I am not a huge steak eater, but every now and then, a big slab of meat sounds like the perfect way to create both a food-induced coma & feelings of regret over not wearing one’s “fat pants” out to eat. Conveniently, John is an avid beef fan, and has gone through the burden (?) of testing several steakhouses here in Mexico City so I can focus my beef desires on only the best. The top of his list so far is Cambalache, an Argentine steakhouse that has 6 locations in DF and Toluca.
The Cambalache closest to us is located in Polanco at Arquimedes 85 (between Horacio & Masaryk). It has a relaxed atmosphere that I imagine sees many a swanky business lunch, but also accomodates folks in jeans & a nice shirt. While it’s certainly not the cheapest place to eat in DF, I would argue that if you were somehow able to actually order *only* what you needed to eat, it would be quite reasonable. Unfortunately this is inherently impossible at a steakhouse that plops down a basket of amazing bread & herbed butter as soon as you arrive, and then has such amazing salads, veggies, and sides that you cannot help but order your unfair share. (It still turns out to be pretty cost-effective for a nice steak joint when you consider the extra meal or two you get from leftovers.)
What are Cambalache’s other selling points?
- The souffled potatoes, which is a magical, non-greasy pile of puffed-up potato slices served in a basket MADE OUT OF SHREDDED POTATOES! Thanks for the nod to carb lovers everywhere, Cambalache.
- I guess the meat should get a mention. I put in a strong vote for arrachera (tender skirt steak on the English menu), but John is more of an lomo fan (tenderloin in English). Those of you in Mexico who have gotten used to ordering meat 1-2 levels more well cooked than you would normally take note– they know how to cook here so order exactly what you want (i.e. medium rare). I don’t recall 100%, but I think the 400g (1 person) orders cost $200 peos and the 800g (2 people) cost $400… I’ll double check on my next trip.
- To look smart when the waiter asks you how you want your steak cooked…
- rare = cruda or vuelta y vuelta
- medium rare = un cuarto or poco hecha
- medium = termino medio
- medium well = tres cuartos
- well done = bien cocida or muy hecha
- They have a great selection of Argentinean wines at very reasonable prices for a nice restaurant. For instance, we’ve found several reds (including some tasty Argentine malbecs) in the $380 peso range. Of course for those of you wishing to spend more, the sky’s the limit!
- If you’re not in a full-on-beef kinda mood, I might recommend a compromise– a salad with bacon sprinkled on it! The Cambalache salad is excellent, with lettuce, spinach, watercress, hearts of palm, mushrooms, sprouts, bacon, pecans & tasty dressing. I find the salads huge– I took half of that one home last time so I would have room for arrachera and free bread.
- On the dessert front, I would say that odds are low of you having space for dessert, if you’ve successfully executed the other courses. However, everyone has room for coffee. Especially coffee with booze in it. Especially coffee with booze in it that’s on fire. Peruse down to the Cafes Flameados section (aka Flambéd Coffees) for a dessert with a kick.
- Finally for any visitors non-fluent in Spanish, Cambalache has menus written in English, so you should be able to successfully avoid accidentally ordering sweetbreads (unless your palate is fond of the occasional calf thymus and pancreas).
All of this said, Mexico City has a wealth of great places to eat meat. There are loads of Argentine spots, as well as the occasional Brazilian churrascaria. Additionally, it seems like almost all traditional Mexican restaurants serve a mean arrachera, which has won the honor of “Julie’s favorite cut of meat in Mexico” due to its low levels of fat, tenderness and marinade-induced flavor.
So readers, any favorite spots you would care to recommend for steaky-beef here in DF??