Back in 2011, San Telmo introduced Melbourne to an authentic taste of Argentina. Sister restaurant Pastuso flew the flag for Peru when it landed on ACDC Lane a few years later. Now, with their latest project Palermo, the owners are again enticing diners on an international food journey, this time trekking through Argentina — with stops in Italy and Spain paying homage to the country's multicultural heritage.
It's a warm and moody split-level space on Little Bourke Street, where rich brown tones and leather banquettes provide a fitting backdrop for the kitchen's meat-heavy menu. Named after a well-known neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, Palermo pulls most of its culinary influence from Argentinian cuisine, with a custom asado fire pit and a traditional parilla charcoal grill that are the stars of the kitchen.
Carnivores will find themselves in a pretty happy place here. Grazing small bites — like the rich suckling pig croquettes cut through with chipotle mayonnaise ($5 each), or the hearty take on beef tartare, teamed with fried capers and a punchy horseradish purée ($18) — are interesting and meat-heavy.
If you're more of an omnivore, there are a couple of lively ceviche options ($19, $20) and an Italian-inspired tomato salad ($17). Do yourself a favour and try the flavour-packed empanadas ($6 each) stuffed with a mix of green olive, boiled egg and beef.
But the main lineup is where you'll really see what the kitchen toys can do. Steak lovers are spoiled for choice with the dishes coming off the parilla grill. The Rangers Valley grain-fed skirt steak shows just what can happen when you treat a secondary cut right, though it would have pushed the point even further had it enjoyed a little less time between grill and table.
The asado pumps out a few choice meat options, too — think, tender Gippsland Suffolk lamb in both a 250g and a 450g serve — while sides like the grilled broccolini, dressed with breadcrumbs, parmesan, chilli and an anchovy vinaigrette ($13) help to freshen up your plate.
The bar offering is worth a visit in its own right; it features wines from across South America and Spain, including a solid spread of malbec. The full-bodied 2014 Ruca Malen is one of three available by the glass. You'll also find a tidy selection of vermouth and signature cocktails like the Palermo Sour ($20) — a blend of grapefruit, vodka and Amontillado sherry.
Images: Kristoffer Paulsen