Why you now crave Argentinean food
Forget about your usual order of pizza # 9 and an insalata roma, or heading out to your local sushi spot because it’s close by. It’s time to liven up your palate with some spectacular Argentinean fare at the new Branca.
But there are a few things you need to know first:
1. The food is cooked in the traditional manner of fire-roasting - either grilled simply on the Parrilla (a big grill) or in the dramatic “Al Asador” style (meat cooked whole on a cross shaped spit). P.s. ask for a tour of la casa de fuego, the "brick house" in which meats are cooked
2. Slow cooking the food and basting it with salt water might make for tender meat, but it is saltier than you’re used to. Don’t freak out - this is how it’s supposed to be and it won’t compromise your sodium levels. And it's delicious.
3. Condiments on a menu might appear superfluous, but here, they are integral. The freshly made chimichurri, salsa criolla, roasted eggplant and harissa elevate and compliment the meat.
4. Branca chef Kanida Chey might employ traditional fire-roasted cooking methods, but he’s using locally grown produce and naturally raised, hormone free livestock.
5. Yes, it’s meat centric, but there are lots of vegetarian options in the starters, and the sides and condiments aren’t meat-filled. A half chicken and bone-in halibut done on the Parrilla are available, should you not wish for lamb, beef, or suckling pig for your main.
6. There are other things to keep in mind. When you order the Asado de Tira (beef short rib), don’t be surprised that it’s served on the bone, the fat is attached and it’s not as tender as a steak. You should also know that this is one of the only places in the city that you’ll get a 4-inch piece instead of 3-inch. They have to get them specially done at the butcher, and only one will do this cut for them, so appreciate the commitment to detail here and realize that this might just be way better than that steak you always order (FYI - their skirt steak is properly aged, with meat like butter, so there).
6. The mains might be pretty simple –all they need is fire, salt and time – but Chef Chey takes great care with all the dishes. A corn empanada's kernels are still toothsome; the burnt carrots are so phenomenal, you’ll always want them this way, tops included!; and his rice and beans dish is not mushy, but instead an elegant dish.
7. All dishes are meant to be shared. This isn’t owner James Bateman jumping on the trend. This is how the food is traditionally served. Plus, it's way more fun this way.
8. The dining room is intimate, yet sexy, with a stunning gold ceiling. The simple backdrop manages to be quite sophisticated. Thepatio, nestled right next to a park, is somewhat larger - it seats over 100 (they do “Sandwichs Sundays” - yes it’s spelled that way - featuring $10 signature Argentinian sandwiches, The Choripan, with grilled house made sausage and loads of chimichurri on a toasted roll, and The Bondiola with Al Asador suckling pig, burnt onions, salsa criolla, and pimento aioli).
9. The misconception I think, is that Argentinean food is rich and heavy. Though deeply satisfying, it doesn't weigh you down. You could go out dancing afterwards.
10. Argentinean might be new to you, but it's about to become your favourite food, thanks to Branca.
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