Restaurant Reviews

Argentine Steak House Sates, and Then Some

When Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, "Less is more," he wasn't talking about Graziano's.

This comfortable, unpretentious Argentine steak house spits in the beer of "less." It flips the bird to "moderation," body-slams "cholesterol" to the pavement, and jackhammer-stomps "diet" into whining, sniveling submission. As for "vegetarian," just one look at the gloriously bronzed and aromatic sentient beings skewered on Graziano's giant asador — a sort of wood-fired turntable of meat, proudly displayed at the restaurant's entrance — and your average cabbage-eater's head would spontaneously combust.

It's not just that Graziano's portions run from enormous to "Oh, God, I think I hurt myself." Nor is it that you can consume your own weight in animal protein for the cost of a cocktail at some snotty American-style meatery; or the amazingly comprehensive, fairly priced wine list; or the smooth, seamless professionalism of the service.

If you want to feel the love, not to mention consume it, a good place to start is with picada Argentina, a compendium of tastes meant as an appetizer for two but which could easily be a hearty entrée for one. To go along with cubes of Manchego and Parmigiano-Reggiano are plump marinated olives, gossamer slices of silky San Daniele prosciutto, lengths of smoky-garlicky grilled eggplant, hearts of palm drizzled with neon-pink Russian dressing, unctuous "Russian" potato salad lit up with peas and cubes of carrots, thin sheets of wicked-good beef tongue tossed with a tangy vinaigrette, and something called "homemade veal outside roll," basically a stuffed veal breast with a golden eye of hard-boiled egg.

From the asador comes entrana a la lena, 18 ounces of thick, juicy, immensely flavorful skirt steak, cooked a rosy medium-rare and served coiled up on the plate like a giant snake poised to sink its fangs directly into your appetite. If that's not enough, there's also a small mountain of Portobello mushroom risotto — a tad gummy but tasty as all get-out — plus a ramekin of rather tame chimichurri.

Graziano's parrillada is a thing of carnivorous beauty. Generous doesn't begin to describe the assortment of meats almost spilling over its sizzling brazier. Coarsely textured pork sausage, ineffably rich and creamy blood sausage, slices of (slightly tough) sweetbreads, fatty but awesomely savory Angus short ribs, and a fat hunk of Angus "flap meat," a somewhat chewy but joyously beefy cut that most resembles a hangar steak.

Graziano's kitchen isn't limited to tossing huge slabs of meat into a roaring fire: The souffléd potatoes, piled high, are crisp golden pillows of potato-infused air that melt on your tongue like snowflakes, the result of a frying technique so masterful it would cause a classically trained French chef to set fire to his toque.

Skip the usual sweet suspects for dessert and dig into balcarce, a sort of tiramisu — minus the boredom — that combines sponge cake, dulce de leche, grated coconut, apricots, and goodness only knows what else to deliriously good effect

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Bill Citara