Elle and I were invited to try out the food at L'Atelier d'Argentine. Lucky for us because Elle had wanted to try it out for a while. A funny coincidence is that she ended up going a few weeks before our outing for a friend's birthday! [ Elle: The restaurant was extremely accommodating of a large, loud group with late arrivals and the food was fantastic especially the pan de queso style biscuits in the bread basket - which we did not get a chance to try this time.]
The restaurant is in the heart of Old Montréal and has been beautifully decorated, mixing high end and rustic details. L'Atelier d'Argentine has been opened for over a year, specializing in (obviously!) Argentinian fare. The maître d Alexandre greeted us warmly; he was very knowledgeable and helpful throughout the night.
While Elle decided on ordering the hermanito ($11), made up of strawberry, cherry, lime and rum, I decided to skip the apéritif since I am such a lightweight. Alexandre was nice enough to bring me a prosecco to enjoy with the appetizers.
We decided to trust Alexandre and let him pick dishes that he thought best represented the restaurant. We started out with the cuarteto empanadas ($13). Four types of empanadas were included, each in different shape pastry: cheese, hand carved beef, sweet corn, and finally ham and cheese. The homemade pastry was flaky. The beef empanada was very well seasoned while the corn was the most unique filling. Elle's favourite was the combination of ham and cheese.
The appetizers were paired with Alamos' Torrontés, an Argentinian white wine that was light and fruity, perfect for our next appetizer.
Next, we had two fish appetizers: crudo de corvina ($12) and tiradito de atun ($12). Elle was very happy since she had been eyeing de corvina when we looked at the menu! Both fish preparation were raw, then dressed with lime juice right before serving, unlike ceviche in which the fish is marinated for a longer period of time.
The corvina is a white fish that is popular in South American cuisine. The delicate slices of fish were accompanied by an avocado salad. The tuna slices were slightly seasoned with paprika and topped with greens and tomato. Both dishes were excellent but our clear favourite was the corvina; we loved the combination of the white fish with creamy avocado chunks and the crispy waffle cut chips. As Elle put it, "there's nothing bad about that dish".
Crudo de corvina and tiradito de atun.
Next, Alexandre brought us quintessential Argentinan food: grilled beef on a cutting board. It was quite a sight to behold! We shared the flank steak - vacio (12 oz. for $19) and the short ribs - asado de tira (14 oz. for $26). The beef was paired with another Argentinian wine, this time Alamos' Malbec from Mendoza. I rarely drink red wine but I had to admit that I actually enjoyed the Malbec.
The beef was served with a butternut squash purée topped with bacon, carrots cooked in butter, as well as chimichurri and criolla sauces. It was hard to not add too much of the tasty chimichurri. While the short ribs were cooked beautifully, the flank steak was a tad overdone, maybe because it sat there while we ate the ribs first. The carrots were cooked to perfection and was definitely our favourite side dish.
Main: grilled short ribs and flank steak.
At this point, we were stuffed! We had one last course to go, which consisted of a sampler of three desserts: queso y dulce ($9), a milk semifreddo and panqueques ($8). The queso y dulce is a goat cheese cake topped with a quince compote and cocoa crumble. I loved the tanginess of the goat cheese and this is the perfect dessert for me, not too sweet! Supposedly, the dulce de leche stuffed crêpe is the most popular dessert; it was rich and sweet, and well counterbalanced by the milk semifreddo, which was deceptively light and airy.
Elle and I had a great dinner at L'Atelier d'Argentine. The service was extremely attentive and the food was delicious. I'm not a wine connoiseur but the staff is there to guide you through an expansive list of more than 130 wines, with a focus on South American wines.
While L'Atelier d'Argentine is probably more of a special dinner destination, it is also launching a 5-à-7 in a few weeks with $5 drinks and a new bar menu. In addition, it offers an extremely great special called Buenos Aires Hours: starter and main for $22.50 after 10:30 pm. That's a great deal to try out excellent Argentinian food.