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Aug 19, 2012 08:01 PM

L'Atelier d'Argentine

This new restaurant is located where DNA was, in the Old Port. Having grown up in Argentina, I'm always up for trying new Argentinian restaurants!

I had the empanadas for appetizer. They were very good though fried (I loved fried empanadas so this was not an issue for me). They were not overly heavy and they were dry and crisp. The meat one was very good but I tend to like it a bit more spicy.

For main dish I had the mollejas (sweetbreads) and boy those were great! My boyfriend had the Vacio, his father had the milanesa de pollo (very authentic-tasting!) and his mom had the trout (just average but again that's not an Argentinian dish).

The wine list was not as good as I had hoped for (no Achaval Ferrer, they were out of Alta Catena and didn't have any of the really good Argentinian wines).

The worst part of it all... the service; it was SUPER slow! We went there at 7 and left at 9:47 and this is with no dessert or coffee or anything. In fact I would have loved to have dessert but the thought of waiting any longer for food made me forget about the whole thing. And mind you the restaurant was not full or anything.
So I would say that food was good enough to go back for, but service was terrible. The environment and decor were nice though. I will go back again because there are many more dishes I want to try but again, I have a sweet spot for Argentinian food.

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  1. Sounds like they hired a bunch of guys for the kitchen with a bare amount of cooking experience, and no knowledge of Argentine food, right up to head chef. Which I guess is not surprising since they were still looking for one last week. Hopefully they learn fast.

    1. I just read Philippe Mollé's review in Le Devoir where he states that the beef served at L'Atelier D'Argentine is imported from Argentina.

      Can anyone confirm this? I have to say that I don't give too much credence to what Mollé writes. He's not exactly the most rigorous writer or the most credible critic.

      6 Replies
      1. re: SnackHappy

        From their website, the only apparent Argentine import is a few of the wines.
        If I imported meat, I'd sure as shit advertise it on my website.

        1. re: porker

          That's what I was thinking as well.

          1. re: SnackHappy

            I would imagine that their first priority would be hiring a head chef, and then start promoting that their meat is imported.

            1. re: EaterBob

              I would imagine they had this all planned out beforehand:
              We will use only Argentine beef - lets find purveyors.
              Our head chef will have these credentials - lets find the right person.
              We will advertise our philosophy, chef, and imported meats - lets open the joint.

              IF its true that they're still searching for staff and that they are doing imported meat (but not advertising the fact), I feel that something(s) went wrong along the way, or they're simply ass-backward.

              1. re: EaterBob

                I don't think they import their beef from Argentina. I spoke to them about the meat and where they got their mollejas from and they did not mention that their beef was from Argentina. Given the fact that I told them I grew up in Argentina, etc. I'm pretty sure they would have said something.

                1. re: Adrux

                  having spent some time in that part of the world let me assure you aren't missing much by not eating imported beef.

                  quite frankly, i salute any restaurant that does not import meat from half-way across the world - even if it is accidental environmentalism.

        2. Went to try this place last night, overall good experience with some things that are still to be improved.

          Food wise, really good, i started with the crudo de corvina, a fish ceviche, really fresh and tasty, only thing i didn't quite understood on the plate was some little julienne fries on top of the ceviche, but easily pushed aside. My dining partner had the Bunuelo de Espinaca, some lovely fried cheese and spinach balls served with a mustard sauce, they were little but packed a punch due to the mustard flavor. Again, those were really good, no oily taste at all.

          Main course, we both went for beef, I had the Bife de Chorizo(Sirloin) while he had the Ojo de Bife(rib-eye), both asked for rare, mine was slightly above rare, but not to warrant a return in the kitchen, very tasty, we could smell the grill taste when they arrived at the table, the chimichurri and criola sauce were both good and classic. They do not come with sides(despite was is indicated on the website, but it's clear on the menu) so we ordered the tomato salad, various type and size of tomatoes with thin sliced onion, vinegar and oil, simple but good and refreshing, could have used a more complex vinaigrette, but if you added some chimichurri, it was all good, also their fries, real good little fries (not the same as the one on the crudo) with garlic and thyme, and grilled eggplant, a small eggplant cut in 4 lenghtwise and grilled topped with some olive oil, simple but good.

