By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
They say that people have a tendency to overlook the jewels that are right under their noses when hunting for a gem, and, in my case, that proved to be very much the case.
I literally live right across the street from Carbonvino, which has been around for 11 years (six of them under a different name, but with the same owners and with essentially the same menu).
But it took an invitation from the restaurant’s public relations manager Carlos Valadéz last week for me to finally get around to trying it out.
A meat-lovers paradise with Mexican grown beef prepared Argentine-style (one of the owners, Rocco Gómez, is a native of Buenos Aires, and although he has adopted Mexican nationality, he still prides himself on his Guacho heritage), Carbonvino is a down-to-Earth informal steakhouse with a heavy focus on keeping it simple.
The menu, which is presented on an oversized chalkboard with starters, soups, salads and empanadas on one side, and drinks and meat options on the other, does not elaborate on food items with seductive descriptions or detailed summaries of how each dish is prepared.
And – surprisingly for a favorite Condesa watering hole – the drinks menu is equally minimalist, with no glaring mixology concoctions to lure consumers into surging their bar bills.
Carbonvino’s bartenders are ready and willing to produce whatever their clientele may favor in the way of mixed drinks, and Gómez insists that they are particularly skilled at producing gin cocktails (at his insistence, I tried one with red fruits, citruses and a twig of rosemary that definitely was tasty), but the main attraction at this restaurant is the food.
Like its bill of fare and décor (which is modern, sleek and understated), Carbonvino’s dishes are essentially unadorned, with no showy frills, and I have to admit that they are a little on the bland side when it comes to seasonings.
But they are all prepared fresh to order from, for the most part, with locally sourced ingredients, and chef Grecia Muñoz provides a selection of fresh sauces on every table to jazz them up (including a tangy yogurt and garlic oil sauce that is out of this world).
The appetizers at Carbonvino are especially good, and include some very tasty serrano ham croquets and chillied shrimp montaditos with tequila sauce.
The empanadas are not particularly exciting, but if you add enough of Muñoz’s hot and chimichurri sauces, they are quite palatable.
The homemade bread is also a major plus.
Meat is, of course, the main attraction at Carbonvino, and you can order it as a parillada in the center of the table to share or as a single steak, be it a ribeye, bife or arranchera, all exquisitely seared on a charcoal- and wood-fueled grill.
But even if you are not much of a carnivore, there are some other unexpectedly delicious main dish options to choose from.
The barbequed chicken breast with caramelized apples and mashed potatoes
The barbequed chicken breast with grilled veggies and mashed potatoes and the wasabi fish fillet on a bed of wild rice are both exceptional.
In true Argentine style, Gómez has also includes a selection of pizzas and pastas on the menu.
There are also some enticing desserts, such asa plantation pecan and maple syrup pie and a brandied apple tart filled with vanilla ice cream.
I opted for the three-chocolate brownie, which was moist and not overly sweet.
Smokers have a separate open-air veranda on the side of the restaurant, leaving the main patio smoke-free.
As for me, I will definitely being going back to Carbonvino, both because of its cuisine and its convenient location.
But even if you don’t have the good fortunate of having this restaurant right across the street, I highly recommend you take the time and trouble to discover this understated gem of casual dining.
Carbonvino is located at Tamaulipas 61, on the corner of Montes de Oca, in Colonia Condesa
It is opened daily from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Street-side valet parking is available and all major credit cards are accepted.