The fat cows have new neighbors: Tango Beef Café has settled in across the street from the popular Normandy Isles parillada, Las Vacas Gordas. Tango Café is a parillada as well. Loosely translated it means "place where meats are grilled" Argentine style, which refers not only to the side of chimichurri that accompanies the steaks, but also to the types of meat that get tossed on the fire: blood sausage and chorizo, entrails, short ribs, chicken, and a few large, flavorful cuts of beef: tri tip, skirt, and flank. Tango has got 'em all -- on one plate! Actually I'm exaggerating only slightly; the parillada para dos comes with everything except the tri tip, and gets served not on a plate, but on a tabletop charcoal grill imported from Argentina. The selection includes grilled peppers, too, for $25.95. The same offering for one person, minus the chicken, entrails, and peppers, is, at $16.95, quite a deal.
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The Normandy neighborhood, like the Design District, is perennially "up-and-coming." Fact is, if you want to take a quiet walk and be by yourself, either area will do on most weekday nights. MoJazz Café used to draw a nice crowd on weekends, but since its demise the only business in the vicinity to light a similar spark has been Las Vacas Gordas. Enter Tango Café, a copycow venture poised to scoop up the overflow patrons of its successful neighbor. Appetizers, grill items, side dishes, and desserts are similar at the two restaurants, and both menus include pastas, Milanese-style breaded chicken dishes, wines from Argentina and Chile, and very attractive prices. Tango is only slightly more expensive.
When it comes to ambiance, though, Tango moves to its own beat. Vacas Gordas' cramped, kinetic atmosphere absolutely buzzes with activity and chatter. People seem to like that, and I do, too. I never liked the high-decibel dance music that gets louder by the hour, though, and ever since a smoke machine in the ceiling released a plume of God knows what type of fumes upon me, my friends, and our food (evidently part of their special disco effects), I've made it a habit to request outdoor seating when dining there. Tango's room is handsomely decorated with antique bric-a-brac (the owner is a collector), tables are topped with bright yellow-and-white-striped cloths (and spaced comfortably apart), jazz softly flutes in the background; in other words it's an alternative for those occasions when you desire a quieter and more refined environment for your carnivorous overindulgences.
Tango Beef Caf
946 Normandy Dr, Miami Beach; 305-861-7797.
Open for dinner Monday through Thursday, 3:00.p.m. to midnight, Friday through Sunday till 1:00 a.m.