A taste of Argentina in Philadelphia
At Malbec Argentine Steakhouse, two local Latin American couples serve up some of Argentina’s finest meats and wines.
Nestled along 2nd Street in Philadelphia’s cobblestoned Society Hill neighborhood, Malbec Argentine Steakhouse provides the city with an authentic, innovative taste of Argentina.
Now in its third year, the restaurant is a partnership between two Latin American couples: Argentine chef Daniel Sollosqui and Miriam Porto, his Cuban wife; and Walter Aragonez (also Argentine) and Giselle Jara, who is of Ecuadorian origin.
Originally drawn to Philly by family and friends, their idea was to bring a real Argentine steakhouse to the city. The couples spent more than a year searching for the right location and designed the interior themselves using items imported from Argentina, including placemats. Bright, colorful paintings by Sollosqui adorn the walls, while cowhide fabric covers seat cushions.
“People love the cow cushions,” Aragonez smiled, the face of the restaurant and its day-to-day manager. “They always come in asking if that space is available.”
The extensive food and wine offerings, emblematic of a steakhouse or a backyard barbeque in Argentina, is a big lure. The most popular dish is the parrillada, an enormous platter boasting a variety of meats such as grilled Angus short ribs, sausage, blood sausage, sweetbreads, and skirt steak.
“The parrillada is a mix of many different cuts of meat,” said Aragonez. “It’s like a platter of meat in the backyard, where family and friends gather to socialize.”
The platter is more than enough for two, but patrons can also order any of the meats individually. The most recent meat addition to the menu is the small intestine brought in from New York, but the most popular option is the skirt steak. The sausage and sweetbread were my favorites. All meats are prime Angus beef and hand chosen by Aragonez to ensure top quality.
For vegetarians or those who can’t handle an endless array of meat, Malbec offers a version of the parrillada featuring grilled veggies and fantastic, fresh empanadas. There is also an extensive list of seafood dishes, such as Chilean sea bass, as well as homemade pastas, reflecting the strong Italian influence within Argentine cuisine.
“Most immigrants to Argentina came from either Spain or Italy,” Aragonez explained. “You can see those influences in what we eat.”
In fact, the restaurant recently added seafood paella to the menu, cooked to the specifications of Aragonez’s father, an immigrant to Argentina from Valencia, Spain.
Malbec prides itself on inventive offerings. Examples include the Tango cocktail, a concoction of homemade Yerba Mate syrup, fresh citrus, Fernet-Branca, Prairie organic corn-based vodka, and Yerba Mate-flavored ice cream.
A meal at Malbec would not be complete without wine. Although the restaurant’s name is reminiscent of Argentina’s signature vino, it is really derived from the Malbec grape, which is primarily produced in the country.
The restaurant’s cellar is extensive, boasting more than 15 varieties of Malbec in addition to many whites, rosés, and cocktails. The restaurant also hosts wine tastings led by a qualified sommelier, often focusing on a particular varietal.
Once a month, the restaurant also hosts a tango night. Tables are pushed back and an Argentine couple takes to the floor.
But perhaps Malbec’s feature most emblematic of Argentina is the friendly, familial vibe. Many of the waiters have worked with Aragonez for years and he counts numerous customers as regulars who greet him by name and have a traditional place to sit.
“People come from all over, [including] Bucks County, Delaware, but many live right here in this neighborhood,” Aragonez said.
To learn more about Malbec or check dates for its next wine tastings and tango nights, visit malbecsteakhouse.com.