Made in Argentina, by way of Tribeca
By Frank Angelino
When a new Tribeca restaurant takes Industria Argentina (Made in Argentina) as its name, it implies that the fare is authentic a claim I was only too happy to test out after spending a week in the South American country. Since Argentinean cuisine centerpieces lean, grass-fed beef, I wondered whether the same kind of meat could be duplicated or even approximated in New York. It would seem hard to do, considering that Argentine beef has been banned in this country for the past six years, a fallout from the threat of Foot and Mouth Disease.
Stefano Villa, the owner of Industria Argentina says that the restaurant uses beef from Uruguay, which he equates with Argentinean beef. The beef from Uruguay is tastier but tougher than US beef which is softer and less tasty, he said. After my recent, week-long sampling of Argentine meat in Buenos Aires, I would describe his steaks similarly.
Using the Argentinean names for the cuts of beef, Industria Argentinas menu lists lomo (filet mignon), ojo de Bife (rib eye steak), and entrana (skirt steak). The lomo is very good. Its bacon-wrapped and served with a shiitake mushroom and whipped potato puree. Each steak is served with small dishes of chimichurri, an olive oil, vinegar, herb and garlic-based sauce, and a diced onion sauce. The chimchurri was better than the onion sauce, which lacked the tomato presence found in the traditional, Argentinean version. But used sparingly, both sauces add bright, complimentary flavors to the steaks and make more nutritional sense than traditional US steakhouse toppings of butter or blue cheese.
Villa stresses that his fourteen years running Argentinean restaurants in New York City, most notably Sohos Novecento, and his Executive Chef, Fernando Trocca, and Chef de Cuisine, Natalia Machado, who both have restaurant experience in Argentina, give the food authenticity. The artwork, the bar, the tables are all from Argentina, Villa says, unlike most Argentinean restaurants which have an indistinct identity. Unfortunately, to New Yorkers, Argentina is a Latin place that serves dinner late and has music like a busy Latin situation meaning a typical Latin eatery. Perhaps because of that concern, Industria Argentinas music has a cooler vibe. The wait staff is drawn from Argentina and neighboring countries, and the crowd is typically Tribecan: mostly younger, but a scattering of all ages. In fact, its very similar to what you would find in Argentina, especially in the hip areas of Palermo Soho, except that there is less segregation by age in Argentina than in New York. (Even at the tango palaces, the older women will just as likely be dancing with younger men, and visa versa.)
Except for a few chosen pastas such a vegetarian lasagna and linguine, you wont find the usual number of fresh pasta dishes typical of Argentina restaurants that cater to its large Italian population. This is deliberate. New Yorkers eat a lot of beef; theyre carnivores, says. If you want pasta you can go to Gigino and Roc on the next block. We dont want to lose our identity as a steakhouse.
You will see a number of ingredients favored by the Argentinean palate. An amuse-bouche of a corn empanada, served with a tomato mojito, gives a hint that the flavors to come will be on target. A roasted pumpkin salad and smoked pumpkin risotto feature the popular, Latin American vegetable in two different styles. Mollegas, or sweetbreads, are pan-seared to a crisp and served over a warm potato, scallion and bacon salad. Soon, there will be provoleta, tomato on bread topped with grilled cheese.
Today, in economically stressed Argentina, wine is a bargain. Probably the most popular Argentinean red is Malbec, which goes very well with steak, even though wine critics are typically bored by the dependably sturdy grape. Industria Argentinas has an exclusively Argentine wine list, priced along New York standards. Villa believes that, When it comes to a really high quality wine from Argentina, it must be a blend of Malbec and cabernet sauvignon.
Industria Argentina, open Mon-Sat: 5:30pm-12am. Steak entrees $22-$27. 329 Greenwich Street (bet. Duane & Jay Sts.), 212-965-8560.