Don’t cry for me
Lomo Argentine Grill1107 Front Street Suite A
Sacramento, CA 95814
Despite the recent boom in adventurous new restaurants, Sacramento has really always been a meat-and-potatoes kind of town. So, it’s especially fitting that one of those new restaurants, with its Argentine theme, is actually a meat-and-potatoes kind of place. Lomo is a steakhouse in a modern South American vein, sleek and urban and hip.
Our area is somewhat awash in beef, what with the opening of two Ruth’s Chris (Chrises? Chrisi?) in the area and a plenitude of old-standby steakhouses as well. But Lomo sets itself apart by offering grass-fed South American beef from Uruguay—Argentine beef imports are banned currently—and other Latin-influenced menu items with a modern sensibility. Its dining room has a rough-hewn elegance, the cocktails and wine list are restrained yet appealing, and service operates with a sort of knowing wink.
It’s a bit surprising to find this fresh take in Old Sacramento, which is not exactly known for its hipness. We went on the early side and found the dining room populated by a scattering of sweat-suit-clad Old Sac-tourist types, who looked a bit befuddled by the jazz combo and the suave atmosphere.
Lomo isn’t easy to find. From the street, or rather the wooden sidewalk, it’s all but invisible. We turned into a space occupied by old-timey photo parlors and the like and noticed, at the back, a discreet sign for Lomo, luring visitors downstairs. Once you get to the restaurant’s foyer, however, you’re drawn in. I approved of the waiting area provided, with cushy leather couches, but we were quickly steered past the chairs to a rather expansive, comfortable table.
The menu is short and meaty. One option in particular—the parrillada, a set menu that can be ordered only for a whole table, with a minimum of four—was a veritable carnivore’s festival. We lacked the requisite number, but we did immediately gravitate to beef, choosing an appetizer of beef empanadas as well as a tapa-like plate, “el plato del obrero,” chorizo on toasted bread, with a glass of Malbec included.
We thought these starters would arrive first, but instead the kitchen sent out our arugula salad, with a zingy red-wine vinaigrette, chunks of avocado arranged around the plate and curls of Parmesan. It was very good and extremely large; we had ordered it split, and we got it on two composed plates (a nice touch), each copious enough to be credible as a single serving. Alas, even in the dim light of the restaurant, I could see that a few yellowed and wilting leaves had made their way in among the baby arugula.
Before we finished the salads, the appetizers arrived. They were quite pleasant. The empanadas’ fried pastry was blistered and a bit on the oily side, but the complex, cumin-scented filling with astringent green olives was good. The chorizo on bread was just that, and the hot grilled bread—also a bit oily—was a good match with the sausage. Argentine-style chorizo is not the spicy, crumbly type you might expect from Mexican cooking, nor is it the firmer, paprika-infused Spanish style, but a juicy, mild, fresh sausage. Here, it was sprinkled with just a bit of fresh chopped salsa. I had my doubts about how it would go with the wine, which was a smooth, pleasingly uncomplicated red, but to my surprise it brought out an unexpected and enjoyable cherry-almond note.
These appetizers—plus the bread we had been nibbling on with the housemade chimichurri, an herby, oil-based sauce with a woodsy thyme flavor—seemed like plenty to fill us up, but the real meat was still to come. My husband had a rib eye; I had a plate of cross-cut short ribs. Lomo’s menu is strong on chewy, flavorful cuts, and these were no exception. The short ribs were rich and sizzling hot, with a great beefy flavor. On the side I got the tasty if indistinctive sautéed spinach, with tender chunks of garlic. My husband’s rib eye had nice flavor, and the fries alongside were excellent: thin-cut, golden and crisp. Neither plate, however, came with the promised chimichurri. It does accompany the bread at the start of the meal, but we had to ask for more to have enough with our entrees.
The short dessert menu includes Argentine-style gelato, but we chose to share the charmingly named “panqueques”—two eggy little crepes filled with soft dulce de leche that tasted appealingly like a liquefied Sugar Daddy candy. On top was a crackling layer of caramelized sugar, like a crème brûlée—delicious. A more disappointing ending was a decaf cappuccino that tasted like it had been made with weak brewed coffee, not espresso.
Such missteps in the food and service should be correctable, and it’s to be hoped the restaurant will fix them. More problematic is the question of whether it will draw crowds. Certainly, the mix of mild exoticism (the Argentine angle) and old favorites (beef, beef and more beef) ought to appeal, but whether Sacramentans will seek out the restaurant’s challenging location for that combination remains to be seen.