April 2006

 
 
The most dynamic restaurant trends we've noticed this year have been in ethnic restaurants. For years, this term has been synonymous with cheap; the food may be delicious, but don't look for atmosphere and service, let alone a wine list. That's no longer the case when it comes to Spanish, Indian and Argentine cooking.
   Spanish food has become an international phenomenen, due in large measure to the influence of Spanish chefs such as Juan Mari Arzak at Arzak and Sergi Arola of La Broche. Here in the States we've seen a proliferation of restaurants playing off the tapas tradition, from the relaxed food and atmosphere to great Spanish wines.
   Indian cuisine has also found a welcome balance between low-budget chaat shops and ornate, expensive palaces: The new breed of Indian restaurants offers the vivid, complex flavors of the cuisines of the subcontinent with wines to match.
   In the case of Argentina, the country's wines finally have showcases equal to their stellar quality. From New York to Novato, California, you can have your malbec and your steak, too-and not on a flaming stick wielded by a guy in a gaucho getup.
   So whether you're craving Spanish wine and tapas to match; Argentina malbec and juicy empanadas, or exotic Indian curries with Loire whites and red Burgundies, you'll find the places to quell your hunger in the pages that follow.

 
  real spanish tapas
 
> Tia Pol I New York City
"What we're doing here would be perfectly in place in Spain today," says chef and partner Alexandra Raij of Tia Pol, a sliver of a tapas bar in far west Chelsea. "Spanish food used to be considered 'ethnic' food, even in Spain, which sets people's expectations for value and quality, but that view is changing fast." Chefs around the world (including those in the next few pages) are transforming Spanish food into one of the most exciting cuisines on the planet, and nowhere is that more obvious that in the reinvention of tapas, the small, simple plates that are traditionally closer to bar snacks than to pub food. "In Spain, cooks from all of the high-end restaurants are opening tapas bars now," Raij says, " Even Sergi Arola [of the avant garde La Broche in Madrid] has opened a pintxos place."

For chef Raij and front-of-the-house partners Mani Dawes and Heather Belz, running a Spanish restaurant means treating Spanish wine and food as modern Spaniards do-exploring, adapting, playing. "Where a place like El Bulli desconstructs things forward, we're going backwards, towards the idea. Everything we serve is either a riff on a traditional dish, or a play on traditionally Spanish ingredients and flavor profiles using American ingredients," offers Raij. The result is more animated conversation than anthropological dissertation: deviled eggs, that icon of American cocktail parties, Raij grounds in Iberia with a sprinkling of pungent smoked paprika, while the cazuela of clams and mussels, usually simmered, she sautées with ginger and hot pepper inspired by a visit to Chinatown.

The wines, too, reflect that sense of pushing at boundaries in the warmest, most pleasurable ways.

"If I offered Rioja by the glass I'd never sell anything else," Dawes explains. Instead, she offers a small, constantly changing list focused on indigenous grapes from lesser-known appellations like Rueda, Getariako Txakolina and Jumilla. "You get to try something you've never had before at a price you can afford," Dawes says.

There's a dense crowd at the bar and a wait for one of the small tables most nights, and if this thrills Dawes, Belz, and Raij, it's not for the reasons you might expect. "Waiting gives people the time to talk to one another. It gives them the feeling that they're all in it together," says Dawes. "We want the evening to be memorable, and that really comes from how you engage with other people." This is Spanish cuisine as a living, breathing, evolving entity. Just don't forget to order the fried chickpeas.

- Robert Pincus

Tia Pol, 205 10th Ave., NYC, 212-675-8805
 
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> Zambra Tapas Bar and Restaurant I Asheville, NC
Zambra is Old Castillian for a Moorish party, a flamenco dance or a bird, except in Asheville, North Carolina, where it signifies great food. On the cusp of the Smoky Mountains, in an eclectic city that demands great and varied food, Zambra stands out as the first tapas bar in the state.

