464 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02474
Mon–Thurs: 5 p.m.–10 p.m.
Fri–Sat: 5 p.m.–11 p.m.
Sun: 4 p.m.–9 p.m.
The quest for the perfect steak may take you places: you might have to go on a pilgrimage to unfamiliar faraway lands, cross a language barrier with the chef to find your favorite cut, or spend a late night at someone’s grandma’s kitchen. Tango was all of that to us — a virtual trip to Argentina, a mine of perfect cuts, and a table for home-cooked meals.
After a trek through American and Brazilian steakhouses in Boston, our quest would have been incomplete without a visit to an Argentinian one. Beef is not only traditional cuisine for Argentinians — it is a lifestyle. Yearly beef consumption is estimated at 55 kilograms per head, and cowboys and landowners are central to Argentinian folklore, society and politics. Indeed, the vast Argentinian lowlands, known as the Pampas, are fertile and temperate grasslands ideal for grazing but not more intensive agriculture, making livestock the natural product of the land.
To reach Tango, you must head to Arlington Center, which is a 20-minute drive from campus or a journey to Alewife via the T plus some walking or bus connection. But experiencing the art form that is Argentinian steak is well worth the trek. We began our latest visit with a selection of appetizers, including chorizo (pork sausage) and morcilla (blood sausage) ($12) and a Caprese salad ($10). The blood sausage was rich in flavor and had a perfectly balanced profile of fat and juiciness, which paired well with the relatively milder-tasting and saltier chorizo and the accompanying caramelized onions. The salad was standard fare but tasty, including fresh ingredients and an enviable balsamic vinaigrette. But without a doubt, the king of the night was the steak.
The Argentinian method of grilling meat, perfected over the centuries across the Pampas, is what sets Argentinian steak apart. The meat is placed in vertical metal crosses rotated slowly at a distance from an open fire of glowing coals in order to get the most benefit from the glowing embers, with a sprinkle of salt before being finished. We were delighted by a succulent churrasco (sirloin cut, $25), which was tender and cooked to perfection. It was excellent by itself or with the traditional parsley, garlic, pepper and olive oil sauce, chimicurri. The entraña (skirt steak, $24), the most popular cut in Argentina, was also our favorite. It was seasoned perfectly and had maintained a great deal of its natural fat and salt content, often hard to achieve with this cut.
Other companions also tried the traditional chicken Milanese ($20), a tasty thinly-pounded breaded and fried chicken breast with a perfectly crispy crust, and the costillas de cordero ($29), juicy grilled lamb chops whose taste unfortunately was not fully realized when enjoyed rare. Each entrée was accompanied with a choice of two sides, which are variations of potatoes or vegetables typical of the Pampas. Notable accompaniments included the pure porteño (mashed butternut squash & sweet potato) and the Tango fries, which were lightly fried and expertly seasoned potato chips.
For dessert, we tried the flan con dulce de leche (caramel custard, $8), a nice sweet finish after the savory entrées that tasted home-cooked and delicious. Everything at Tango, from the setup of the rooms to the attentive and knowledgeable service, is designed to create a dedicated and expert carnivorous experience. By the end of our meal, we felt at home with the relaxing tango music playing in the background and the patiently cooked steaks by the fireplace. Whether a culinary cultural adventurer or a steak lover, Tango can surely take you places.