The first place I ate a milanesa sandwich was in Buenos Aires at the Pasadena Cafe. This was my first meal in that far off city, late at night after the long flight from Los Angeles. It seemed odd to find, across the street from my hotel, a cafe with the same name as the city adjacent to my hometown.
Even odder, the next time I had a milanesa sandwich was in Pasadena itself, and at an Argentinian restaurant.
Malbec (in the bottom photo), which replaces a short-lived Argentinian place on Green Street, offers "new Argentinian cuisine," but also old favorites such as empanadas, gnocchi, sorrentinos (Argentinian ravioli) grilled meats and milanesa sandwiches.
In comparison, the Pasadena Cafe's milanesa was rudimentary--a thin, chewy strip of fried meat gripped in the center by a tiny roll. A glass of house red wine and dulce de leche gelato decorated with wafer cookies completed that meal.
At Malbec, lunch started with a basket of baguette slices to eat with chimichurri, a classic Argentinian sauce made at this restaurant with parlsey and fresh oregano, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and other spices.
The French fries with my sandwich were commercial. Nevertheless, they were the best that I have had recently--soft, hot potato inside a thin, crisp outer layer. Light, and not greasy. I ate every one.
Instead of the Pasadena Cafe's nondescript glass of borgona (Burgundy), I sipped with great pleasure a glass of Don David reserve Torrontes from Salta province in northwestern Argentina. This light, floral white wine is perfect for lunch.
On a previous visit, I ordered Finca de Domingo Malbec from Salta, interesting because most Malbecs come from Mendoza, the main wine-making region of Argentina. However, Salta produces some that are excellent.
That time, I ordered a dish that Argentinians love to hate, gnocchi, which is traditionally eaten on the 29th of the month, when money from the last paycheck is running out.
The only time I ate gnocchi in Buenos Aires, the dumplings were tough and chewy, which would justify the porvery link. However, I was eating them in fashionable Recoleta, and they were not cheap.
Malbec's gnocchi restored my confidence. The dumplings were light and tender and the tomato-laden beef stew that went with them was a great dish in its own right.
Sometimes eating food far from its place of origin means making do with second-rate renditions. That is not true at Malbec, based on what I have had. And the prices are reasonable. An $11.95 business lunch special includes soup or salad, any sandwich or a pasta, coffee or a soft drink. Wine is additional.
Odd that I never ate at the Pasadena Cafe in Buenos Aires again, although I have walked past it many times. In case you are traveling there, here is the address:
Pasadena Cafe, Guido 1705, corner Rodgriguez Pena, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tel: 4815-0545.
Malbec, 1001 E. Green Street, Pasadena, CA 91106. Tel: (626) 683-0550.