The menu changes constantly, save for the olives, which the kitchen marinates in spicy citrus oil with preserved lemons. From there, you might try classics like pan rustico with fruity olive oil and mussels steamed with Spanish ham, tomatoes, and herbs. Like any good tapas bar in Spain, however, you'll also find dishes that bear the chef's distinctive mark. Here, chef Adam Bannasch might riff on the traditional smoky Spanish roasted peppers by serving them with a pecan aioli, or he might prepare local rainbow trout with hazelnuts, orange and brown butter.

Like the food, the wines are first rate and affordable. And they are also available in small portions: About half the offerings are available by the glass. Settle in with a crisp, fresh fino or a refreshing Cava and work your way up to reds like the 2002 Clio from Jumilla, a monastrell-cabernet blend that would make short work of the almond-crusted lamb chops. For dessert, there are sweet Sherries like Lustau's rich, amber-hued East India Solera, but you might want to extend your exploration of the wines and foods of the Iberian peninsula with Port. The 1966 Colheita from Porto Rocha is worth the detour.

- Fred Thompson

Zambra, 85 Walnut St., Asheville, NC, 828-232-1060; zambratapas.com
 
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> Tintol I New York City
Let's get this straight: Portuguese cuisine isn't the same as Spanish cuisine, so Tintol doesn't exactly belong in the "real Spanish tapas" category. Tintol, in fact, is Portuguese slang for red wine, and the place is run by José Meirelles, a Portuguese native.

Tintol is included here more because of the chicken-or-egg questions it poses: Are Spanish tapas so popular because Portugal taught the country the joys of bacalau drawn from the Atlantic's cold waters; escabeche brought from Brazil, its former colony; and the paprika for which it's famed? Were New Yorkers primed for platters of morcilla, casuelas of chicken giblets and sleek, meaty boquerones because Meirelles had trained us in the value of hearty flavors, fresh foods and convivial dining with Les Halles, the French bistro he used to run?

These questions are hard to ask when you're perched on a bar stool and teasing mussels out of their garlicky vinaigrette; the brandade-stuffed piquillo peppers are beckoning; and the marrow is melting out of the roasted beef bones. It's all so good, and it's only the beginning: There's also the wine.

Meireilles might have prepared us for Portuguese food, but he realizes that Portuguese wine is still largely an unknown, and so he's padded the list with some Spanish choices. You could pretend you're in Spain and order Cava, Rioja or Priorat, but it's just as easy to stay comfortably within the Portuguese choices. Order a glass of chilled white Port with a twist, the cooling choice of Port producers during the Douro's torrid summers. Check out a Portuguese sparkling wine, like the crisp, bone-dry Raposeira Brut, or delve into the array of fresh alvarinhos while digging into the bolos de bacalau. The lamb loin spiced with cumin echoes Portugal's trade with India; when it lands on the table, launch into the red wines, from bright, juicy tintol from Alentejo to an earthy, elegant old Cartuxa. Just be sure to leave room for the custard-filled natas and a sip of mandarin-flavored Licor Beirao, or creamy Serra cheese and, of course, Port.

- Tara Q. Thomas

Tintol, 155 W. 46th St., NY, 212-354-3838
 
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> Del Toro I Chicago
It doesn't take long to notice that del Toro isn't merely a Spanish restaurant. The curving, colorfully tiled walls immediately remind of Gaudí. And you can practically smell the influence of Ferrán Adrià in a saffron-scented slice of octopus terrine. So when it finally hits you, it hits you over the head: It isn't just Spain they're evoking here. It's Barcelona and its environs.

"I literally ate four or five times a day," chef Andrew Zimmerman says about his research trip to the city. There he made a point of spending equal amounts of time at both traditional and cutting-edge tapas bars. "There's a surprising amount of latitude as to what can be 'Spanish,' " he says. For him, staying true to Spain is a matter of authentic ingredients and what he calls "authentic sentiment." The ingredient part is easy: He makes his own chorizo, salt cod, bacon and blood sausage, and what he doesn't make he imports from Spain. The sentiment? "Manipulate [the ingredients] as little as possible," he says, whether he's making monkfish in romesco sauce; crispy fried chickpeas; or pumpkin-goat cheese croquettas. "The rules have been blown wide open for what constitutes a tapa."

