Normally I don’t really like writing about chains but this time I’ll make an exception since 4 out of 5 Argentines I know have told me to come to this place. I was hesitant to and, on retrospect, 100% right to be so. I love milanesas, mostly because they remind me of a Hungarian granny-food classic, the rántott hús (or husi, if you’re trying to be cute about it). It looks like this:
The Hungarian version is usually made with boneless pork chops which is pounded until thin before passing through the flour-egg-bread crumb assembly line and ending up in a saucepan 3/4 full of sizzling hot oil in which it is fried until the breaded coating is just the right hue of gold. Some kind of savory cheese is sometimes (though rarely) sprinkled over the top and it is often served with rizibizi (white rice with green peas running through it) which is shaped into a fancy-shmancy upside-down cup form as a truly Eastern European attempt at culinary aesthetics.
I grew up on this stuff and learned to love it, learned to recognize the scent and sizzle of it being prepared from a mile away, learned the stealthy moves that were all-too necessary for sneaking into the kitchen while my mom was making it and nabbing a piece without her noticing. So when I learned how popular this thing was in Buenos Aires (maybe about 10 minutes after landing at the airplane for the first time) I was reassured that I had come to the right place to live. And yes, since that day I have eaten tons of them, though most of the time going for the beef version (chicken, unless deep-fried, is a waste on breading). They have rarely let me down.
The Americana at El Club de la Milanesa, although definitely far from being the worst breaded cutlet that has ever touched my lips, leaves some things to be desired…
Notice any difference between this monster and the dish pictured up above? While each mila-topping on its own was very tasty (and together they formed what looked like a smiley face on my plate, which is always appreciated), piling them all on top of the meat made for a sloppy dish in which the thunder was completely stolen from the meat itself which was sadly demoted from the status of main ingredient to that of edible plate.
The bacon itself was deliciously thick and crispy with that smokey essence usually missing in the “pancetta,” so popular as Argentine pizza toppers; I would definitely not have scraped it aside had it been placed in front of me on a breakfast plate. The fried egg, in itself, was equally great, the velvety smooth, warm yolk flooding out of its pillowy white pockets, running down the side of the meat and collecting at the bottom of the plate like some kind of delicious protein soup. It would definitely have made me happy had it been part of some kind of rice dish or cheese croissant breakfast sandwich, even if it had been served to me on a Chilean chorillana….but on the milanesa it was simply too much. It did not belong there. The caramelized onion slivers were in themselves good too, mushy and sweet, although to me they were far too sweet and could’ve used some sort of flavor contrast to pull that dull dulzor in a specific flavor-direction (cinnamon or cloves might’ve done the trick). Their sweetness actually suffocated the milanesa especially since the sauce generated by them seeped into the breading, staining it with an ugly dark brown color, turning it mushy and infusing it with a sickly sweet caramel-taste with no actual flavor. The milanesa itself was a bit too thick for my liking and the breading, although probably fine originally, took on the flavors of the toppings far too much and wound up disappearing in both texture and flavor.
As part of the menu ejecutivo (which, I have come to known, generally just means more for cheaper lunch specials), the milanesa also came with a ginormous pile of papas rústicas, fried potato wedges sitting in a creamy white sauce and topped off with a generous portion of melting cheddar cheese, shallots and green onions. A great, hearty, no-brainer side that I would definitely NOT say no to were I consuming it aside a liter of Heineken or as a late-night snack after hitting the town hard. With the milanesa, though, it was far too heavy and simply unnecessary, taking even more attention off the meat I wanted when I placed my order.
Overall I found nothing wrong with the quality of the food at this place; I just thought the ingredients were combined in a dumb-sloppy way and as someone who actually appreciates the milanesa for what it is, a thin pounded cutlet of meat coated with a fried but airy bread coating, I missed the simplicity of what in my opinion that dish should be. If however, you are starving and looking for a messy pile of protein, fat and cholesterol to soothe the hunger-pangs (which I am not averse to doing), this is definitely the place and the dish for you!