Although I personally have grown quite weary of the very concept of the milanesa, having ordered one too many grease-bombs that left me curled up in bed, whispering little-league-coach-like encouragement to my digestive system (“Come on little fellas, we can do it! Let’s take ’em out of here!”), I had to put one in front of my parents so that they could experience this totem of Argentine gastronomy and leave the country feeling knowledgeable.
So I decided to take them to a place I have heard referred to as “one of the best milanesas in town” by many, a little old Palermo eatery called El Preferido Palermo. I have only been here one other time and I remember getting some sort of pickle plate and beers. Needless to stay I skipped over the milanesa list real quick. The place is kind of famous, apparently Borges himself chilled in here. The main gimmick is that it was originally a Spanish almacen in the 50’s and was only later converted into a restaurant, but it retains the old-school shelves stocked with dusty bottles of olive oil and wine, cans of eels, tomatoes, beans and olives. This is the type of place grandpa sent little Timmy (or Carlitos, I guess) for some jarred pickled cow tongue and a packa smokes, where the grumpy but kindhearted and winking shop-owner gave the kid a gum-ball, where the kid tipped his hat and responded with a “Jeez wiz! Thankyuh mister!” But in Spanish…. you get the idea.
I have to say, this milanesa (a la) napolitana actually crossed “tolerable” with flying colors and came just short of the “amazing” line. The beef, far from the greasy thick cow chunk I’m used to in this dish, was incredibly tender, perfectly pounded, beautiful baby veal no thicker than a 70-sheet College Ruled notebook. The tomato sauce was thick and wonderfully flavorful, with chunks of onion and tomato poking out here and there while the more acidic, liquidy part of the sauce greedily invaded the dried bread crumb coating of the meat. A salty-sweet, slightly chewy but mostly soft piggy blanket of ham was lain over the top of the sauce and a layer of gooey, oregano dusted faux-mozzarella (let’s just call it provolone) melted over that. In this case, although the cheese was thick and satisfying, it was not overwhelming and while the ham was packed with flavor, there was only a single thin layer of it so it danced gracefully with the veal like a young beautiful lovers instead of lying on each other fat and lazy like some sort of old, disgruntled married couple. The acidity of the tomato sauce cut the excess oil from the cheese, everything was perfectly balanced. Handcut, crispy gold fried were bomb too. It left me light as a frikin’ butterfly.
As morcilla did not appear on the menu, and as my parents were very adamant about sticking to their (at least)1-morcilla-a-day diet, we ended up ordering something kind of close to (but still way too far from) it, knockwurst with chucrut (sauerkraut). Not bad but nothing to write home about. Definitely a classic combo for the lover of the Deutsch Küche.
One definite proof of the lightness of Preferido’s milanesa is that the suggestion of dessert was met with an airy and unanimous “Hey yeah, I could eat something sweet” instead of the usual post-mila “Please God don’t mention eating ever again.” Looking around to see what other folks were finishing off their dinners with, the flan con dulce de leche stood out like a buxom blonde in a red dress drinking a Campari Orange at a dingy motorcycle-gang dive-bar. Sexy, soft, sensual. The flan was like a sweet custardy cloud, light and fluffy with a slightly sticky caramelized beret. It was sitting in a pool of what seemed to be at least semi-homemade (no, Sandra Lee, YOU still suck) dulce de leche, velvety thick and sickly sweet but without that off-putting corn syrup-y glow to it.
In conclusion, simpatico. Thanks for a great dinner P.d.P!