But his rules for the wine list are pretty rigid: It's all-Spanish. Which isn't to say it's boring. "Rioja is great, but there's a lot more out there," del Toro owner Terry Alexander says, and proves it with bottlings like a varietal xarel-lo; three Txakolinas and various verdejos, plus reds from as far afield as Toro, Jumilla and Bierzo. The Sherry list is safer, comprised mostly of Hildago, but nobody seems to mind the contrast of ideals. "I take a pretty casual approach to wine-and-food pairings," Zimmerman says, "It's just about good wine and good food."

- David Tamarkin

Del Toro, 1520 N. Damen Ave., Chicago; 773-252-1500
 
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> Bodega de Córdova I Los Angeles
When you walk into Bodega de Córdova on Fairfax near Park LaBrea, you might be a little taken aback by how low-key it is. It's just a long corridor of a space, flanked on one end by a tall tawny bar with no chairs and no foot rail, a string of stained pinewood tables and low stools, a few posters of toreadors and a postcard tour of bodegas in Madrid and Barcelona. A looming picture of Picasso stares down at you with wide eyes as if to say '¿que paso?' That's about it. In a town where restaurant impresarios spend more time conjuring themes than menus, this bodega is refreshingly real and authentic.

Bodega de Córdova is the bodega of Kenny Córdova, a music producer and former bass player who moved to Madrid a few years ago. He learned about Spanish culture through the city's tapas bars. "The bars in Madrid are all tiny places," he tells me over a glass of juicy monastrell from Jumilla. "They're long, dark and cozy, and they're always full."

It was an American friend in Madrid who suggested that Córdova should take the bodega concept to the States. "I told him I didn't know anything about bars," says Córdova, "And he said 'What do you need to know? You pour drinks, and you charge for them.' "

That was all he had in mind at first, but Córdova managed to find a space with room for a sink, a refrigerator, a toaster oven and a can opener, and found simple ways to plate some of Spain's finer prepared foods, like boquerones, chorizos, bacalao and montaditos, which he translates as "bread with something good." The wine list is short, simple and cheap-all Spanish-and covers just enough ground for complete satisfaction.

- Patrick J. Comiskey

Bodega de Córdova, 361 S. Fairfax, Los Angeles; 323-951-1969; bodegadecordova.com

 

 
   Indian Destinations 2006
 
> Dosa I San Francisco
We'll have your table ready in a minute," Emily Mitra signalled to me over the buzz of young voices at the bar. Mitra and her husband Anjan opened Dosa in San Francisco's Mission District in December, and it's been packed nearly every night since. Call the place happening and you miss the obvious-Dosa swells with an energy that's immediately apparent as you enter from Valencia Street. Gone is the staid atmosphere of a formalized (and formulaic) Indian restaurant; and it's clearly not one of the hole-in-wall tandoor places elsewhere in the Mission or the Tenderloin. Dosa is an event.

The Mitras conceived of their restaurant while brainstorming ideas over a crisp, crepe-like dosa filled with spiced potatoes in the South Bay near San Jose. "We were sitting in a place with great south Indian food, but it was bright with fluorescent lights and plain white walls," said Emily. "South Indian food is visually stunning: It's simple, fresh and exotic." They decided to take the dosa and the flavors of the region and put them in an environment that's young, hip and urban.

Prior to Dosa, Indian-Americans and intrepid foodlovers went to the South Bay or East Bay for their fix of regional Indian specialties. The Mitras built their menu around dosas, most of which are served with side dishes like coconut chutney and samba, a flavorful blast of lentils and vegetables used for dipping. They've filled it out with other dishes traditional to the south of India, where lamb is slow-cooked in a potent stew of fennel, tomatoes and poppy seeds to make a dish like Dosa's Tamil curry.

The spices and textures of Indian food are a minefield for even the most experienced sommelier, so Anjan and Emily Mitra called in Mark Bright, one of the W&S Best New Sommeliers of 2006. "It was a challenge to put together," Bright said to me. "There was a lot of give and take with the list. It's white wine food mostly-and you want wines that go with the menu-so there's more white than red."

