“The beef is generally not that good in Argentina,” says Christopher Mark. “Compared to Japanese wagyu, or USDA Prime, or the best Australian beef, your typical Argentinian beef doesn’t hold up.”
It’s an odd, even controversial, statement. Especially since it comes from the co-owner of Buenos Aires Polo Club, Hong Kong’s leading Argentinian steakhouse.
Beef is the primary export of Argentina, bred to feed European and American markets. But the cattle brought to the country were mostly beasts of burden to warmer environments. “These are not the best cows to eat,” shares Mark.
This is why the Black Sheep Restaurants group works with a certain supplier to breed a specific type of Black Angus cattle. The meat is more tender than what you’d usually find in Argentina, yet keeps the lovely gamey flavour of grass-fed beef. The secret of the beef is in the genes.
The restaurant uses Black Angus, an uncommon breed in Argentina, and one that he and his team have worked on for years to get right. The cows are grass-fed on the country’s famed Pampas, or plains, and finished with grain for consistency.
Take the 850g T-bone, a primal cut with caveman heft. Marinated in a dry chimichurri rub then cooked on a charcoal and almond-wood-burning grill, it’s charred outside, gloriously bloody inside, juicy and gamey. It tastes even better carving the meat up with an antique steak knife with your name engraved on it, a coveted honour bestowed on VIPs.
As will the chateaubriand for two, cooked gaucho-style after the iconic cowboys of South America. A slab of tenderloin is massaged with chimichurri rub, then wrapped in a cheesecloth and covered with rock salt. Another layer of cheesecloth goes around it, before it is sprinkled with water and tossed straight into a charcoal fire.
“This steams the meat quickly but also forms a crust because the heat is so intense, and the beef is super tender.”
Mark also recommends the off-menu prime rib for large groups, which has to be ordered in advance.
More unusual, according to Mark, “is that our beef is dry-aged, which isn’t typical in Argentina.” The aging process breaks down enzymes and tenderises the beef, while adding deeper and more complex flavour. “We’ve found a product we’re happy with and that we’re proud to serve,” he says.
Mark is keen to stress that Buenos Aires Polo Club provides a glamorised and romanticised version of Argentina, rather than an authentic one. It’s a beautiful space, in a gentlemen’s club way.
“If you want to swear out loud with your friends, that’s ok, or if you’re on a hen’s night and want to make a lot of noise, go right ahead, we want this to be a fun environment,” says Mark. That includes being allowed to dance on tabletops; the main rule – no stilettos on the leather banquettes.
Above all, however, Mark says: “I want this steakhouse to become an institution. I don’t really care if we’re cool or on trend, I want people to come 10 years from now because we do a great steak.”
We’ll dance to that.