July 20, 2013

Del Campo

We first tasted Victor Albisu's cooking back in the winter when we visited his Taco Bamba pop-up.  Since then, the brick and mortar version has opened, as well as Del Campo, a more upscale eatery that still harkens back to his Latin American roots.
The first thing you'll notice is that everything the restaurant offers touches the grill.  Even components of their cocktails have a nice, smoky char to them.  I opted for the pisco sour, a classic Peruvian cocktail.  It's a refreshing drink on a hot summer night, due to the citrusy tang of the lemon and lime, and light foamy egg white that floats on top.  Justin wanted the Tank 7 farmhouse ale since we were meeting friends for beers afterwords.  About 10 minutes later he was informed they were out of the Tank 7, and it took awhile longer to get another beer. Since we there during the first few weeks of them opening, we weren't too surprised they were working out some kinks in service.

Then we came to the food options.  While perusing the menu we were presented with freshly baked bread, served with smoked olive oil and smoked salt for dipping.  I think I could've drank a cup of the smoked olive oil on it's own, it was that tasty!  The menu is broken down into appetizers & ceviches, asados (essentially all the meat options), house specialties, and del mar (the seafood options).  Your best bet is to share everything so you can try a variety of food.

For appetizers, we chose the roasted beet salad with goat cheese, the chicharones (because we can't resist crispy pork skin!), and the yellowtail ceviche.  The beets and goat cheese was one of my favorites, both in taste and visual appeal.  There were golden beets, striped beets, and the traditional red beets, all with a nice sweetness that was balanced out by the tangy goat cheese.  But we can't forget the chicharones.  You may be envisioning a pile of crispy pork rings on a plate, but this dish was way more than that.  It was more of a pork tasting plate, offering up some crispy skin, a rib, and a slab of pork belly.  The salty, delicious pork was balanced out with a sweet potato puree.

Now, onto the entrees!  Ideally, you'll want to try a variety of meats.  I opted for the lamb shank, which was grilled perfectly and arrived at the table, falling off the bone.  The portion was a bit on the smaller side though.  Justin went with the short ribs.  The most common preparation for short ribs is to braise them for hours on end so they're falling off the bone when you eat them.  But in keeping with the theme of the restaurant, these bad boys were grilled.  If you're a bit hungrier, these are a good option because you're served three strips of short ribs.  Our dining companions chose the hangar steak and teres major steak, both of which were cooked to a perfect medium rare, as well as the grilled salmon.  We also received a complimentary serving of roasted bone marrow.  Now, if you remember back a few paragraphs ago, I mentioned sharing the food.  That's because all of the meats were served on one large wooden board, to really encourage sharing.  They also came with four sauces; two chimichurris (a traditional South American herb-based condiment), a Malbec sauce, and a salsa.  For the amount of meat we ordered, I think we could've used slightly larger quantities of sauce.

The sides are a la carte, as in most steakhouses.  To accompany our meats, we ordered the fried yucca and grilled polenta for some starch.  Like any great french fry, the yucca was perfectly crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside.  They were served with a salsa criolla, and I easily could've eaten an entire basket of these fries.  The sauce was addictingly good, and although we were stuffed, we kept going back for more fries.  The grilled polenta had a nice, charred outer crust, yet was still fluffy in the middle.  But they weren't very memorable.  Next time, I may opt for one of the vegetables.

Overall, it was a great meal, and delivered exactly what it promised; deliciously grilled meats.  It would definitely be worth a trip back to try a few other cuts and the uni ceviche and some desserts (assuming we don't stuff ourselves on delicious meats again!).

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