Riesling works well, Bright says: its relatively lower alcohol doesn't amplify spicy heat, while residual sugar and natural acidity keep flavors fresh. He also gathered high-acid whites like sauvignon blanc, gewürztraminer and chenin blanc (including Sula's 2004 chenin from Nashik, India). Red wine needn't take a back seat with Dosa's food, judging from the bottles spotted on other diner's tables. The ripe flavors of Mark West's '04 California Pinot Noir, for instance, work with the more substantial curry dishes because they stand up to the spice, yet they don't overpower it with too much sweet oak or tannin, says Bright.

Indian restaurants like Dosa take inspiration directly from a particular region and food culture, then match it with a thoughtful wine list in a contemporary, lively setting. It's a phenomenon happening around the country-in New York at places like Mint; in Washington, D.C. at Rasika; in Boston at Masala Art and in Portland at the new Vindalho. These places, all covered in the following pages, evidence a delicious new wave of Indian cuisine.

- Wolfgang M. Weber

Dosa, 995 Valencia St., San Francisco, 415-642-3672; dosasf.com
 
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> Vindalho I Portland
Perhaps it was the cold rain of the Pacific Northwest that turned David Machado's attention to the warm flavors of India. At Vindalho, his new Portland restaurant, Machado's fusion of Indian cooking techniques with fresh regional ingredients has created a buzz.

Vindalho's menu reflects the subcontinent's culinary diversity but also features spicy meat- and seafood-based dishes roasted in a tandoor oven, a style of cooking common to northern India. To best show off the complex, pungent flavors on the menu, Machado brought in wine consultant David Holstrom. His list goes heavy on riesling and gruner veltliner as well as chenin blanc, which Holstrom and Machado found works particularly well. A typical meal might start with a mulligatawny soup made with winter squash and lentils, then lead to a tandoor-roasted Draper Valley chicken and a side of Bengali-spiced spinach with peanuts. So it seems logical to look to the versatile, waxy flavors and slight residual sweetness of chenin like Champalou's 2004 Vouvray.

For the pork vindalho, a Carlton pork shoulder braised with chiles, garlic and ginger, Holstrom steers diners toward reds like Paul Achs's zweigelt-blaufränkisch blend from Austria or Kellerai Terlan's inky lagrein from Italy's Alto Adige. These are substantial enough not to be overwhelmed by the spice intensity of the pork while their richness soothes the palate. A combination as seamless as Machado's delicious fusion of Indian and Pacific Northwest cuisine.

- Rebecca Murphy

Vindalho, 2038 SE Clinton St., Portland, OR; 503-467-4550; vindalho.com
 
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> Rasika I Washington, D.C.
Rasika means flavors in Sanskrit and the name hints that there's a lot going on at this new restaurant in Washington, D.C.'s Penn Quarter neighborhood. With patterned textiles adorning the main wall, nubbly pillars covered with gold mosaic and a prism of ruby-hued beads hanging over a soft banquette, the room is the first cue to Rasika's refined, impressive cuisine.

Owner Ashok Bajaj brought over executive chef Vikram Sunderam from London's heralded Bombay Brasserie to run Rasika's kitchen. Sunderam rethinks the essentials of classic dishes from the subcontinent in a collusion of modern and traditional styles. His eloquent cooking includes dishes like lamb roganjosh-often a muddle of meat and spice, it's presented here as a long-braised shank topped with a frizzle of caramelized onions. Vividly sharp and sweet chutneys add spark to potato and chickpea patties, and each bite of mango served with barbecued shrimp exudes sensual ripeness.

It took 28-year-old Sebastiann Zutant some time to develop a wine program that would live up to Sunderam's dishes. "I had to wipe the slate clean about my previous notions of food-and-wine pairing," Zutant says. "It was a lot of trial and error. I tasted three hundred wines and ate about thirty entrées."

