Argentine dishes range from an appetizer of ceviche served with aromatic white blends, to flaky empanadas perfect for delicious red blends, to hearty barbecued meat served with the nation’s iconic Malbec.
We asked James Bateman, manager of Toronto’s new Argentine-inspired restaurant, Branca, to whet our appetites.
Q. We’re at the table! Can you set the scene for us?
A. Yes! There’s never a sense of urgency; meals are long, drawn-out affairs with lots of lingering over a glass of wine; usually Malbec, which pairs perfectly with red meat. Food is served family style.
Q. It’s all about the grill, right?
A. It comes down to the two traditional cooking methods. Al asador uses a sort of fire pit surrounded by big metal crosses on which we place the meat. This is how the gauchos, or Argentine cowboys, used to cook. The second method, a la parrilla, is a barbecue with V-shaped grills that collect the dripping fat and allow you to cook over super-hot coals without any flare-ups.
Q. In addition to grilled meat, empanadas and seafood, what else makes an Argentine meal?
A. It’s definitely the condiments. We serve five or six sauces with every meal, including chimichurri, roasted eggplant and harissa. The idea is to mix and match the sauces with whatever it is you’re eating, so each bite tastes a bit different.