tradition, and of course, the name of the restaurant is a homage to one of the world’s great cities.
The inspiration for the restaurant is the Pampas, those vast, fertile South American lowlands which are synonymous with the story of roaming cattle, feeding on grass and herded by gauchos.
Luckily for meat-lovers here, the culinary product of this lush landscape (that is, the meat) has found its way all the way to Belgium and la Nueva Buenos Aires. In fact, the menu reflects the influence the diverse waves of immigration have brought to the Argentinian palate over the years.
Most notable of these is Italy, hence the good choice of pasta that is also available here (produced on the restaurant’s own pasta making machine, it is worth noting).
In Argentina, meat is everything and dominates the menu, be it lunch, dinner or supper.
So, it comes are no surprise that the meat, imported directly from Argentina, is the star turn here and you are spoilt for choice in trying to decide which dish to go for.
For starters, if you want to get a flavour of traditional Argentinian “snacks” you could opt for a “platter” of empanadas with different fillings. This can be accompanied by ceviches, (raw fish marinated in lime/lemon juice with an assortment of spices) which can actually be served as both as a starter or main.
These are very tasty and provide a great introduction to what is to follow.
For a real taste of Argentinian steak in all its majesty, you would do well to plump for “Bife Ancho Argentino” (a 300-400gr. entrecote) that’s so succulent it could have come straight from the Pampas.
Another favourite here is the Milanesa “Nueva Buenos Aires” special – rump steak with breadcrumbs and gratin. This, again, gives diners a reminder of the Italian influence on Argentinian cuisine but, unlike the Italian version (normally veal) this is a slice of breaded steak. This is equally tasty as are any of the other meats which can be grilled or cooked in the pan.
When ordering stead, you will be supplied with an impressive-looking “Rambo-style” knife (which reminds diners that eating steak should be a serious affair!). But the meat is so tender that it renders such a sharp implement rather redundant.
This being Belgium, they saved no exception, and the frites served here are very tasty too. They are, however, cooked the “Buenos Aires-way”, meaning they are served in their skin and poached before they’re fried with spices.
Look out also for the very affordable lunch menu which includes daily specials and is priced under €20.
Carlos, the Chile-born wine expert, will very carefully guide you through the fantastic selection of great Argentinian reds and white wines that are available.
The owners, Bouchra Koummal-Grimberg, a Belgian-Moroccan, and her Buenos Aires-born husband Leonardo, met in Vancouver where they were studying at the time. After happily living in the Canadian city for some years they moved to Belgium in 2009.
The couple ran (as they still do) a successful food workshop in Anderlecht but, despite having no direct experience of the business (Leonardo has a background in computer software) they decided to take the plunge and open a restaurant. That was about two and a half years ago, and they have not looked back since.
It is only relatively small, seating about 22 people, so it is best to book at the weekend. Essentially, what the very welcoming Bouchra and Leonardo wanted to do was to recreate a typical Argentinian brasserie, in other words, the sort of place that offers not just steak but plenty of other dishes as well, including pasta and fish.
One good indication of how good – and authentic – this place is, can be seen in the fact that it regularly attracts a sizeable chunk of the city’s Argentinian community.
Good to know:
Address: Chaussée de Waterloo 586 – 1050 – Brussels
- Monday 19:00h – 22:30h
- Tuesday 12:00h – 15:00h, 19:00h – 22:30h
- Wednesday 12:00h – 15:00h, 19:00h – 22:30h
- Thursday 12:00h – 15:00h, 19:00h – 23:00h
- Friday 12:00h – 15:00h, 19:00h – 23:00h
- Saturday 12:00h – 15:00h, 19:00h – 23:00h
- Sunday Closed