Roast Strips in the Stable…

tira de asado at El Establo

No, friends, let me reassure you that you have not accidentally stumbled upon some weird, faux-rustic “pron” site. For good or bad, the only p0rn you’ll find here is daring, ultra-close-up pics of the juicy, young flesh of pasture-fed Argentine cattle. And the only things being roasted (or stripping for that matter) are long strips of beef ribs, or tira de asado.

The setting for this particular Argentine skin flick was El Establo, (meaning the stable), a famous old parilla in the Retiro district of Buenos Aires.

Tira de Asado at Home (w/ Salsa Criolla)

Arriving at this restaurant after another long walk across the City, we found ourselves salivating even more than usual at the sight of giant hunks of meat sizzling over glowing coals because the previous night’s meal had been so disappointing. We’ll devote an entire post about why our experience at Casa Saltshaker was such a let-down another day, but suffice it to say for now, that this chastening experience was beneficial because we learned that disappointment can be an excellent appetite-whetter.

El Establo

Greeted enthusiastically by our ebullient waiter Javier, we were presented with a large menu, including a range of steaks and pasta, as well as a wide variety of northern Spanish classics – the restaurant’s founder being an immigrant from the Gijon area of Asturias. After a good ten minute study of said menu, we looked up and noticed our surroundings: a high-ceilinged whitewashed room with thick, dark wood beams, somewhat reminiscent of a stable, with the exception of the giant barbecue, and behind us, an intimidating old liquor cabinet packed with all manner of head-splitting firewaters in knobbly green and brown bottles.

papas a la provenzal

Famished by our walk and the meager offerings of the night before, we ordered the heroically proportioned ensalada del Establo (containing almost every vegetable you can name plus potatoes and boiled eggs), and what turned out to be a giant order of lengua a la vinaigrette (cold, boiled beef tongue with garlic, hot pepper and vinegar sauce) as appetizers, and somewhat conservatively, we figured, a half order, respectively, of entraña (skirt steak) and tira de asado.

cold tongue at El Establo
ensalada mixta

Tira de asado (roast strips) is one of several uniquely Argentine cuts of beef that are perfectly suited to the high-heat charring (al carbon)of a traditional parilla. Beef ribs are cross-cut so that long narrow strips of inter-costal meat are interspersed with knots of rib-bone, which serves to shorten the often tough fibers of this part of the beast and allow them to be grilled instead of cooked using the long, low & slow method for the typical beef ribs barbecue familiar to Americans.

Tira de Asado at Home

The juiciness and wonderfully gamey flavor of beef ribs is also retained brilliantly with this method, creating an irresistible contrast in texture to the crust formed on the outside by the searing heat from the charcoal.

tira de asado

Similar cuts of meat are available from some butchers in the US, the closest probably being the flanken rib, which is a short rib cut across the bone. From what we know from visiting several local butchers in Brooklyn, these are delicious, but generally thicker and meatier than those we ate in Argentina, bringing us to the conclusion that they’re cut from higher up the steer. Of course, as we plan to do at several points over the summer, you could quite easily buy yourself a rack of beef ribs and a fine-toothed saw (or heavy cleaver) and cut your own meat to order. I expect that satisfying thwack of steel on bone will be one of the signature sounds of the season.

tira de asado at El Establo

We were delighted with our lunch at El Establo in all respects, and the playful friendliness of Javier interjecting his Argentine-inflected “you’re welcome”s as he brought more and more food to the table, only complemented our general sense of well-being. Like many professional waiters, he did his job expertly without either writing anything down or seeming to be in a hurry. Strolling around, gracefully hefting heavily-laden iron meat trays, and pausing now and then to chat and joke with our fellow diners, Javier seemed to be enjoying himself as much as we were. In fact, the only time I saw him frown was when, casting a wary eye over the meaty wreckage on our table, he tapped his nose, and, winking, advised us that we would need another half-bottle of wine if were going to properly enjoy the remainder of our steak. You can’t argue with service like that.

signature plates at El Establo

We ate tira de asado on at least three occasions during our week in Argentina, and so hooked were we that for our first steak meal in the month since returning home we trekked all over Brooklyn looking for an appropriate cut of meat. Ultimately, we didn’t quite find an exact facsimile of what we’d eaten in Buenos Aires, but the ribs we made and grilled at home were still very, very good all the same. And, when accompanied with lashings of sweet-vinegary-spicy condiment salsa criolla (creole sauce), a hearty Malbec, and a bowl of the highly addictive side dish that is papas fritas a la provenzal (french fries with fried garlic and parsley), it didn’t take an enormous mental leap to be back at El Establo listening to Javier expound his theory of why Fernet-Branca is the most popular digestive in Argentina. (it burns through steak the best)

Argentine Salsa Criolla (Creole Sauce) Recipe
(makes enough for 2-3 hungry people)

  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed & finely chopped
  • 1/2 red New Holland pepper, or any medium heat red pepper of your choice
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 3tsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped or julienned
  • 5 tbsp best olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • good pinch of kosher salt
  • good pinch of freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and stir well.
  2. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour prior to serving. Best after at least 24 hours.
  3. After letting it “improve”, taste sauce and add shade more oil, vinegar or hot pepper according to your taste.
  4. Enjoy with the grilled meats of your choice, but also try on chicken, fish, over rice, or just about anything that could do with a little helping hand flavor-wise.
El Establo
Paraguay 489 (y San Martín), Retiro, Buenos Aires, CF, Argentina.
T: 4311-1639
7:00 a.m.- 2:00 a.m. daily; mains AR$25-$48

32 thoughts on “Roast Strips in the Stable…

  1. I’ve had some success asking butchers (at Whole Foods Bowery and Union Square) to saw ribs in half for me. Not to discourage you from acquiring a fine-toothed saw, but be careful!