So what has he learned? "Just as yogurt is used in this cuisine to soothe the palate, fat and creamy wines 'smother' the heat and allow other flavors to come through without competing with the food," he says. For example, he enjoys the tropical overtones in Robert Young's 2003 Alexander Valley Chardonnay with ginger scallops or paneer makhani, a housemade cheese in fenugreek-laced tomato sauce. For light appetizers such as the crispy spinach dressed with sweet yogurt and tamarind, Zutant offers crisp whites with pronounced minerality, like Hofer's 2004 Grüner Veltliner. For aromatically spiced lamb or duck dishes, he prefers not-too-tannic reds, like Terra Rosa Malbec or Downing Family Zinfandel. And for dessert, Zutant recommends a wine like Elio Perrone's sparkling muscat with the beignet-like apple jalebi and cardamom ice cream.

The restaurant only opened in December, but Sunderam's cooking and Zutant's complementary wine list have already found an audience eager for an evolution in Indian fine dining.

- Bill Addison

Rasika, 633 D St. NW, Washington, D.C.; 202-637-1222; rasikarestaurant.com
 
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> Mint I New York City
New Yorkers have typically valued Indian food more highly for its dollar-to-pungent-volume ratio (and eternally blinking Christmas lights) than for its integrity. It's the cuisine of choice for taxi drivers and college students, the first who don't drink, the second who buy beer at the corner bodega to wash down chicken tikka masala.

So it was a little surprising when the newly renovated San Carlos Hotel on 50th Street installed Mint in its ground floor. The sleek, spare space doesn't look anything like the bargain buffets downtown. Nor does it recall the few stuffy, expense-account Indians that beat it to midtown a decade ago. It feels new, modern and only vaguely Asian in its serenity and stone waterfall.

That might seem dull if it weren't for the menu. "We've tried to take the best from every city or state in India," says chef Gary Sikka. That includes street food snacks like bhel poori, a mix of puffed rice, potatoes, nuts and spices, which the kitchen manages to dress up without sacrificing its mustard oil-charged flavor. Go for the chicken xacutti, its complex, earthy spicing drawn from Goa, or the tender Keralan spiced crab cakes. Don't bother looking for saag paneer, the steam-table favorite; it's not there. It may take courage to pronounce Vengan Batuta nu Shaak, but you'll be rewarded with a Gujarati dish of silky eggplant in a complex mix of spinach and spices.

Whereas downtown's dishes are workman-like in their size and coarse spicing, Mint's dishes deserve more than a 40-ounce beer to show their finesse, so Mint's owners brought in Chris Wilford to design a wine list. Wilford's interest in pairing Indian food and wine was piqued while he was working at Acker Merrill & Condit. There, they put on a wine-and-food pairing seminar with Tabla, one of the first restaurants in the city to bring Indian spicing into a high-end realm. "We learned pretty clearly that high alcohol, tannin and oak don't go well," he recalls. Now he's a master at culling curry-friendly wines-high-acid whites from Greek assyrtiko to Australian verdelho, as well as a dozen rieslings. He leads his red list with pinot noir, but leaves room for Roches Neuves's earthy Saumur-Champigny, Les Trois Guerrouane's spicy Moroccan red and a host of Rhônes. And the list is always expanding. Wilford uses his informal wine-tasting club as a proving ground. "I told everyone they had to bring a bottle, but it couldn't be riesling. That's where the gewürztraminer came from." So did sake, but that hasn't made the list yet. Check back next week.

- Tara Q. Thomas

Mint, 150 E. 50th St., New York; 212-644-8888
 
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> Masala Art I Boston
Calling Boston-based Vinod and Shikha Kapoor successful restaurateurs would be an understatement. The pair has given birth to more than two dozen restaurants around the city, many of which they've sold to employees who show the right mix of passion and creativity.

