Alright dude, this is it – time to impress. Take a shower. Put on that semi-nice shirt. Pull out that invitation to that classy gourmet restaurant. And get ready to get laid. You know you’re gonna get some… you fancy as hell and people be buying you shit left and right. This is the life of a food blogger.
Hitting up Renzo’s Gourmet Argentine Steakhouse for their two year anniversary seemed like the perfect sexy plan. Just look at the front page of that website!! Dark, moody pictures of sexy foods and wines, red and black color scheme, “passion for meat and wines”. Oh yes. This is gonna be romantic. Candlelit dinner? Mayhaps! Mayhaps.
Of course, I may have neglected to view the “gallery” section of the website. Nor did I look the place up on Google Maps. So I was a bit disappointed when I found an ordering counter akin to Jason’s Deli instead of candles and snooty servers. It was just a bit of a shock. Honestly, I had no one to blame but myself. I just… it said gourmet on the sign, what was i supposed to think?!?!? Dammit.
So I felt a little let down. Looks like I wasn’t going to need that special reservation I had acquired after all. Luckily, my girlfriend had already done the research that I had neglected, so she wasn’t as disappointed. But it was too late for me; my ego had already been crushed. Now I felt foolish. And it’s hard to look cool when you’re waiting in line at the counter to order and some dude is playing “The Girl from Ipanema” on guitar like three feet away.
We browsed the menu. Nearby, a bakery display gave us the impression that there was more to this place than just sandwiches (steak sandwiches, I mean). There was a separate ordering area for bakery items, so it seemed that maybe their business was half bakery, half eatery. In the other corner, there was a similar area for deli meats and cheeses. WTF was going on here?
The menu featured an array of different influences from different cultures. Apparently, Argentine cuisine is a sort of melting pot of different European cuisines (Italian, French, and Spanish), using local resources. So it was hard to pin down any real common thread in the food. The menu was divided into sections: cold and hot sandwiches, paninis, stuffed pastas, salads, and grill specialties. It was a bit overwhelming, especially while ordering at a counter.
As we thought over our options, I inquired about the two year anniversary specials they were having. That is to say, as advertised on their website, and as relayed to me through several emails, they were offering a wine tasting and complimentary hors d’oeuvres. The guy behind the counter was baffled! “We’ve got some empanadas over there…” “…So we just go over and grab some?” “Yeah.” He walked away for a moment, and then returned to let us know that there was, in fact, free wine as well. Smile. I looked over at my girlfriend… all love and respect for me had clearly drained from her eyes. This was going well.
So after placing our order, we sat down at a table with a large number card reading “22”. We were then served some wine – carefully measured glasses of merlot. I cannot find the wine on their website’s wine list, and I don’t really remember what it was called. But it was pretty decent! I mean, it was fine. A fine wine. They have a huge wine selection, with shelves and a little wine closet. It was pretty impressive. I’m sure a lot of their stuff is great.
They placed the bottle in the back of the restaurant, on the table featuring their complimentary hors d’oeuvres, which were empanadas and tequeños (a delightful little cheese stuffed pastry). The wine had a screw cap. T grabbed some of the pastries and ran.
These were great. It was immediately evident that Renzo’s bakery was their outstanding feature. The pastries were flaky and puffy and chewy and perfect. The meat inside (beef and chicken empanadas) was pretty good too, but the main attraction was the pastry itself. The tequeños were delicious as well, with some really great cheese inside. This was the impressive part. This is why my girlfriend didn’t leave me.
There was food to be had, too! I got The Mighty Renzo, a sandwich with a badass name. I got it for the name. This is who I am. The sandwich features ham, cheese, bacon, hard boiled eggs, red peppers, green olives, and GRILLED BEEF TENDERLOIN. Aw yeah. Steak sandwich. It was okay. Honestly, I was immediately disappointed. I felt there was too much going on here. It’s a hot sandwich, the cheese was melty, the two meats didn’t especially blend, and the egg stuck out like a hard boiled egg on a sandwich. Apparently egg has a presence in Argentine sandwiches, so it wasn’t out of place, but… it didn’t work for me (one of the employees recommended getting it with fried egg… ahhhh that would have been much better). I really appreciated the olives, though! Surprise! Oh and the meat was excellent. The ham was clearly high quality, and the beef was perfect. Delicious. Flavorful. Simple and meaty. I almost finished half the sandwich, and then I pulled out the steak from the remainder of that half and just ate that. Good stuff. The bread and cheese were high quality as well. We began to notice a trend.
My girlfriend ordered a salad, also based on the name – “Bianca’s Salad”. Not as awesome as The Mighty Renzo, but her reasoning was that if it was named after someone, it must be special. Or good. The salad was baby greens and baby spinach, with dried cranberries, walnuts, almonds, feta cheese, and a house dressing (some sort of sexy raspberry vinaigrette). The salad was, indeed, good, but it was in no way special. You could have picked this up anywhere, really. Not bad, but nothing notable.
In an attempt to win back the evening, we got some dessert. It was the right choice.
First up, a non-traditional cannoli the size of a plastic spoon. As with their other pastries, this was quite exceptional. I really prefer a standard creamy filling used in cannolis, but this chocolatey, almost caramel type filling was surprisingly good! I had expected it to be overwhelming, but it behaved itself, and did not make me sick in the least. Of course, the pastry portion was perfect.
And the tiramisu was terrific. It was just right – firm but spongy, a bit creamy and very slightly bitter, and ridiculously light. I knew I was eating, but it was as if I were eating nothing at all. It was quite satisfying. The serving seemed big, but after tasting it, I could easily see eating it all by yourself and not feeling like shit afterwards at all.
So we concluded that, though not especially romantic, Renzo’s was a decent spot to eat, especially if you’re interested in having delicious deli meats and cheeses, baked goods, and wine. Honestly, they don’t need to bother with the sandwiches and proper meals at all. I would quite enjoy just sitting down to a meat and cheese platter with some wine, and finishing off the evening with coffee and dessert. Their true mastery is of the baked wonder, such as these breadigators:
How fun! So try it out. Maybe you won’t fall in love, but get some tiramisu and you just might make it out with your relationship intact. Oh and there’s a USF discount that I didn’t get, but it’s good to know they have one. Yup. Food.