Situated in the trendy hub of Maboneng district and set in a rustic restaurant space, Che Argentine Grill bagged a highly commended award in the Best Steakhouse category of the 2016 Eat Out Mercedes Benz Best Everyday Eateries. It is, without doubt, a meat lover’s dream, says Eat Out critic Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine.
If it’s your first visit, a great entry point into the meaty menu is the parrillada (mixed grill) for two or four people. Charred on a wood-fired grill and served with your choice of salads, vegetables and/or ‘cheeky fritas’ (thinner-than-ordinary fries), generous cuts of pork belly, chicken, and rump are plated up for you to sample.
The meat is prepared simply, allowing its true flavours to be the hero – so you won’t find basting or sticky sauces here. What you will get, however, is a side sauce of Che’s home-made chimichurri (cilantro, garlic, parsley and oregano) that you’ll want to pour over everything.
Starters include a selection of platters for sharing. The Picada De Campo, for example, features Italian-style salami, olives and cheese. And then there’s the very rich Provoleta, which is the trademark Argentine smoked provolone cheese served with pepper and salsa, tomato, red onion and parsley. Also delicious is the ossobucco (marrow bone) served with toasted garlic bread.
Definitely try the empanadas, for which Che garnered a following at Maboneng’s Market on Main. The filling options range from chopped beef, onion and red pepper to ham, mozzarella and oregano.
If you’re there for lunch, try the pork belly or rump steak served with salad or chips for R85.
Still have room for dessert? Try the flan, the very light pancakes, churros with ice cream, or the cremoso, which is a yoghurt dessert with white chocolate mousse.
There’s a great selection of local wine, but it’s best to let your waiter suggest an Argentine malbec or shiraz to complement your mains.
Service is quick and efficient. Waiters know the menu inside and out and are confident enough to recommend certain dishes.
Even though it’s set in a rustic, slightly industrial-look space, complete with lace curtains, long wooden tables, mismatched chairs, and projected images of early Argentina on one wall, there’s a certain easy elegance you experience when dining here. It’s almost as if you’re part of a group who are in on the best-kept secret in town.
Phone ahead to find out when Che is hosting live bands. The private dining room upstairs, which seats around 20-25 guests, can be reserved for functions.
Eat Out critics dine anonymously and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.
Now that firefood is such an international trend, Che slots in there perfectly. The meats are specially sourced, grass-fed and cut the way Argentinians like, from the Midlands,
Of course meat is the thing here but a vegetarian surprise is that Che has one of the more exciting selections of interesting ‘sides’ or salads in Joburg.
That three meter long pedilla is used for cooking the coarse-salted Argentinean-favoured cuts by moving them around for levels of heat and flame, so the ensuing smokiness that goes so well with lemony-parsley chimichurri and which comes with everything is key to the experience.
For starters most people order homemade chorizo, nachos or the thin-crust empanadas of which there are beefy, hammy and chickeny ones but also sweetcorn and goats cheese or spinach and cheese mixture ones But very well worth trying for starters is a dish called Provoleta with a home-smoked provelone type cheese with peppers, tomato and onion. The roasted marrow bone on garlic bread is fantastic and here’s the chance to have mollejas, fire-grilled sweetbreads with paprika, when they are available.
For mains there are also the popular choices of short ribs (asado) or a half, deboned chicken (pollo deshado) but it’s great to try even more typical dishes like the colita, very tender rump tail - or any of the beef-on- the-bone. The pork belly (pecho) is presented in two long sections, gloriously crisped, smacking of herbs and lemon. The sides of papas fritas and batada asada of sweet potato roasted in honey are great but try the Rio de la Plata salad of red cabbage, cashew nuts, orange, sprouts with a honey dressing or a delicious remolacha of roast beetroot, cumin, rocket, boiled egg and greens. The hasselback potato dish is often missed on the menu and it’s a must, made here, the potatoes roasted here in white wine and butter with sage and crisped bacon.
For desserts it is almost de rigeur to have the cream caramel with real dulce de leche. The latter also makes up another lip smacking fridge tart type thing (alfajor helado) of almond biscuits layered with the dulce de leche, glazed with chocolate and served with a mixed berry sauce. An outright delicious surprise is a white chocolate and yoghurt ganache that’s plated with strawberries in a melange of preserved hibiscus and malbec wine.
Malbecs and merlots are there as would be expected, all South African, along with the other reds we desire. The whites are chardonnays, sauvignons, including Reynecke Biodynamic, chenins and rose. The bubbles include a South African, a prosecco and a French. The craft beers and spirits are chosen with some panache.
It’s busy. People also forget that many of the meats need 40 mins to prepare on the fire. That’s why you order them with your starters and drinks.
The atmosphere is charged by the raised fireplace or oven. The décor is delightful here - kind of Latino-rustic with stills or movies showing on the uneven back wall. First Tuesdays are tango nights and first Thursdays feature DJs and live music.
Because everything is made on the premises, there are always liqueurs, preserves and that Che version of chimichurri to take home.
Eat Out reviewers dine unannounced and pay their own way. Read our full editorial policy here.