San Telmo

September 8, 2012 at 9:07 am (Argentine, Melbourne CBD, Victoria)

I fell in love with San Telmo the moment I walked through the doors.  The exquisite, colonial-style interior is the perfect tribute to the  Argentine city from which the restaurant draws it’s name, with antique wooden doors, heavy timber furniture, leather armchairs, imported cowhides adorning the walls and a floor to ceiling collection of Argentine wines.  Even the menus fit the bill, bound in soft leather and cowhide.

What really catches the eye when you enter however, is the large open, white-tiled kitchen, where the centre-piece is a 2.5m, imported parrilla.  The fiery coals of this char-grill are what impart the gorgeous smoky flavours to San Telmo’s menu, creating dishes that give the Gaucho chefs at Fogo de Chao a run for their money.  Dishes are designed to share and are served pre-portioned to make things easier.

First time lunching at San Telmo was at 3.30 on a Saturday afternoon with S and Auntie, when very little else was open and we were feeling peckish.  First up, a ceviche of El Salvadorian-style, lime cured scallops with radish and orange.  Extremely fresh, bright flavours to start the meal.

Next, some items from the grill.  Two sauces are served with meat and fish dishes; a chimichurri made with oregano, parsley, garlic, olive oil and chili, and a tomato and capsicum salsa, both of which are fantastic for cutting through the delicious rendered fats of the grilled dishes.

‘Mejilla de Cerdo’; slices of braised Berkshire pork jowl ‘cheek’ with crunchy crackling.  The pork was a bit too fatty for my liking but still quite tasty slathered with chimichurri.

Fish of the day was a hapuka fillet.  Perfectly cooked, the char-grilled hapuka was juicy and still slightly translucent in the middle,  delicious with a squeeze of lemon juice.

On the side, ‘Zapallito’; smoky, tender slices of zucchini, squash and roast garlic, dressed with plenty of olive oil and scattered with slices of roasted almond.

As stated on the website, ‘a meal at San Telmo is not complete without tasting the Argentine national dessert, Dulce de Leche’.  ‘Alfajor’ (al-fa-haw-ray); a crumbly shortbread biscuit, filled with dulce de leche, with a generous dusting of icing sugar.  A friend of mine has been known to just grab one of these take-away when he’s in the area 😛

We also had ‘Panqueques’ to share; thin, baked crepes filled with light, creamy, sweetened ricotta, drizzled with a burnt orange and rosemary syrup.  Not overly sweet, like crepe suzette for cheese-lovers.

On a re-visit to San Telmo with J, we started with a serve of veg; deep fried broccoli topped with shaved, salted ricotta.  Soft, creamy florets encased in a lightly seasoned batter, a dish that showed how over-cooked broccoli can be made to taste fantastic (intentional or not).

We then dived straight into the meats with a morcilla sausage.  Rich, creamy and crumbly,  mildly spiced, delicious with capsicum salsa.

The next dish had to be steak.  ‘Vacio’, a 300g O’Connor pasture-fed flank steak, arrived medium rare. Grilling on the parilla ensured the flavours and juices were preserved in the meat, producing a steak that was delicious on its own and even more so topped with spicy, garlic-y chimichurri.

On the side, ‘Zanahorias’; burnt carrots and thyme, with a dollop of creamy goats curd.  This has to be my favourite San Telmo dish.  Sweet, slightly sticky carrots, just cooked through and beautifully aromatic.

For dessert, I opted for another taste of dulce de leche; creme caramel, topped with a dollop of fudge-like dulce de leche, in a pool of caramel sauce, scattered with salted peanut praline.  As a fan of all things egg custard (egg tarts, creme brulee, steamed egg desserts, Japanese pudding, the list goes on), this was my kind of dessert.  It wasn’t as overwhelmingly indulgent as my description would suggest either, as the lightly sweetened flan tempered the intense sweetness of the caramel sauce.

J had the ‘Mousse de Chocolate’, made with 80% Valrhona dark chocolate and topped with a chocolate biscuit.  Quite a dense mousse, this was all about cacao, a must-try for chocolate-lovers.

Strangely enough, I’d recommend San Telmo for meat lovers and also for vegetarians 😛  As delicious as the meats were, I’d quite happily just eat my way through the sides as the grill just brings out the flavours of the vegetables so well.  Go with a group so that you can try more dishes and make sure you leave room for dessert.

San Telmo on Urbanspoon



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