This is probably the perfect time and the perfect place for me to publish my first restaurant experience on the blog. I was in Washington D.C. last week visiting friends before I’m off to Argentina, and I couldn’t refuse when a friend suggested that we check out the tasting menu at Del Campo’s new asado bar.
The Chinatown restaurant opened it’s doors in April and aims to showcase the flavors and ambiance of South American cuisine, particularly that of Argentina, Peru, Uruguay and Chile. Inspired by Chef Victor Albisu’s early days working for Argentine and Uruguayan butchers and his travels to Peru and Chile, the result is an expansive menu largely centered on ceviches and grilled meat dishes. The beverage selection complements this beautifully with an array of South American cocktails and wines.
Arriving to the restaurant about 30 minutes prior to my reservation, I took a seat at the rustic looking bar and ordered a classic South American cocktail- the Pisco Sour. Typically comprised of Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup and an egg white, it has refreshing citrus flavor and a rich, creamy texture. Del Campo’s rendition is beautifully executed and left me wanting another, although I decided to forgo a second in anticipation of the wine pairings offered on the asado menu.
Moving to the asado bar gives a great view into the kitchen, where an intoxicating scent of smoked applewood, rosemary and perfectly cooked animal parts drifts out and engulfs the entire dining area. We were immediately greeted by our waiter with dishes of smoky, whipped lardo olive oil. Although this decadent condiment was served alongside cast iron grilled bread, I preferred drizzling it over my first several courses as the pork fat slowly melted into the smoked olive oil.
First up: charred tartare featuring beef tenderloin, grilled beef heart, a fried quail egg, smoked mustard seeds and osestra caviar.
This was followed up by a trio del jardín: burnt beets with burrata, charred oranges, pistachios and rosemary, burnt tomatoes with anchovies, goat cheese and parsley, and the perhaps the highlight of the night- burnt artichokes served over artichoke puree, charred cauliflower and parmesan, and topped with fried artichoke tips on top.
The artichoke was incredible in the fact that it successfully incorporated the tough-to-cook veggie in three radically different forms.
Next up, two plates del mar…
Scallop tocino with Jamón Ibérico, grilled peas, smoked mushrooms and tomatoes.
Squid chorizo served in cast iron with piquillo peppers, corn humita (burnt corn hairs) and salsa criolla.
A trip to Del Campo is not complete without a giant wooden board covered with perfectly grilled meat…
Smoked foie gras with grilled plums and blood sausage.
Wagyu skirt steak wrapped and stuffed with sage, manchego and black olives.
Grilled bone marrow mixed with lobster and veal sweetbreads.
Although I was indeed starting to fill up at right about this point, I knew I had to stay strong for three dessert courses.
A trio of grilled cheeses…
A dulce de leche trio, consisting of a stuffed crepe, flan, and a mini-milkshake…
Last but not least, a trio of grilled ice cream (no that’s not a typo- they actually grill the ingredients before making the ice cream).
And with that last course this epic tasting menu comes to a close. With this amount of food, I literally didn’t eat until 3pm the next day. Totally worth it though. While this is certainly a decadent and indulgent meal, it is actually rather closely aligned with my philosophy on nutrition: It is largely meat and vegetable centric, all of which are of impeccable quality and freshness. In doing so, it really showcases a huge amount of nutrient-dense ingredients that are prepared in a decadent and jaw-dropping fashion.
While this menu is certainly a fusion of many Latin American cultures and cuisines, it has left me absolutely ecstatic for my upcoming residence in Argentina.