Having spent numerous holidays in Uruguay and Argentina and having eaten a ridiculous number of their delicious cows, Tango had a lot to live up to in my eyes. I had been recommended it by several people and was eager to try it to see how it compared to the real deal. My expectations were not very high as there is no way that a restaurant overlooking Wyndham Street could even come close to a restaurant on a cobbled street in San Telmo, Buenos Aires. No chance. But we can’t have it all, can we? We live in HK, not BA, so I told myself to forget about the location and let Tango become my Argentina for the night.
It definitely made a great attempt at doing this. We walked in to a typically Argentinian wine cellar: the walls in the reception area were stacked floor to ceiling with a huge array of wine bottles – mostly all Argentinian with a few Italians and Spanish thrown into the mix, staying true to the Argentinian roots. Bare brick walls and wooden floors give it that rustic look common to many Argentinian parrilla restaurants. Not to mention the parrilla itself, which is always the centre of attraction at any Argentinian meat restaurant and is very much the case at Tango: a huge wood-fire barbeque where they usually cook literally everything they serve you – meat, vegetables, cheese, you name it, the Argentinians can barbeque it.
As usual, I had a sneaky peek at the menu online (which, I might add, is actually quite difficult to track down. I had to Google ‘Dining Concepts HK’ after a search of ‘Tango restaurant HK’ only came up with the usual suspects of review forums). The menu made me immediately nostalgic and excited and of course I started to plan my meal. I insisted on ordering a few starters to share and didn’t really give my fellow diners much of a choice in the matter. We had octopus ceviche, which was supposed to be spicy but definitely wasn’t. It was good….but I’ve had better. Peruvian ceviche is the best there is, so finding anything comparable is never easy. We also had a selection of empanadas, one with hand-cut beef, a second with goat’s cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, and a third with sweet corn. I LOVE empanadas. Little parcels of delight. These were great, but again… I’ve definitely had better. Most countries in South America have their own version of empanadas, and I would say that Argentinean ones are up there on my ‘best empanadas’ list. Although not always, they are usually baked rather than fried, and the pastry is so light and delicate that it simply melts in your mouth. These ones were fried and a little heavy on the pastry. 60 bucks an empanada also seems to me an absurd price. The chorizo we ordered was very tasty but there was nowhere near enough of it: there were four small pieces. Luckily there were only four of us eating, so we each had a piece but it left us wanting more, especially as there was still so much delicious chimichurri sauce left over. The last (but by no means least) of our starters was calamari with a green salad and lemon aioli. This. Was. A-mazing. Some people can get squid so wrong and cook it for too long so that you might as well be eating a wellington boot, but not Tango’s head chef, Argentinian Ignacio Elizondo. The squid here is so tender that you barely even need to chew it, and that lemon aioli… wow.
For mains, although there are lots of yummy looking dishes on the menu which aren’t cut from a cow, such as pasta, barbequed trout, chicken or lamb, we thought “when in Rome..” and went straight for the steak. After all those starters I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I had been to fitness training earlier in the evening and worked myself extra hard to make room for a big, juicy steak, so I ignored my nearly-full stomach and ordered a fillet steak, medium-rare, or, as I used to order in Uruguayan restaurants, “quemado afuera, jugoso adentro”. The steak (imported from Argentina of course) was incredible. As with the calamari, it was so tender that it barely needed chewing at all. I think the steak knives they provide you with are made for giants. The knife might have been bigger than my head! All it needed was a gentle push and it slid right through the tender steak. I would not want to get into an argument with anyone in this restaurant!
In Argentina, steaks are generally not served in any kind of sauce. As delicious as black pepper sauce is on a steak, Argentine steak is so delicious on its own that it just doesn’t need it. It is almost considered an insult to smother the steak in sauce. So what you are served at Tango is a selection of six accompanying ‘salsas’: Criolla (which our waiter struggled to pronounce, so quickly mumbled over the word three times. It’s a combination of onions, olives and peppers), Chimichurri (the most typical accompaniment to Argentinian steaks, consisting of olive oil, vinegar, chilli, garlic, onion, oregano, thyme, pepper and bay leaves – delicious), spicy tomato, Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard and horseradish. The steak really was so amazing that it could have been eaten on its own without a problem, but these sauces served to enhance the flavour.
The menu contains a range of ‘guarniciones’ – side dishes – which are big enough to share. We ordered roasted peppers marinated in garlic and olive oil (always one of my favourites), marinated eggplant escabeche and a very pleasing ‘rustic’ potato and spring onion mash. Rustic because the potatoes were still wearing their skin when they were mashed. There are several other choices including oven roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary which I would like to try next time. I’m certain that there will be a next time.
The meal was teamed with a delicious Malbec from Argentina’s best wine-growing region, Mendoza. This fruity, velvety wine was the perfect companion to our beautiful steaks.
I know there is usually a separate compartment in my stomach for dessert, but on this occasion it was nowhere to be found. I actually couldn’t even finish my steak which upset me ever so slightly. Had there been room for dessert, however, I would have devoured the dulce de leche crepe, or the warm apple empanada. Or both. You can even buy a jar of dulce de leche to take home… I’m struggling to remember why I didn’t do this.
I guess I must make a comment about the service. Even though we were bang smack in the centre of the restaurant, we were pretty much ignored by the waiters. Had we been in a rush, it would have bothered us, but I actually think the slow service added to the authenticity of the experience and made me feel like I could well have been in Argentina.
It goes without saying that the prices here are ludicrously expensive compared to the real deal. On first sight I was outraged, as we could get incredible steaks in Uruguay which were sometimes cheaper than a loaf of bread (albeit a rather pricey loaf of bread!) If we consider, however, that all the meat, wine and even the chef are imported from Argentina (which is a jolly long way away!) it’s not as awful as it could be. Dinner for four, including two bottles of wine, came to around $800 per person. A little bit punchy but to be expected, and, for an almost authentic Argentinian experience on our very own Wyndham Street, definitely worth it. It seems that they do a great lunch set too (2 courses for $98) so I have every intention of trying that out very soon.
1/F 77 Wyndham Street
Tel: +852 25255808
Date visited: Monday 4th April 2011