Their current roster includes restaurants like Back Bay's Kebab 'n' Curry and Harvard Square's Bombay Club, but it's Masala Art that sets a new standard. They set the tone with fiber-optic lighting and plush silk-strewn banquettes with tufted pillows, but they set it apart with the nine-seat Spice Bar, where diners can arrange a private meal and cooking lesson with Shikha herself. Plus, there's a sommelier on hand, 30-year-old Jason Pierce. Pierce put in ten years of tasting at Upstairs at the Pudding, where he met the Kapoors. They've pretty much given him carte blanche with the list of 200 wines at Masala Art, and Pierce has created a list that looks to the exotic, serious cuisine prepared here for inspiration.

What to pair with a classic like chicken vindaloo? Gewürztraminer, says Pierce. "You need minerality, and for that I pour Zind-Humbrecht or Trimbach because they go with intense spices and act more like palate coaters than palate cleansers." How about deeply flavored tandoori meats marinated in yogurt and spices? New World cabernets, according to Pierce: "They have great volcanic, roasted coffee-hazelnut nuances and subtle hints of carbon." Dominus, Chateau Montelena, Stag's Leap and Woodward Canyon all work here. In white wine, Pierce looks to a Bordeaux such as Château Carbonnieux, explaining that its citrus and mint qualities perfectly complement and contrast spicy dishes. Sounds like the logical thing to do. And it also sounds like he may own this place some day.

- Anthony Giglio

Masala Art, 990 Great Plain Ave., Needham, MA; 781-449-4850

 

 
   Argentine & Brazilian Destinations 2006
 
> Boca I Novato, CA
What the Argentine steakhouse brings to the rapidly expanding universe of international beef restaurants-Tuscan bisteccarias, Mongolian barbecues, Brazilian churrascarias, as well as Morton's of Chicago-is the opportunity for American diners to appreciate the incomparable pairing of Argentina's celebrated beef culture with its wine.

That's clearly apparent at Boca, a new Argentine steakhouse in Novato, California, an easy drive from San Francisco across the Golden Gate toward Sonoma. Besides its prime location for local beef (Marin's Niman Ranch isn't far away), Boca boasts one of San Francisco's most famous chefs. George Morrone, who achieved fame as the chef of Fifth Floor and Aqua, is a partner in the restaurant and its executive chef. Morrone's pedigree for such a venture is intact: His mother is Argentine and, he says, he wanted to open this restaurant in homage to her and the love of food she instilled in him. "Besides," he says, "I love spicy things, zesty things, and the way they like to cook and eat their meat in Argentina speaks directly to that."

In Argentina, what makes a steakhouse Argentine is, of course, the native beef, which some consider the best in the world. However, given that the import of Argentine beef is currently suspended, Argentine steakhouses in the US must do the best they can with our own beef.

Lack of Argentine beef isn't a problem at Boca. The top-notch American beef comes in several different cuts as well as three different categories: grass-fed, grain-fed and dry-aged. The steaks are grilled over flames and then served with two kinds of piquant chimichurri-one green with puréed herbs and one red with smoked paprika.

That combination of spicy chimichurri and rich beef calls for ambidextrous wines-the very wines that Argentina famously delivers. The fresh fruit zip of some of the lighter malbecs and bonarda blends nicely catch hold of the spice in the chorizo empanada, while the richer and spicier full-bodied malbecs pair with grass-fed rib eye seasoned with green chimichurri.

The growing acclaim and availability of Argentine wine make it a natural for an Argentine steakhouse. Wine consultant Paul Einbund recognizes this and provides some excellent choices. At the same time, Boca recognizes that it sits just miles away from the county lines of Napa and Sonoma as well as from cosmopolitan San Francisco, so the list doesn't hew obsessively to an Argentine theme but instead highlights the world's best to match the food. Alongside the malbecs sit syrahs from the Central Coast and Australian shiraz, pinots from Oregon to Volnay, Napa Valley blockbusters and a selection of zinfandels.

The only complaint about Boca's list might be the lack of Argentine whites. There's one torrontés and a couple of chardonnays to pair with the gambas and the selection of salads, fish and fowl that make up the rest of the menu. Otherwise, there's a balanced selection of whites from around the world, with a heavy dose of California chardonnay, lest you forget where you are.

Which is possible, as the whole space comes together in a rustic-feeling space of wood and cast iron, suffused with a copper light, a room which always seems to be bustling and busy-just like any good steakhouse in Argentina.