  2. I love how Argentinians cut and care for their meat!!!! Que Festival!!! I love all the menu but those ribs are insane ;D. and look at that tongue… he, he… I love it. Butchers here in Spain would do that for clients. You should move over here ;D

  3. Deng…. looking all of this food early in the morning make me so hungry. I’m just finishing up my breakfast, cold cereal… ah so not fair!

  4. These ribs are used most here to make Korean-style short ribs or Kalbi. No recipe here for me to bookmark? They look REAL tasty! lol

  5. I’ve been on hiatus, but what a wonderful post to return to! I can’t wait to do some back reading on other Argentinean adventures – I’m dying to visit Buenos Aires. Fabulous, informative post!

  6. Jonny,
    What is “pron”? Did you mean “porn”? You wrote it twice, and I am trying to figure out if this is some kind of weird code word for Argentinian beef!
    I hear their meat is amazing… pun intended.

  7. argentinians have such wonderful culture! i don’t think i’ve ever had an all out argentinian meal. que extrano. tongue! LOVE IT! my mom makes an amazing lengua en salsa de tomate!

  8. Flanken is one of my favorite ways of a rib, but I’ve only ever had them cooked low and slow. This is interesting…

    Please tell me you gave in and went to at least one El Gaucho-style meat-on-a-sword place, if just for the kitsch factor.

  9. MEAT
    to someone who has not had enough lately and whose posts are looking suspiciously vegetarian lately (note to myself, more flesh) and whose other half does not, this looks amazing.
    I like the sound of Javier – my kind of waiter

  10. Stacey – “pron” was my way, albeit a confusing one, of trying to avoid attracting spammers to our blog. Including the word p0rn twice in the opening paragraph (or 160 characters if we’re getting all search engine optimization-y) might jeopardize the “flavor” and calibre, shall we say, of potential visitors to our humble, family-oriented blog. Apologies for the confusion, Amy didn’t get it either, and I now completely understand that not everyone’s mind works the same way as mine – certainly a good thing!

    Peter(the Greek) – you’re not the only one who has suggested a recipe might be in order here (though you were much friendlier about it than a certain someone else), so, if you’re really interested, scroll back up again and check out our prescription for salsa criolla (go on, pronounce it the Argentine way and zzhh your el’s – “criozzha”). Just note that this condiment comes in about as many different forms as you can imagine: some are very mild and herby, some are thinner, more vinegary, and others are a cross between A1 steak sauce and tabasco; so our recipe is not the only one, and feel free to jigger with it to your heart’s content.

    Heather – sadly we didn’t go anywhere that really relished the kitsch factor as much as they could/should, though a hybrid of several of the places we did go allows us to create one in our minds. One place (La Payuca) dresses its cooks Gaucho-style and has them using giant, bowie knives to slice-up the steaks; and another (Estilo Criollo) had a real asador, a giant fire surrounded by cross-like stakes with whole sides of beef roasting slowly and hissing fat. Next time we go, and there will be a next time, we’ll be making time to head out into the pampas armed with big knives and funny britches, and, even if we have to do our own pantomime/pastiche, we’re going to do it up El Gaucho style!

  11. Love reading about your travel eating adventures! (Who needs Rachel Ray when we have you guys?!) I hope to get to BA some day so it was fun to read this post & then there are the pictures of the food!! I love grilled meat especially beef so I KNOW I’ll be right at home in Argentina. Thanks!

  12. i too only know from flanken being boiled. (man, that even reads jewish…) i think it’s a jewish thing. like in pea soup. the best. screw a ham bone when you’ve got flanken. you can quote me on that.

    i think the waiter was just trying to sell you more wine under the guise of CARING. but that’s just me. and i have a devious mind.

    the potatoes and tongue look great too – i want them now. but really, i just wanna know how you didn’t die from beef poisoning.

  13. Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday. I thought I’d swing by and see what was cooking. I’m working my way through your Argentina and Uruguay posts now. Tira de asado is definitely one of my favorite cuts here in Argentina. I’m loving your posts. Besos from Argentina!

  14. I enjoy your stories a lot. I live in Suriname, near Brazil and have been to Argentina (6 months study), Chile and Uruguay frequently. the quality of their meats is extraordinary. we have tried everything, including pigs trotters (balls) grilled alla parillada. went to Estilo Criollo and had a terrific mixed grill and also in Mendoza on a hacienda, where a live parillada was hosted. in Uruguay we had the same experience. I would love going back in time and revisit all those little restaurants (even one, which was totally empty of customers, where the waiter had a bigote made with a black eyebrow pencil and the Chilean style food was delish.. I love South american food. you should come visit us some time. it’s totally different here.

  15. @Jude: thanks so much for visiting our site. So glad you enjoyed Argentina as much as we did, and even visited Estilo Criollo too! The waiter with the drawn-on mustache must have been quite the experience! We’re dying to get back down to that part of the world.

    Suriname is definitely on our list of places to visit. It seems like such a unique blend of South America, Dutch, Indonesian and Indian, not to mention the tropical flora and fauna. Thanks for the invitation!

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