GRILL SEEKER

The su­pe­rior bar­be­cue set-up is turn­ing heads at new Ar­gen­tinian restau­rant La Boca

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - COVER STORY -

You can keep your high-tech, dig­i­tal-dis­play kitchen gad­gets that whir and buzz and ping. My dream piece of cook­ing gear is some­thing far more primeval. It would look, in fact, like the fire­place just in­side the door at La Boca, the Ar­gen­tinian bar and grill that’s just opened in the Stam­ford Plaza ho­tel, re­plac­ing the un­la­mented and aw­fully named Swish.

This “asador”, to give it the cor­rect name, is a waist-high clay brick plat­form kit­ted up with a se­ries of heavy metal grills that can be raised or low­ered by chains, and larger racks that hold a small beast an­gled above the coals. Think of a me­dieval tor­ture cham­ber and you’re on the right track.

There’s noth­ing else like it in Ade­laide and, along with the vi­brant wall mu­rals, par­ti­tions formed from stacked logs, cow hide bar stools and vin­tage movies shown on large TVs, gives La Boca the con­fi­dent per­son­al­ity that seems hard to con­jure in most ho­tel din­ing rooms. If only it had been a few de­grees warmer, es­pe­cially when the din­ing room on this night is less than half-full and the metal seats are rem­i­nis­cent of win­ter at Footy Park.

Madeleine, the young girl wait­ing our ta­ble, bright­ens things con­sid­er­ably with her un­forced enthusiasm and ser­vice smarts that would get her a job in most places. Her rec­om­men­da­tion of a mixed “en­trada” brings a gen­er­ous collection in four sep­a­rate dishes: crumbed frit­ters of potato and smoked cod; ex­cel­lent corn bread; a mixed grill of chorizo and mor­cilla; and beef em­panadas in a de­cent flaky pastry.

All fine. In the end, how­ever, La Boca’s rep­u­ta­tion will be won or lost on the qual­ity of its meat.

Let’s deal with the neg­a­tive first, a prob­lem with lo­gis­tics that hope­fully can be ironed out.

When we ar­rive just be­fore 8pm, the cook­ing on the asador is mostly fin­ished, with only a few steaks be­ing grilled to or­der. As well as miss­ing out on some of the theatre, it means we are eat­ing meat that has been cooked ear­lier, then kept warm. Ex­cept, served on stone-cold plates, it is tepid at best by the time it reaches the ta­ble.

If most of our “asador mixta” hadn’t been so damn good, it would have felt like left­overs. But the lamb, es­pe­cially the darker shreds that I’m pretty sure come from the shoul­der, is mildly smoky, juicy and de­li­cious, while the pork is pale and sweet, with just enough fat and a nice piece of crack­led skin. Slices of flank steak, while tra­di­tional for a South Amer­i­can bar­be­cue, don’t have much flavour and at least need an ac­com­pa­ni­ment such as chimichurr­i, which isn’t pro­vided.

A slab of pork ribs from the belly are smoked then fin­ished on the grill. They must have been cooked long and slow be­cause they fall apart at the small­est provo­ca­tion into a deca­dent mess of melt­ing flesh that is rich, creamy and (thank good­ness) hot.

With an equally wicked serve of fried slices of sweet potato in a light bat­ter, and a com­par­a­tively pu­ri­tan­i­cal quinoa and zuc­chini salad, it’s a mas­sive meal. Cer­tainly too big to con­tem­plate dessert, even if the choice had been more com­pelling than pan­cakes, straw­ber­ries or pumpkin cake.

The fol­low­ing day when I call by, two splayed beasts are cook­ing on the asador for the night ahead and the din­ing room is pump­ing with a happy crowd en­joy­ing the lunchtime deals. It’s a good place to be. The Stam­ford people are on a win­ner with La Boca, I reckon. If not, I’ve got first dibs on their bar­be­cue. MUST TRY Home smoked pork ribs grilled on the par­illa ALSO CON­SIDER Sosta, city; Fire on Un­ley, Un­ley

CLAR­I­FI­CA­TION Chaf­fey Bros 2104 Dufte Punkt ($23) is a blend of gewürz­traminer, ries­ling and the lit­tle known weisser herold (aka kerner) all from one vine­yard, which is re­port­edly one of only two in Aus­tralia that grows the last of those.

It’s an aro­matic mas­ter­work, with rose, musk, Turk­ish de­light, a dis­tinc­tive fen­nel seed note and spiced ap­ple, all given a neat edge from the ries­ling’s nat­u­ral min­er­ally acid. The weisser herold, we’re told, adds a cer­tain tex­ture to the wine. The blend would be de­li­cious with any kind of pork roast.

An­other ver­sion comes from the Coon­awarra. Rymill 2013 gt ($21.95) shows much of the same fra­grance spec­trum, then moves into a slightly fuller, unc­tu­ous body shape, with a sweet apri­cot fruit note as well that’s tem­pered with a light grape­fruit smat­ter of acid­ity. The richer palate will work a treat with chilli-touched Asian dishes.

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