FIRST LOOK: La Cabrera Schools You on the Art of the Argentine Steak
It all starts with a good grill.
Mezzanine Level, Tower Wing, EDSA Shangri-La, 1 Garden Way, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City
Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) Being on the heels of a well-loved institution can be an intimidating challenge, especially when what you’re following has the 26-year history of EDSA Shangri-La’s Paparazzi. But if there’s any restaurant that has experience exceeding expectations, it’s La Cabrera, which very recently opened their second branch in what used to be Paparazzi’s space. “What's common between this and [the branch at 6750 Ayala Avenue Business Tower] is [that] they're both historical places,” says co-owner Carlo Calma Lorenzana. “ used to be Giraffe and this used to be Paparazzi. We didn’t plan it; it’s all providential.”
It helps that La Cabrera has proven themselves more than enough at their first Makati branch—those new to the Argentinian steakhouse, meanwhile, will be in for a treat. For one, don’t expect your usual dark and broody steakhouse. La Cabrera keeps an elegant, moody vibe with lots of antique furniture from Pampanga while knickknacks from Lorenzana’s mother-in-law keep the place feeling homey. “The original La Cabrera [in Argentina] is rustic, direct to the point, [and] no frou-frou,” says Lorenzana. “Our branches in the Philippines are more refined but we wanted the same vibe of casual elegance.”
Saying that the parilla or Argentinian steakhouse is huge in Argentina is an understatement. “It’s part of our culture,” says executive chef Agustin Figueroa. “If I invite you to my house, you have to eat asado (or Argentinian grilled meat). That is cultural.”
“When an Argentinian builds a house, you build the grill first and then you build the house around it,” adds Lorenzana.
Like any parilla, La Cabrera takes great pride in their grill. Though Lorenzana hesitates to share trade secrets, he shares that the grill is custom-made for La Cabrera per their specifications. This meticulousness is important because Argentinian steaks are grilled without any prior aging or marinade, and are only seasoned with salt—if the beef isn’t of the best quality or if it isn’t seared properly, it will show.
You won’t have to worry about that at all at La Cabrera. They’re confident enough in their grilling capabilities to highlight cuts of beef that aren’t showcased by your typical steakhouse but are traditional to Argentina. Take the Asado del Centro (P2,680/500 grams) or beef short ribs for example. Short ribs have the reputation of being gummy unless braised for long periods, but at La Cabrera, a proper sear at the grill makes them tender, with an intense salty-charred flavor.
The Cuadril (P3,280) or the rump steak is also often overlooked—though Lorenzana shares that the cut is rumored to be the favorite of Pope Francis. We can see why; those looking for a bolder char and saltier bite should opt for this cut.
La Cabrera also does the more popular cuts of steak—and does them excellently. Even though they’ve only been open for a few weeks, the Ojo de Bife (P3,480/500 grams, P4,995/800 grams) or rib-eye is already a bestseller. Spending just the right amount of time on the grill, the steak retains its natural beefy juices, making each forkful mouthwatering. La Cabrera also offers a 15-day wet-aged rib-eye, the Ojo de Bife 15 Dias (P3,880/500 grams) for those who prefer a stronger savory flavor.
But La Cabrera's primary goal is to ease Manila in to the Argentinian way of steak. They’re surely on the right path; give it some time and the Cuadril could very well become your new favorite cut of steak.
Photos by Majoy Siason