- jordan mackay

Boca, 340 Ignacio Blvd., Novato, CA; 415-883-0901
 
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> Industria Argentina I New York City
Argentine and Brazilian restaurants in New York City used to be synonymous with all-you-can-eat menus, guys in brocaded jackets running around with espetadas of overcooked beef and copious quantities of forgettable malbec. No mas. In recent months, the city has seen a boom in restaurants that are serving up more traditional food and better wine with some of the swagger and sex appeal once reserved for the Nuevo Latino scene.

One of these is Porção, a popular Brazilian chain that established a foothold on American soil in Miami before recently opening an outpost among the bustling strip of restaurants that line Park Avenue South. But the newcomer that has the city's cognoscenti buzzing is Industria Argentina.

The restaurant is done up in a minimalist style that's amplified by the room's soaring ceilings; it is a marked departure from the warm bistro look of partner Stefano Villa's other restaurants, Novecento, Azul and 1492.

But the modern dining room suits chef Natalia Machado (described by the trendsetting email newsletter Daily Candy as "a hot chick with a tattoo on her neck"), who puts out meticulously plated dishes on wide white plates. It's ethnically distinct Argentine food liberated from the churrascaria that cast Argentina in caricature.

Some of the cooking reflects the connection between Italy and Argentina, like a pork chop Milanese and a smoked-pumpkin risotto; other dishes are pan-Latin, like the Peruvian-style raw yellowfin tuna, avocado and boniato chips. The restaurant is pitting the core of its Argentine arsenal-Corte Carnicero-style rib eye or house-smoked short ribs-against the steaks and chops at restaurants across the city. (And if all this sounds a little too tidied up, don't fret: For $6 you can buttress any of these urbane entrées with a sanguinary side of blood sausage.)

Fortunately for wine lovers, Industria Argentina isn't just a good choice for contemporary Argentine cuisine, it's an excellent showcase for Argentine wine, too. Where better to get acquainted with the best wines the country has to offer than a restaurant with an exclusively Argentine list? Among the 40-plus bottles on offer are values like Altos Las Hormigas Malbec at $28, offbeat-but-worthwhile selections like Susana Balbo's Rosé of Malbec and heavy-hitters like Cheval des Andes, a cabernet-malbec blend made by Terrazas de los Andes in collaboration with Bordeaux's Château Cheval Blanc.

- Peter Meehan

Industria Argentina, 329 Greenwich St., New York; 212-965-8560
 
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> Fogo De Chao I Washington, D.C.
For those who don't quite yet know a picanha from fradinha or alcatra, the gauchos have just ridden into Washington, D.C., firing up their rotisserie at the newest Fogo de Chão. It's the sixth outpost of the chain, which started in Brazil in 1979. Part of the dining experience is listening to your gaucho (here in America they are waiters) explain the 15 different cuts of beef-picanha is prime sirloin, fradinha is bottom sirloin and alcatra is top sirloin-and then flipping your coaster from red to green when you'd like a little more beef or lamb, chicken, pork or sausage. And rather than delivering the cuts speared and in bulk, they'll slice an ounce or two at a time, a far more civilized way to deal with all the meat.

Even in small bites, meat calls out for red wine. And Fogo has a massive wall of it. Although assistant general manager Evan Christopher stocks plenty of California cabernets and merlots, it's the malbecs and blends from Argentina and Chile that have taken off. And if you were about to ask-yes, Brazil does produce wine, and Fogo offers a selection of moderately priced reds from Brazil's Vale dos Vinhedos.

Even in small bites, meat calls out for red wine. And Fogo has a massive wall of it. Although assistant general manager Evan Christopher stocks plenty of California cabernets and merlots, it's the malbecs and blends from Argentina and Chile that have taken off. And if you were about to ask-yes, Brazil does produce wine, and Fogo offers a selection of moderately priced reds from Brazil's Vale dos Vinhedos.

- Margaret Shakespeare

Fogo de Chao, 101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.; 202-347-4668