Argentina puts its best hoof forward in what promises to be seven days of heaven for dedicated carnivores
That’s the situation in Argentina though, apparently, as locally produced beef is plentiful, relatively inexpensive and a seemingly staple diet. And it doesn’t take long to prepare. Get a piece of meat. Season it judiciously (salt only, Argentines don’t really do spice), slap it on a grill and less than 10 minutes later… dinner, lunch, or even breakfast – nothing would surprise me about this bunch of South American carnivores. Were I to be a red meat lover (and I am from time to time), I would certainly ‘wanna be a, part of BA, Buenos Aires, big apple’.
That’s the first time I’ve ever quoted a Tim Rice lyric in an article, and I hope it will be the last. The music for Evita, by the way, was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and I never thought I’d be writing his name again in a hurry after my review of Cats several months ago.
It’s Argentine Beef Week, scheduled to commence today, Argentina’s Independence Day – an extraordinary coincidence. And now that we’re allowed to get out and about – with all the relevant restrictions and caveats – I’m going out on a limb and recommend a steak or two while you’re about it, from any of the participating outlets.
Naturally, I’m going to doubly recommend boCHINche in Amoy Street. That was where I sat down to lunch with His Excellency Federico Barttfeld – one of the Thought Leaders by the way, for 2020 – Argentina’s ambassador to Singapore and a lean, mean talking machine with a reservoir of anecdotes and a grasp of national history that would make him perfectly suited to being a diplomat… if he wasn’t one already.
Floppy-haired, with a clear complexion that belies his 50-odd years, Barttfeld is the perfect host; explaining the food and its provenance, and inviting everyone to lunch at his future summerhouse in the Pampas. Digestifs were sampled mid-meal because he wanted to disgust us – he failed – but as a companion for lunch he was peerless.
As was the steak. There are four courses in the Argentine Beef Week menu offered by boCHINche, but let’s focus on the main event. I think we’ve all become a bit used to wagyu and high levels of marbling these days – which are redoubtable, make no bones about it – but are beginning to lead to taste buds becoming inured to their fatty effects. In some sense, having a high fat content in a piece of meat is cheating – when the meat is cooked, and the fact slightly dissolves, it’s always going to taste pretty good.
My personal buds, however, are getting a little bit tired of the suppurating richness that these high fat content steaks exude, which is why the rare ribeye from Argentina that I chose was almost refreshing in its purity and simplicity of taste. Seasoned only with salt, you taste meat, and nothing but pure meat. And while it may not be quite as sapid and ‘buttery’ as a highly marbled Kobe, for example, it still packs a punch in the flavour stakes.
If you’re going to eat red meat (and lots of it), Argentinian beef is about as healthy as it gets, boasting low fat and cholesterol levels. Vitamin wise, in the to-B-or-not-to-B debate, the Aberdeen Angus breed that roams freely on the Pampas munching grass and contemplating the bovine condition in the cosmic scheme of things, has plenty of vitamins B6, B9 and B12, and is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Admittedly, none of this is particularly useful if you’re eating a kilo of it every day, but like all things in life, moderation is key, and red meat is a key part of our diet – whether we like it or not – as can be verified by our teeth. Nature and evolution haven’t seen fit to supply human beings with canines for no reason.
There will be lots of fun to be had over the next few days during Argentine Beef Week, and boCHINche should be commended for entering into the spirit of the somewhat self-congratulatory exercise with such gusto. My rare ribeye (please don’t ask for a doneness anything above medium-rare – this is not snobbery, this is just good sense) was among the top 20 steaks I have eaten in my life, and Argentinian beef is probably the best thing to come out of Argentina since the tango and Lionel Messi.
115 Amoy Street
Tel: +65 6235 4990