With the catchphrase “the best beef in the world” and a décor rich in traditional Argentina, Caleb Thornton-Shaw discovers that La Cabaña is not just a restaurant but rather, an experience.
Walking through the solid oak doors of La Cabaña is entering high society. For over 80 years, La Cabana has been one of the most traditional restaurants in Buenos Aires, serving an assortment of prime Argentine beef, grilled to perfection. However, the gold standard of Argentine steak houses is much more than that; it is a restaurant steeped in history, tradition, and culture.
Despite the dockside location in Puerto Madero, you could be forgiven for thinking that you have entered an Argentine ranch. The dark wood is matched with rustic brickwork, opulent leathers, and vintage ornaments; creating an atmosphere that is truly unique.
Sitting down at a table in La Cabaña is an experience in itself. The waiter walks you to an immaculately presented table, laid out with leather placemats, fine glassware, and a Guayubira wood-handled steak knife. Relaxing into the rich leather seat, listening to mellow orchestral music, savouring warmth from the fireplace, you appreciate the attention to detail.
The restaurant is dimly lit, providing plenty of ambience and privacy. The brick walls, wood partitions and glass chandeliers are in keeping with the theme, and you can imagine a time when Juan Carlos Harriott Jr may have sat and enjoyed a Malbec after a polo match. As the leather and cowhide menu is handed to you with a wide Argentine smile, there’s an excitement of gorging on “La mejor carne en el mundo” – The best beef in the world.
General Manager Eduardo González talks through the ethos of La Cabana, stressing that guest satisfaction is his primary goal. This is attained through three key principles; professional service, fantastic food, and an authentic ambience. Gonzalez recommends the La Cabaña Malbec –an award winning wine made on their vineyard in Mendoza by Dany Rolland- , the round of offal, and -their claim to fame- the Great Baby Beef.
First to arrive is a tasting plate of chicken ceviche, a baby empanada, and a chorizo in tomato sauce. The wine is poured with a ‘buen provecho’. The chicken ceviche is as refreshing, with a hint of lemongrass neatly complementing the broth of lime juice, garlic, and coriander. The tomato sauce is infused with a touch of basil and garlic, the chorizo adding a salty flavor to offset the sweet ripe tomatoes. The tender beef empanada is neatly washed down with the Malbec, a perfect introduction to the food of La Cabaña.
An offal platter is a beloved, traditional dish of Argentine asados. A large slice of lemon seemingly decorates the plate, but in this case the garnish is definitely for the food. After squirting the lemon all over the offal, my first bite of kidney is surprisingly tender. Sampling the entire plate, it is impeccably cooked and delicately seasoned, preserving the truest taste.
The sound of sizzling food dances across the restaurant floor. In the distance, two waiters carry an array of steaks, sides and condiments. The steaks are served on a hot plate, the ridges continuing to char the steak. The smell is amazing, the cuts thick and plentiful; a feast for all the senses.
La Cabaña prides itself on serving only grass-fed beef, something of a rarity in Buenos Aires nowadays. This creates a magnificent steak that is tender, juicy, easy to cut through and much healthier. Executive Chef Diego Moyano personally chooses each cut of beef that is cooked – something he has been doing for over 13 years, guaranteeing an excellent quality steak.
I’ve ordered jugoso and the first bite of steak truly is juicy. My tastebuds cry out in thanks as the steak is so flavoursome, the freshness and meatiness of the juice combined with the caramelisation of the fatty edges creates a taste sensation. Perfectly seasoned, each piece is lightly sprinkled with salt, preserving the true taste of beef. The tenderness really stands out, each bite continually melting into my mouth. Living up to its reputation, biting into a steak at La Cabaña is a must-do experience.
Kobe beef is considered the best tasting beef in the world due to its fat marbling, creating an incredibly moist and flavourful steak. La Cabaña now serves a fantastic Kobe beef, available as either a porterhouse or eye fillet. However, just as Champagne is only from grapes grown in Champagne, France; Kobe is only from cattle bred in Kobe, Japan, from the Wagyu breed of cattle. Interestingly, 12 years ago La Cabaña inseminated several Argentine Anguses with Wagyus from Japan and now run a farm dedicated to this mixed species. The Argentine Kobe has the best of both worlds and the meat served at La Cabaña is rated 8 on the Beef Marbling Standard, an excellent rating internationally.
La Cabaña has also recently jumped on the gourmet burger bandwagon, providing a more accessible option for those looking for a quick bite of this top notch beef whose pockets don’t stretch to a lomo.
As the last remnant of food is enveloped, I’m reminded of La Cabaña’s key ethos: guest satisfaction. Leaning back in my large leather seat, sipping the last of my Malbec, gazing across the restaurant I am extremely satisfied. For over 80 years La Cabaña has been the gold standard of Argentine Steakhouses, purveyors of a traditional ambience and delicious food. In 2016, perched on the edge of Río de la Plata in Puerto Madero, I came for “the best beef in the world” and stayed for the experience. Your invitation awaits.
All images by Caleb Thornton-Shaw