Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Tasty Tango - Pampas Argentine Bar and Grill

CLAIREMONT CHOWHOUND

By Michael Baehr

 

A Tasty Tango

Pampas Argentine Bar & Grill

 

When I think of Argentina, what comes to mind is amazing architecture, spicy meat dishes, nice wines and of course, the tango.  As it turns out, we have all of this virtually in our backyard at Pampas Bar & Grill in Serra Mesa, right next to Montgomery Field. My partner had a group lunch here and, based on the feedback, he encouraged me to give it a try.  So, on a dark and rainy night, we ventured out so I could try this exotic-sounding restaurant. 

 

When you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by the warmth of a softly lit interior lined with wood, art and other objects symbolic of the Argentine culture.  The restaurant was fairly empty, perhaps because of the rainy weather. Our friendly server arrived promptly and was happy to guide us to the most popular dishes and traditional appetizers.  We started with an order of empanadas ($2.75 each), a lightly crusted, baked turnover filled with spiced meat and onions.  We ordered one each of the chicken with spinach and the ground beef empanadas, and we had trouble deciding which was better.  Both the chicken and ground beef were packed with flavor, with onions and spices that hit just the right note without being overpowering.

For our main entree, I ordered the Lomo a la Pimienta con Papas a la Crema, which is medallions of pepper-crusted filet and delicate potatoes topped with a chardonnay cream sauce ($24.95).  The meat was cooked to perfection and, while at first glance the dish seemed somewhat sparse, it was more than filling.  Being the potato-loving chowhound that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed the Papas a la Crema, cubes of potatoes covered in a silky rich sauce.  I’ve been craving those potatoes ever since!  My partner had the Recoleta filet steak special topped with a pistachio crust sitting atop a Roquefort sauce ($24.95).  The dish is served with a choice of rice, Argentine fries or potato salad.  He opted for the fries, which were lightly dusted with herbs and garlic.  His steak was bold, with a creamy and rich finish.  To add to our experience, we selected an Argentine wine called Fin del Mundo, which is a blend of Cabernet and Malbec from the Patagonia region ($8/glass). 

 

Bottom line, this is an interesting and romantic place if you’re willing to try something different.  The food is good, but not especially exotic and a bit on the pricey side.  The selection of native wines is impressive and the ambience is relaxed and inviting. And, if you really want the full Argentine experience, Pampas has a live tango show on the last Friday of the month. 

 

Pampas Argentine Bar & Grill

8690 Aero Drive

(between Afton Rd & Glen L Curtis Rd)

San Diego, CA  92123

(858) 278-5971

www.pampasrestaurant.com

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