Out of all the restaurants I was looking to visit with my wife Jun during our Argentina trip, Don Julio in Buenos Aires was the place I looked forward to visiting the most. Having become one of the iconic steakhouse parrillas in the city’s Palermo neighborhood, culminating in the top ten (and #1 from Argentina) listing in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list recently, I had to experience what the top-notch steak in Argentina would taste like. We already had a taste of outstanding steak at La Carniceria on our first day in Buenos Aires (see my review here ), and it was only fitting that our last meal in Buenos Aires would be with steak as well. Given that our flight back to New York was later at night, I didn’t want to risk losing the chance to sit down at Don Julio due to the allegedly notorious wait time if you don’t have a reservation and therefore took Jun to the restaurant during lunch time. Not surprisingly, there was line already forming but it wasn’t overly long (so we ended up getting seated right away once the restaurant opened at noon) and the staffs graciously brought champagnes for the crowd to fight the hot summer weather. Given that our meal was during lunch time and Jun was not 100% recovered from her weariness, we perhaps didn’t have as much food as we would’ve normally ordered, but I’ve seen enough from Don Julio to confidently conclude this was the best restaurant that we’d been to in Argentina.
Before you get to the steak department, I highly recommend that you check out the sausage section. We shared the spicy longaniza sausage, similarly to chorizo, that was quite delicious and felt appropriate to get our taste bud ready before we moved on to the bigger things. We didn’t want to repeat our mistake of ordering two large meat dishes, especially at a lunch time and with Jun’s appetite not fully back, so we had to be careful in choosing one steak that we felt compelled to order. We decided to order the tenderloin (bife de lomo) and absolutely hit the jackpot. One great thing about steak in Argentina in general is the restraint when it comes to the meat’s flavor. Unlike many steakhouses in America where a ton of butter and salt are used to juice up the flavor, Don Julio really seems to know what it’s doing with minimal seasoning, backing up with the tenderloin with expert grilling that brought out a perfect medium rare meat. I was really struggling to remember a steak as good as this one in my lifetime after I got the first bite. Another thing that surprised me about the parrilla experience in Argentina is how well the vegetable sides complement the meat. I’ve already seen that with the cabbage that was essential to the ribeye we had ordered at La Carniceria; at Don Julio, the magic potion was from the grilled vine tomato. Get a bite of the steak and then eat one of these little tomatoes, and you get this marvelous contrast between the smoky meat and the citrusy vegetable. The la plata grilled peppers were also a fantastic pairing for the meat, with a slightly spicy kick that brought another element. At the end, I gladly scooped up the rest of the meat that Jun couldn’t finish after we split it in half.
As noted above, if you don’t have a reservation and don’t want to wait for a long time, head over the restaurant for lunch where the likelihood of getting seated right away is substantially higher. Not surprisingly, Don Julio has an excellent wine list go complement its meat line-ups; given that it was lunch, we both went for the generously poured three-glass flight consisting of chardonnay, pinot noir and Malbec-based blend that nicely complemented our food. If you do end up ordering a bottle of wine, I heard you are allowed to display your bottle on the wall with your name signed. The décor of the parrilla may look slightly touristy, but I thought it added another charming element to our lunch. Don Julio is an absolute-must visit when you are in Buenos Aires. Jun and I are both unapologetic carnivores who love great dishes, and I can confidently declare the tenderloin we’ve had here comfortably belongs in the top-three meat dishes of my lifetime (I need to remember what the other two are).
KenScale: 8.75/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.75/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 9.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: Guatemala 4691, C1425CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina