Published on February 15th, 2018 | by Tony Mallett0
Pampered by the Pampas
Martin Banks rides up to an Argentinian restaurant located in Ixelles
Think Argentina and your immediate thoughts might conjure up images of Lionel Messi and the Tango. But the South American country is, of course, notably 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 here.
The inspiration is the Pampas, the vast, fertile South American lowlands which are synonymous with 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 to Belgium.
In fact, the menu reflects the influence the diverse waves of immigration have brought to the Argentinian food table over the years.
Most notable of these is Italy, hence the good choice of pasta that is also available here (produced in-house, it’s worth nothing).
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, is the star turn with divers spoilt for choice when 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 be served as both as a starter or main.
These are very tasty and provide a great introduction for what is to follow.
For a real taste of Argentinian steak in all its majesty, you would do well to plump for a delightfully succulent ‘Bife Ancho Argentino’ (a 300-400 gramme entrecote).
Another favourite here is the Milanesa 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 being Belgium it is worth noting the fries served here are very tasty too. They are, however, cooked the Buenos Aires-way, meaning they’re served in their skin and poached before being 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 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 weekend.
The interior is stylish and modern, yet intimate and traditional at the same time. The walls are lined with tasteful paintings of Tango dancer,s 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.
But, 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 by the fact that it regularly attracts a sizeable chunk of the city’s Argentinian community.
La Nueva Buenos Aires
Chausee de Waterloo 586, Ixelles
02 201 0880