El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

San Telmo: The place to eat meat

Back to our culinary critique of FOOD in Quito....we always comment that steak is not good in Ecuador...unless the meat comes from Argentina or Uruguay.  San Telmo is a MUST for meat lovers.......


There is a simple rule to follow when dining out, in search for good meat:  Great steaks come from great steak houses.

Gonzalo Proaño, General Manager of San Telmo Steak House  in Quito, says, "We were the first to import from Argentina," which is renowned for it's quality beef. Though their imported cuts currently come from Uruguay, Proaño says they are equally matched in quality.  "The beef from Uruguay is more expensive but I am very happy with it and the customers can see the difference."

But it is not enough to buy the best beef in the marketplace.  Meat must be properly aged.  Proaño explains that, "Fresh beef is really tough beef."  The reason is that it must overcome a stiffening process just after slaughter.   With aging, the beef becomes tenderer and more flavorful.   Aging is often from 7-10 days, but San Telmo has their own process.  "I vacuum pack it and age it for 17 days," says Proaño.  "The vacuum packing keeps it safe and the extra days add to the flavor and tenderness of the beef."

So with top quality  beef, properly aged,  San Telmo is able to offer a great mix of not only imported cuts, but national steaks also.

San Telmo offers six different "lomos," all national cuts.  Visitors to Ecuador often get confused by the term "lomo," which essentially refers to a tenderloin cut and includes the filet mignon.  Proaño says, "Filet mignon is really tenderloin the way we get it in the States…the only difference  is the sauce and the bacon." Other lomos include the three pepper steak and several mixed plates with tenderloin and seafood: Lomo a lo macho, San Telmo mix, and the San Francisco mix.  All have a special sauce to accompany them.

If you like your cut of beef straight off the grill, without additional flavorings, then the "Specialties from the Grill" menu is for you.   Try "Lomo a la piedra," a tenderloin served on a hot stone, or the San Telmo T-bone steak.  Beware, though, the T-bone is 700 grams of beef.  Most other national cuts at San Telmo are about 220-280 grams, more than enough to satisfy most appetites.

As for the imported cuts, San Telmo offers grilled ribeye (ojo de bife), grilled sirloin (bife de chorizo), rump cap (picahna, a traditional Brazilian cut), and a grilled, Aberdeen Angus Rib (tira de asado). All are 300-400 grams.

You may be surprised to find that some of the most flavorful items at San Telmo can come from the  appetizer menu, which is    equally as diverse as the steak menu.  Consider a carpaccio, either tenderloin or salmon, or choose from three cebiches, prepared Peruvian style.
And Proaño is particularly fond of their hot starters from the cow, such as sweetbreads, which are eaten with lemon, and their "chinchulín," or chittlins.  "This is a good seller," says Proaño.  "We clean them well, boil them for three hours, then put them on the grill."  For a true taste of Argentina, he recommends the "Provoleta a la brasa," or roasted provolone cheese.  "If you are Argentinian or Uruguayan, this is something you do not miss," he insists.

Though San Telmo is a steak house it has  plenty of other options, including soups, pastas, fish, and chicken.   For the person who cannot decide on just one thing, they offer assorted barbeques with nine different options, including tenderloin, pork chops, liver, kidneys, chitlins, sausage, veal, and black pudding.  And each meal can be accompanied by a  fine selection of wines.

After an appetizer and a steak, if you still have room, consider dessert.   The menu has international options, such as tiramisu, and local favorites like "helados de paila" (ice cream made in a tradition copper pot).  For a unique dish, try the "Habano de chocolate," a cigar-shaped chocolate dessert filled with nutella mousse, accompanied by a small  chocolate soufflé and "helado irlandese," a coffee and whisky ice cream.

The pleasure of eating at San Telmo, regardless of your dish, is the atmosphere.  San Telmo is probably one of the largest restaurants in Quito – a re-modeled house with three floors and two bars.  The distribution of each floor, though, makes it feel intimate.  They have outdoor seating, but during the day the restaurant is flooded with natural light.

In the evening, fireplaces and warm lighting make for a cozy environmet.  And the wood tables and contemporary artwork  are a reflection of Proaño's taste, offering an ambiance that is as elegant as it is rustic.

San Telmo is located at Portugal 440 and Francisco Casanova, half a block down from Eloy Alfaro.   House cuts of beef range from $18-28 and imported cuts are $19-37. They are open seven days a week from 12pm to 11pm.  For reservations call 333-1943/4 or visit  http://www.santelmorestaurant.com/


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