Daniel, former New York cab driver and current cashier at Team Systems garage who was born in Buenos Aires, doesn’t think anyone in Gotham knows how to make a proper Argentine empanada.
On Sunday, I started on the quest to prove him wrong when I met fellow food obsessives Lilian M. and Salem P. at Buenos Aires Restaurant in the East Village.
I was hopeful when I spotted Spanish League soccer games on two flat screens, black and white photos of Buenos Aires in its golden era and an entire wall dedicated to pictures of tango singing legend Carlos Gardel.
But when it came down to empanadas, I was disappointed. We sampled three kinds: carne cortada a cuchillo, caprese (mozzarella cheese/tomato/basil) and pollo.
There were more peppers and celery than there was beef in the carne cortada a cuchillo (beef cut by hand rather than ground), and the flaky dough couldn’t mask the fact that it had been baked in a gas oven instead of in clay or coal.
Caprese was tasty but undercooked. The empanada de pollo – with big chunks of chicken, onions and a few red peppers – was my favorite. Conclusion? The quest continues.
If you go to Buenos Aires, go for the steak. Even though the bife de costilla (t-bone steak) we ordered was undercooked the first time around, it was delicious by the time they served it to us medium-rare, seasoned the Argentine way with just enough salt. When we dipped it in chimichurri sauce – packed with garlic, vinegar and fresh herbs – we were almost able to tune out the screaming baby at the table next door.
Buenos Aires Restaurant
513 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10009-6621
Open: M-F 12pm-11pm; Sat-Sun 12pm-1am
Credit cards accepted
Next empanada stop: La Porteña in Queens