The minute we mentioned we were going to Argentina people immediately responded, “You’ll have to go to Francis Mallmann’s restaurant.” Even before he appeared on Netflix’s Top Chef he was probably the region’s best-known chef.
He has four restaurants in South America, all in places we visited. They are all supposed to be great. We ate at 1884 in Mendoza. The restaurant is not that old… it opened in 1996. It is located in an old winery that was constructed in 1884. It is stunning! A magical setting designed for a fairy tale.
In case you have not yet seen the show, Mallmann’s thing is fire. Backyard barbeque on steroids. There are three different flame-spewing varieties in the restaurant’s courtyard and a big clay oven. The men cooking look so happy. John and Hunter stared, enthralled, mouths agape. As close to heaven as they’d ever been. Must be a guy thing. I just didn’t get it.
Clearly Netflix’s has had an input on this restaurant. Every single customer was American (except my two) and we all had our smartphones out taking photos of absolutely everything. This is not the kind of adventure I like to brag about.
We found the food rather mixed. Anything that came from the barbie was incredible. We chose the tomahawk steak for two. Pure Theatre!! It was huge, dramatic and could easily have fed 5. All the tables around us came over to take selfies with our dish. It tasted divine!
The 7 1/2 hour braised lamb, ordered on the waiter’s recommendation, was disappointingly bland. In fairness, we were pretty full by the time it arrived; it would have taken a really wow dish for us to eat more. As for the appetizers, I’d recommend sticking to the empanadas. They were perfect. Hunter enjoyed his Carpaccio. He is a connoisseur so I’d trust him. My king crab was flavorless, a waste of stomach space and money. That will teach me to try and find an alternative to meat!
Of course we drank wine. We brought a Catena Zapata 2008, which we’d bought that afternoon. The sommelier helped us find another example of similar caliber, a 2010 Bressia Conjuro, so we could compare the two and expand our learning experience. He was gracious, patient and informative. As were all the staff.
My advice: try his restaurants early in your trip when you are still excited about beef. Would I go back? Well, I’m planning on trying his place in Miami when I’m there later in the week. Really hoping empanadas are on the menu!