          Dessert: none was taken, they were out of 3 of the 6 dessert choices, despite a less than half-full restaurant at dinner time.

          Service: unlike the OP, service was efficient (arrived at 7:45 left a bit after 9), good timing of the plates, not and overly long evening, but our server was a bit pushy/too quick, he gives us the menu and come back 1 min after to ask if we are ready to order, asked 2 or 3 times if we had questions, but not in a way to care for us, but more in a way of not remembering if he asked us, and not particularly friendly. Could use a bit of brush up on the service side.

          It is promising, if they can improve on dining room service, it should have a good run.

          2 Replies
          1. re: westaust

            So do the prices on the website are just for a steak without a side? How much were your sides?

            1. re: Evilbanana11

              Yes same price as on the website, but just for the steak, the sides if I recall correctly, are 5$ each or 2 for 8$

          2. It was announced today that Natalia Machado is moving to Montreal to officially become the chef of L'Atelier d'Argentine. She initially just created the menu and gave her image to promote the place. Good news.

            3 Replies
              1. re: williej

                Article on her and the restaurant (not a review) in La Presse:


              2. re: Glaff

                Any new visits & reviews to L'Atelier d'Argentine since Natalia Machado became head chef?

              3. I dined at L'Atelier Argentine recently and unfortunately was not impressed. The service was not an issue, far from and too bad that wasn't able to translate over to our meal.

                Dinner started out with an order of empanadas and chorizo, the empanadas (IIRC 4 or 5 in an order with different fillings although I remember most to include cheese) gave me hope that I was in a for a gratifying evening. They were perfectly fried with no oily residue, crispy with a flavourful cheese stuffing, the only drawback was that they were bite size. The chorizo was very ordinary, it tasted like your standard Portuguese sausage.

                For the mains we ordered a skirt and a tenderloin (both med rare), I personally think it's the most overrated cut but hey that's what my wife wanted. I asked the waiter about their beef sourcing and was told it was from Alberta (bad sign IMO) I read in a "Shut up and Eat" interview with Machado (a Chopped winner BTW) that she doesn't believe in dry aging her meat ("we don’t use dry-aged beef because we already start with a great product and want to let it show.")

                My skirt steak was served whole and I quickly noted a nice char, digging in I started with the thinner end this part was obviously overdone, no big deal so I just moved over to the thickest part. Slicing against the grain with a typical steakhouse serrated knife, I don't know why people let alone restaurants use these knives I sawed away on the flesh. As thin as I tried to slice the meat it was just way too chewy, I grill skirt at home all the time and have never had this much of an issue with chewiness, at one point I really had to work my jaw to break it down.

                Looking back I should have asked for a different knife or had them slice it thinly in the kitchen with a proper knife, these knives just rip up the meat and make matters worse. I don't know how much difference a knife would have made though as even some of the slices that I managed to cut thinly were still really tough.

                As for the filet it was over cooked to med and had minimal taste but I always except that from this particular cut. Filet does somewhat better when it's cooked whole and keeps in the minimal fat that it does contain as opposed to the hockey puck slices that are grilled in this and other steakhouses. We didn't break the bank but for $130ish (tax in) (1 beer, 1 cocktail and a glass of wine, no dessert) I have definitely eaten much much better in our city and even for under $130. Think APDC/Liverpool House. The place was maybe half full if that on a Friday evening.

                10 Replies
                1. re: JerkPork

                  Thanks for the review!
                  From the original advertising, I had high hopes for this place, but never got around to go.
                  As original opening hype faded, so did my expectations as there was simply no buzz about it. I don't need buzz to keep me interested, but if the place was solid, more people would have been talking.
                  My hopes soared when news broke that Machado was moving here to oversee the joint, but that too, seemed to fade into obscurity.
                  Your review feeds my skepticism that it ain't very special.
                  (BTW, my focus on hoping-to-try-a-great-steak-place-but-waiting-to-hear-good-stuff has shifted to Grinder on Notre Dame....)

