Telling people that your favourite meal is steak can often be met with derision. It seems like a safe option and perhaps a little unimaginative. I find it very difficult to be pinned down to a favourite meal, but there is a lot of joy to be derived from a perfectly cooked slab of quality beef. Get it wrong however and it can be incredibly disappointing.
The art of cooking a steak is something that many have an opinion on, although there are some hard and fast rules – meat at room temperature before cooking and resting afterwards for example. That it should be pink and bloody goes without saying, anything beyond medium rare is a travesty.
It is generally believed that Argentina leads the way in the steak world. The steakhouse is king in Buenos Aries, despite the rise of other cuisines, and we in Brighton have our own taste of Argentina at Latino America in Hove.
Latino America opened its doors around a year ago and has become a favourite spot for a few of our local celebrities – Brighton and Hove Albion captain Bruno was eating when we visited. Owner Damian is very passionate about the food of his homeland with dishes inspired by his childhood featuring on the menu. There is a mix of Argentine and Italian inspired dishes and an extensive wine list of almost exclusively Argentinian wines, obviously Malbec is the order of the day. With separate vegetarian, group and children’s menu they have got all the bases covered.
We visited on a Tuesday evening and there was a good crowd in the restaurant and a bubbly atmosphere. The clientele were quite mixed which goes to show that a good steak appeals to everyone. Damian welcomed us warmly and we took a seat in the window.
We discuss the food and I ask him recommend some dishes and wine. We go for the Empanadas (£5.50 for two) and Provoleta al Oreganato (£6.50) to start and a bottle of Tapiz Rosé Malbec (£27). I’m not one to drink rosé but Damian insists we try it and I am glad I went with his choice. This dark and complex rosé has much more body than any I’d tried previously and is a perfect choice for a muggy evening – it even stands up well to the steak.
The starters arrive in good time and we start our feast. We have one chicken and one beef empanada which have been deep fried. The pastry is light and slightly crisp without a hint of greasiness. The chicken filling is fruity and succulent with a hint of chilli heat, the beef is similarly spiced and has richness to it that I enjoy – neither takes long to disappear.
The provoleta is melted provolone cheese that is served with slices of toast to dip and scoop with. It is quite a fun thing to eat and the melted gooey cheese is a somewhat indulgent but tasty treat although not the most refined. I could imagine eating this in a bar whilst enjoying a beer.
For the mains I opt for the Ojo De Bife (£16.90 or £23.50) which is the rib eye and my friend goes for Milanesa a la Napolitanna (£12.50) – a breaded and fried piece of beef topped with tomato and cheese. I add a serving of Chimichurri (£2.20) to my order as it would be rude not to, got to keep things traditional.
Damien is proud to announce that their steak is imported from Argentina and of the highest quality. I go for the smaller size and am presented with a very appealing looking plate of food. The meat appears well seared with the classic diamond griddle marks and it glistens with juices. I delve in and am rewarded with a mouthful of deep flavoursome beef that has been cooked to my order and rested appropriately (probably down to how long it took to take the photos). The chimichurri is packed with refreshing herbs, you cannot argue with that combination.
My friends dish is an interesting one, think along the lines of a pizza with a beef base instead of dough. This is a dish that Damien’s grandmother used to make, and with that much cheese I hope it wasn’t a daily occurrence. Joking aside my friend tucks into it and gets through the lot without complaint.
I finish with a childhood favourite of mine, crème caramel – or “Flan Mixto” as it is on the menu. I am pleased to be presented with a sweet yet creamy dessert that has some texture to it that has clearly been made on site. It reminds me of the ones my Dad used to make and it doesn’t last long. My friend opts for a traditional “Don Pedro” which is vanilla ice cream, nuts and a shot of whisky. If you like all of those things then I’m sure it will go down well, I am pleased I made the choice I did.
The rain is hammering down outside and I am waiting for a break to dash to the station which gives me time to reflect on the meal. It was good, I enjoyed my Argentine steak experience. Is Latino America the best steak in Brighton? Perhaps not, but it was much better than most other steak houses I’ve visited. Definitely give the Tapiz rose a try as that was a real surprise highlight, and the atmosphere in the restaurant makes for a pleasant environment. With interesting starters and a great choice of sauces and sides to go with your steak there is a lot going for Latino America.
36 Church Rd
This review first appeared in the 29th Edition of the Brighton and Hove Independent. The restaurant were aware that I was reviewing and the meal was complimentary which in no way affected the outcome of this review.