Steakhouses are plentiful in Manila, but rare is the restaurant that specializes in the Argentinian way of grilling beef. Thankfully, Manila now boasts not one, but two branches of a famous Argentinian parrilla or steak restaurant from Buenos Aires that offer a different kind of experience for discerning Filipino steak lovers.
In Argentina, the word “parrilla” refers to the simple iron grill that Argentinians use to cook or grill their asados or barbecue. “Parrilla” is also the Spanish term for the actual restaurants that serve these grilled meats. Found all over Buenos Aires, these parrillas range from hole-in-the-wall joints to more posh, high-end establishments. Their popularity isn’t surprising for a country that obviously loves its meat, with Argentinians reportedly consuming over 86.1 kilos per person, per year based on a 2018 World Economic Forum report, making it the third highest meat-consuming country in the world after the United States and Australia.
Originally from Buenos Aires, Parrilla La Cabrera is the brainchild of its primero cocinero Gaston Riveira who opened his contemporary take on an old-school steakhouse in 2003. The restaurant became a runaway success, famous for serving massive cuts of premium quality beef together with a large assortment of hot and cold side dishes. Now considered an institution by locals, La Cabrera received a further boost in popularity in 2013 when it was included in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the first time.
So how did La Cabrera end up in the Philippines? In 2013, Filipino businessman Carlo Calma Lorenzana and his wife, Julia Quisimbing, discovered La Cabrera while honeymooning in Buenos Aires. The couple fell in love with this parrilla and decided that it was the perfect “souvenir” to bring home to Manila. The following year, the Lorenzanas and a handful of their friends partnered with Gaston Riveira to open the first La Cabrera at 6750 Building in Makati, which so happens to be the restaurant’s first Asian outpost.
Close to five years after opening their first branch, the group just opened a second branch in Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in the former space of Paparazzi Italian restaurant, which vacated after 26 years in operation.
At this handsome new branch, diners are greeted by a semi-circular bar at the right side of the entrance that’s well-stocked with different libations that you can enjoy before, during, and after your meals. It’s also an ideal area for one to just chill after work with a drink or two.
Inside the relaxed yet stylish main dining room are banquette seating options, with booths on one side, overlooking the large open kitchen. Those looking for a more private dining experience can book the well-appointed private dining rooms equipped with expandable walls, located on the raised left side of the main dining room.
Like its siblings in Argentina and Makati, the Edsa Shangri-La branch of La Cabrera serves a steak-focused menu of choice cuts that highlights premium quality meats and the distinct Argentinian way of butchering, marinating, and grilling beef in a specially-designed charcoal burning parrilla oven, where most of the main dishes are slow-cooked to perfection.
At the helm of the Edsa Shangri-La branch’s kitchen is Executive Chef Agustin Figueroa who hails from Villa la Angostura in Patagonia, Argentina. Chef Agustin brings with him, not only a wealth of experience derived from working at several five-star hotels, but also a much welcome, pleasant, and friendly disposition. He is ready and excited to show more people what Argentinian parrilla cooking La Cabrera style is all about.
For the best dining experience for first time diners, I recommend starting with an order of Provoleta con Jamon Crudo, Tomates Secos y Albahaca. This traditional Argentinian appetizer dish is comprised of melted Provolone cheese with slightly crisp edges served on a hot cast iron skillet with some Parma ham, sundried tomatoes, and basil, best enjoyed warm.
Then you can choose a cut or two of La Cabrera’s best steak cuts to share. According to the servers, the crowd favorite remains the Ojo de Bife or rib-eye. But I personally prefer the more traditional Argentinian cuts like the Cuadril (Coullotte/Picanha) or rump steak (the rumored favorite steak cut of Pope Francis), and the Entraña or skirt. All these steaks are served with La Cabrera’s signature smorgasbord of hot and cold sides, that includes creamed spinach and tomato chutney, among many others.
For an extra special meal, you can pair your steaks with a glass or two of Lagarde Malbec Reserve wines from Argentina and end the meal with one of their extra decadent desserts, most of which contain dulce de leche. My favorite is the thin crepe-like Panqueque con Dulce de Leche y Helado, which is basically the Argentinian version of crepes served with dulce de leche and ice cream.
La Cabrera, Mezzanine Level, Tower Wing, Edsa Shangri-La, 1 Garden Way, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City, (0967) 236-7940, (02) 633-8888
Photographs courtesy of La Cabrera
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