El Churrasco is a fine dining culinary journey through South America. The Argentine steakhouse recently opened in The Four Ambassadors building in Brickell, Miami.
There's no need for a passport with this first-class experience. A friendly host or hostess greets and smiles upon entering the restaurant. Choose between the bar area or the main dining room for two different adventures. There's also a private dining room for special occasions.
Just under a dozen seats fit at the low-seating bar, though there are plenty of leather chairs and wooden tables nearby. A small TV hangs from a wall. On Thursdays, there's a projection screen for karaoke. El Churrasco's Familia Gil wine comes from vine-ripen grapes hand-picked from a vineyard in Rioja, Spain.
The seats facing the bar look out to the pool and Biscayne Bay. Behind those seats, a blown up picture of a farm is plastered against the back wall.
That farm belongs to the Martiarena family, who run and own El Churrasco. It's where they raise and breed the high-quality Premium Aberdeen Angus beef, whose rich scent wafts from the semi-open kitchen through the air to the tables.
"We take care of the cows since [they are] really little until [the dish is] at your table," says Sofía Martiarena, El Churrasco Miami's CEO. "The idea is to have very premium products, but also ... to know where the food you're eating is coming from. It gives you a sense of security."
This is the fourth El Churrasco restaurant and the first in the United States. The other three are in Spain. Choosing Miami as the next city in expansion was an obvious choice.
"This is the Latin American capital, so you need to have a restaurant here, then maybe try New York or Chicago, says General Manager José L. Rincones.
Martiarena says they also serve Black Angus from the U.S., so guests can compare that meat to their product and analyze the flavors.
The main dining room is filled with natural light beaming through the windows from the waterway. The bottom of the windows are frosted with a tribal pattern, an accent noticeable throughout the restaurant, from the table runners at the bar to the servers' ascots. The pattern is an Argentine symbol called guarda pampa, and was used by the Mapuche Indians to decorate everything from clothing to tools.
Just as the Mapuche Indians decorated their equipment, everything from the wine glasses to the knives are adorned with the restaurant's logo, a cowboy riding a horse. It's all about the details for El Churrasco, which in Spanish describes a style of meat, sliced thinly and cooked over coals.
In true Argentine fashion, the meat here is cooked over on open flame, with charcoal made from Marabu wood, exclusively designed for El Churrasco. This style is what lets the aroma carry throughout the restaurant.
Select among cuts such as ribeye steak ($32/48), herb-buttered filet mignon ($37), 20-ounce top sirloin heart steak ($34), and Neopolitan milanese ($20). The servers delicately slice the steaming steak tableside and serve it with a mini grill.
There are plenty of options for non-beef eaters, too, including octopus served confited and grilled with yellow pepper spread and potatoes ($17), champagne risotto ($21), and vegetarian lentil soup ($7).
Top off the meal with El Churrasco's signature sweet coffee, Café Regina, which comes from the family's farm in the Andes in Colombia. Pair it with a decadent dessert like a caramelized Argentinian dulce de leche crepe, vanilla ice cream with Malbec cinnamon pear and berries compote, or the flan caramel with whipped cream. Each of those desserts are $9.
El Churrasco is the kind of sit-down spot not just to merely eat dinner, but rather to sit for hours and absorb the Argentinian atmosphere blended into South Florida's culturally rich environment.
El Churrasco is at 801 Brickell Bay Drive, Miami, in the Four Ambassador's building. The restaurant is open daily, with lunch served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner served Sundays-Thursdays from 4 to 11 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Happy hour is Monday-Sunday from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Call 786-558-5511 or go to ElChurrascoMiami.com.