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Bold Flavors at Balvanera


Balvanera Provoleta
Balvanera Provoleta

Balvanera brought Argentinian flavors to the Strip District when it opened this past October. Pittsburgh was chosen as Balvanera’s second location because one of the co-owners, Meredith Boyle, grew up in Aspinwall. The return to Pittsburgh felt like a natural fit for her and her husband Chef Fernando Navas.


When you enter the restaurant, it’s all tall ceilings and stunning tile floors. This made the restaurant noisy, but it added to its cosmopolitan ambience.



Arancini de coliflor
Arancini de coliflor

Balvanera’s food matched its vibe perfectly. The menu is a sophisticated mix of aperitivos (appetizers), para compartir (to share), carnes (meats), platos (dishes), embutidos (sausages) and sides. Balvanera dishes are perfect for sharing, so my dining companions and I started with a few communal dishes. The arancini de coliflor was the first plate to arrive, and it set the tone for the entire meal. The arancini were the picture of decadence. When we cut open the fried balls of goodness, cheese oozed out. We finished them just as quickly as they had arrived. Argentina is known for their empanadas, so I was excited to try the ones on Balvanera’s menu. When I checked online they had both roast beef and corn options available, but they only had the roast beef on their in-house menu. The roast beef empanadas (or empanadas de carne) were no disappointment. Sometimes I find beef empanadas to be dry, but that was not the case with these. The roast beef was supremely tender and well-spiced, while the pastry was perfectly flaky. I’d love to try the corn empanadas when they’re back on the menu.


The next dish to come to the table was the provoleta. This was my absolute favorite dish of the evening. I would go back to Balvanera and just order this and a glass of wine. When I first saw this on the menu, I thought it was going to be similar to a mozzarella stick, the most gourmet one of course. This was not the case, but the alternative was even better. The grilled provolone was more similar to queso, gooey and perfect for dipping warm crusty bread. The provoleta’s cheese stretch was unreal. The tomato confit brought some savoriness to the dish, while the pepitas added a contrasting crunchy texture. This is a must-order when you visit Balvanera.


The yellowtail crudo was the perfect palate cleanser before we moved on to the meat portion of our meal. This is a rather small portion, but delightful nonetheless. The yellowtail sashimi was balanced by bits of guindilla pepper, shallot and apple. This all came together for a perfect fresh, savory bite.



Chorizo
Chorizo

While Balvanera has a variety of offerings, the meat is the star of the show. My dining partners and I are big chorizo lovers, so we opted for the chorizo especial, a lightly grilled housemade pork and guanciale sausage served with piquillo & guindilla peppers. The chorizo was full of warm spices and grilled to perfection, while the peppers added a spicy, acidic bite. Next time, I’d love to try the rueda de cordero, which is a housemade lamb sausage.



Angosto steak
Angosto steak

Meat is what Balvanera does best and their premium cuts of beef showcase this. They offer both domestic and Argentinian steaks, so of course we opted for the angosto—a certified Angus, pasture-raised in Argentina. Our steak was perfectly cooked at a medium-rare temperature, and the meat was pink and juicy. Two sauces were served with the dish—a fresh chimichurri and salsa criolla. Both sauces added a freshness to the heaviness of the steak. I would suggest ordering a side to enjoy with your meat. We didn’t, as we thought it would be too much food, but we felt we needed something to accompany the steak. Next time, I’m going to try the roasted carrots with honey and sherry vinaigrette or the ‘super’ mashed potatoes.



Balvanera Dulce de leche ice cream
Dulce de leche ice cream

Balvanera had a vast dessert menu, and we didn’t know what to choose. In the end, we chose the classic flan and rotating ice cream flavor. The day we went it was dulce de leche, my favorite. Both desserts were so luxurious that we couldn’t finish them. They were still definitely worth ordering.


The menu at Balvanera is so extensive that I couldn’t try everything I wanted to. I’ll go back and try the remolachas roti (roasted beets with ricotta salata), Harlow’s Caesar and the milanesa de pollo (crispy breaded chicken with fresh avocado salad).


Balvanera was an elevated experience from the atmosphere to the food. I felt as if I’d been transported to Argentina for one delightful evening.

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