                  1. re: porker

                    I think that you're going to be waiting a long time on that one as well.

                  2. re: JerkPork

                    That's too much to pay for steak, apps and a couple drinks - even if it was perfect. But I'm curious why you think Alberta beef is bad; it's the best in the country.

                    1. re: Shattered

                      It's really the practice of the Alberta beef industry that I'm against, i.e. hormone, anti biotic usage, remember XL last year? XL and Cargill pretty much run the whole beef industry in Canada.

                      1. re: JerkPork

                        So you want organic beef - that has nothing to do with it's place of origin. I doubt most Argentine beef is organic, either.

                        The XL problem, as with any E Coli breakout, was with processed meat. The most popular steak cuts are the safest meat you can buy, of any animal, for the simple reason that E Coli doesn't get into muscle tissue. (And beef isn't full of parasites like chicken or pork, although pork is alot safer than it traditionally is. Let's put is this way: Do you ever see 'organic pork'? Nope? That's because antibiotics are your friend. But I digress.)

                        If the animal's shit (that's where E Coli's from) comes into contact with steak, and there's a very slim chance of that, it's just on the outside and easily washed off.

                        Maple Leaf was a much bigger outbreak. Surprised you didn't mention it, but you must know it had nothing to do with steak. Still, just a refresher: That was caused by unclean facilities -particularly the blades chopping the meat- rather than a few batches of unsafe meat. It was especially bad because:
                        1) The E-Coli was an especially strong strain since it built up for so long on the equipment
                        2) It affected meats that are not meant to be cooked or usually heated at all before being eaten - mostly coldcuts.

                        The take-away lessons are:
                        1. Always cook ground meat /sausages thoroughly, and wash your hands (& cutting boards, etc) properly after handling raw. Which is second nature to most people anyway, which is why these outbreaks are rare.

                        2. If you're still scared, never eat cold cuts again.

                        3. Eat MORE steak if you still crave meat. It's the leanest meat, it has the least additives, it has virtually no chance of having E-coli, it comes from the safest animal.

                        There's a reason steak is regularly served pink or bloody (considered best that way). Steak is the incredibly safe food. You've got a much better chance of getting sick from not washing the lettuce before making a salad.

                        1. re: Shattered

                          the difference between argentinian and alberta is mostly taste of the beef.

                          both places mass produce grain fed cattle

                          1. re: catroast

                            Argentine beef is traditionally grass-fed and AFAIK it's still how most beef there is raised. Feedlots are a relatively new thing in Argentina.

                          2. re: Shattered

                            Where did I ask or expect Argentine beef? Where did I ask for or expect organic beef? Where did I mention a fear of e coli?

                            I don't go to restaurants expecting meat from some farmer who raises a dozen cows, I know full well I'm getting mainstream meat but at least have something of a higher quality if you are going to charge those prices. I highly doubt their Alberta beef was AAA, it definitely didn't taste like it.

                            Thanks for the lesson cause I never knew how disease spread. It's a free world btw and I can and will condemn the industry.

                            1. re: JerkPork

                              You mentioned earlier that you didn't like Alberta beef. Then you mentioned "XL last year" and applied it to Alberta beef. They had an E-coli breakout last year; that's where you were referred to E-coli, which has nothing to do with steaks, and condemned an industry. You also mentioned hormones and antibiotics - hence thinking you wanted organic meat. It's not hard to connect the dots. I'm going by exactly what you wrote.

                      2. re: JerkPork

                        Thanks for your feedback. Been asking & waiting for reviews ever since the new chef Machado fully took over. Honestly I had suspicions of Jason Lee's Shut Up and Eat coverage on this establishment & its new chef Macado. If they want to serve authentic Argentinian beef, they should not be using Alberta beef. I'm guessing in Argentina they don't age their beef, even at the best Argentinian steakhouses(that's why Macado said she doesn't age her beef).