Before “defining” the top seven reasons to live in Uruguay over Argentina, allow me to talk you through some over-the-River-Plate-style grub, defined and served up by Uruguayan Luis Acuña at El Pobre Luis in Chinatown.
Odd that, a Uruguayan steak house four blocks from Belgrano C train station and the arches saying “Welcome to Chinatown.” Pobre Luis started out with his paper cloths and three tables in the same neighbourhood, and 24 years on, his house is full every night, even if he isn’t serving and cooking up anymore. The secret? “I only ever buy the best meat I can get hold of,” he told me last Friday.
I wanted meat. I am on a meating mission for another story and Luis kindly invited me along for dinner. I put the delightful Uruguayan waiter (in BA for 14 years), Marcelo, in charge of ordering for Chance and I… and he started to drip feed us… a scarlet pork and beef chorizo… onion fries… a sirloin cooked to perfection – that master of the meats Beto manning the shining, sparkling parrilla grill that may have well as have been beamed down from space certainly knows how to handle a medium-rare order.
Marcelo even chose the wine. How carefree, just to hand yourself over on a plate like that. He selected a Gascón 2009 Malbec, thick, fruity, in fact so dense, looking into was like staring into the abysss, even holding it against the perfectly starched (now 100% cotton) tablecloth. Nothing to be seen at the bottom. It was plum jam in a crystal glass and I couldn’t keep my eyes off my own reflection, when I wasn’t putting the Gascón away, of course.
Although the house classic, which according to Luis is standard Uruguayan faire, is the Pamplona de lomo, a slab of tenderloin painstakingly wrapped in heartburn-inducing cheese, bacon, red bell pepper and ham to resemble a giant stuffed sausage, it was the sweetbreads that were the ding to my dong.
Mollejas, or thymus, which can be beef, veal or pork glands, don’t linguistically do it for it most people, but these were the best I ever have slurped down. Mollejas grilled at home often come out in small, curly pieces and are drizzled with lemon. Maybe that’s how the butcher provides it, I’ve never bought them.
But Luis’ sweetbreads were like a whole steak, akin to a large, juicy, two-inch thick pork chop, in shape as well as in taste. Chance, who is not that kind of a glands man, hoofed up every last piece.
Although older Gascóns were on the menu, ours was just right to handle every last sliver of meat that was thrown at us. A more rounded version might have caused a molleja diversion, and that would defeat the point of this blog. We took everything Pobre Luis threw at us, men that we are, but refused dessert. There was simply no more room at the inn.
Why I am moving to Uruguay
1. They drink mate while driving mopeds, happier than any Larry you or I know.
2. If Pobre Luis is so exacting about his meat quality, all Uruguayans must be, so every meal is a winner.
3. Uruguay grows Tannat grapes, a decent, not especially known, red wine with lower tannins than other Tannats.
5. Beautiful sandy beaches, battered by the Atlantic, but “relatively” undiscovered.
6. Excellent place to hide your money if you are extremely wealthy and need to hide your money. HNWIs, I am talking to you. I mean tax haven.
7. Although Marcelo the waiter is not quite yet my new best friend, Uruguayans are lovely, friendly, charming, like to eat and drink well, and that is more than enough for me.
Looking into the abyss photo by Chance Miller. Happy birthday mate. Hope you enjoyed.