Buenos Aires Has a Members-Only Meat Club, and We Want In
Members can taste the evolution of their dry-aged meats, straight from the meat closet.
Buenos Aires has no shortage of steakhouses (they’re called parrillas in Argentina), and if you’ve witnessed Don Julio Parilla in real life, you know exactly what we’re talking about. $20 will get you a juicy, two-inch-thick steak served on a stark white plate alongside a serious steak knife to work through it like a true carnivore. In this part of the world, meat is typically cooked somewhere between rare and medium rare, resulting in the most tender, melty steak on the planet. Add a glass of Malbec, and you'll never leave.
Argentina is obviously known for its beef, but dry aging, not so much. Surprisingly, the method is new to their culinary scene. “When we started dry-aging beef six years ago, the technique was not common in Argentina,” says Juan Gaffuri, executive chef at Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires. At Elena, inside the hotel, Gaffuri says his team has the most expertise on the process. “Dry-aged meat is becoming very popular."
So, Gaffuri launched a brand-new dry-aged beef club—the meat club of our dreams—to take dry-aging knowledge directly to the consumer. The carnivorous "members only" club was brought to life because of their popular 45-day dry-aged beef offered at the restaurant. “These are our most popular menu items and we serve 300 kg on a weekly basis,” he says. “Based on this, we wanted to make an exclusive group that could have the opportunity to experience the process of dry aging with the number of days that they would like and perceive the evolution of flavor and texture.”
Exclusive to Elena, members pay a fee of $65 a month, plus the cost of the meat ($600 to $700, depending on the cut). From there the meat sits in a "meat closet" where it’s dry aged with proper temperature and humidity over however many days, allowing guests to pop in for lunch or dinner and taste the evolution of their meat with a group of friends—or solo, if sharing isn’t preferred.
“While we recommend a full 45 days, clients are welcome to taste their cuts earlier, and we provide a special notebook to record their notes,” says Gaffuri. In the beginning, he says the meat tastes very watery and mild. "Once it starts aging, notes of cured meat and some cheeses start to appear,” he says. “After several days it starts losing moisture, which intensifies the flavor. There are also enzymes that over time, start to break down the fibers of the meat, creating a more tender steak.”
Some members have taken it next level and let meat age over 120 days; however, Gaffuri’s ideal dream steak is an Angus ribeye cut aged between 60 to 70 days, because it offers the most complex flavor. For Argentinian Wagyu, he says the best taste is at 90 days aged because it entails more marbling and takes longer to develop flavor characteristics.
While dry aging can be practiced at home, Gaffuri emphasizes that it’s crucial to have a well-controlled environment.
“It is important to control temperature, humidity and airflow, so we don't recommend dry-aging meat at home,” he says. In other words, it’s best to indulge at a steakhouse or restaurant that specializes in the dry-aging process. Or to join a dang meat club.