Published by Angie. Last Updated on December 19, 2023.
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Balvanera is an Argentinian restaurant dishing up steaks, sausages, and small plates in a huge renovated warehouse space in the Strip District. While we thoroughly enjoyed our steak, the highlights for us were the house-made sausages and the Argentinian-focused wine menu.
Balvanera Brings a Taste of Argentina to the Strip District
The first thing you'll notice about Balvanera after entering is the ambiance. The vibe is modern, upmarket, and buzzy and packed with tables. If you're looking for a quieter date night vibe, the cozy two-person booths behind the main dining area do the job.
This location is actually the second one for Balvanera, their first being in NYC. We aren't fans of the chain-ridden space that the Strip District has become in recent years, but we are suckers for Argentinian restaurants, and the void left behind after Gaucho closed their Strip District location still makes our hearts sad. So, we were cautiously optimistic going in to our dinner at Balvanera.
The space itself is massive and beautiful with high, cavernous ceilings that do create a bit of a noise issue in the front dining room. Luckily we were seated at the cozy two-seater booths behind the main dining room in a narrow hallway. The noise level was much more manageable back here even if the decor was, admittedly, a bit sparse.
We started with a few cocktails, the Picante and the Pisco 75. The Picante was a spicy tequila based drink with cilantro and fresno chile- it certainly packed a punch! The Pisco 75 included pisco, house sours, Lillet, and rose. It was perhaps a little too sour for our palates but was a refreshing way to begin the meal.
The cocktail selection is on the smaller end, as is the beer selection (exclusively from local brewery Two Frays during our visit). Wine is the focus here, as evidenced by the illustrated wine menu. Having spent the past several years in an intense wine study program, Jeremy definitely geeked out over the wine book that included detailed illustrated maps of all the Argentinian wine regions.
The food menu is split up into many different sections so you can choose your own adventure based on how you like to dine. There are smaller appetizers, shareable small plates, entrees, sausages, steaks, and a la carte sides. As much as we love steaks, we wanted to try a variety of things here. So we started with two of the small plates, the provoleta and the pulpo de playa.
You really can't go wrong with a big hunk of melty cheese, and the provoleta here is no exception. Grilled provolone topped with a tomato confit, oregano, honey, and pepitas was served with toasted bread for dipping. It hit all the right notes of creamy, crunchy, and sweet, balanced by a hit of acid from the tomatoes.
The pulpo was also great- grilled octopus was topped with an olive sauce and a smoked pepper sauce. The octopus was tender with a crispy char on the outside, and the pungent sauces gave just the right accompaniment.
We almost skipped right over the sausage portion of the menu, but our server pointed out that the rueda de cordero was one of her favorite things on the menu, so naturally we couldn't resist. This one was a house-made lamb sausage topped with pear chutney and an herb salad. The sausage itself is one of the best in recent memory- the rich, fatty lamb was punctuated with warm baking spices. The touch of sweetness from the chutney balanced it out. This was like a hug on a plate!
Last but certainly not least, we of course had to order a steak. There are different cuts available, and the menu also denotes whether the beef is grain-fed from local farms or grass-fed from Argentina. We opted for our favorite cut of beef, a rib eye, sourced from Argentina. The steak itself was everything we wanted in a rib eye- supremely juicy with just the right amount of melt-in-your-mouth fat. It was cooked exactly as we ordered it (medium rare), and the seasoning level was on point.
The accompaniments were fine- we ordered fries on the side that could have used a dipping sauce of some sort, especially for the price. The steak was also served with a salsa criolla and a chimichurri sauce, both of which could have used a little more seasoning (and the chimi maybe even more garlic). That said, they still paired with the steak quite beautifully.
Finally, be sure to save room for dessert as there are numerous options on the menu. We finished our meal with the warm sticky toffee cake with spiced pumpkin, dates, and a sour cream ice cream that was a perfect finish to a decadent meal. We never expected the date flavor to work as well as it did with the toffee cake, but in retrospect, it makes a lot of sense as a classic combination!
Overall, if you love steaks you'll certainly enjoy the options here. But don't overlook the rest of the menu, particularly the sausages, as they were the highlight for us. And if you're a vegetarian, don't fret as there are actually quite a number of excellent-sounding appetizers and small plates that focus on veggies (that we will definitely be trying next time!).
Balvanera is located at 1660 Smallman Street in the Strip District.