San Telmo: A classic steak house with signature touches

01/Octubre/2012 | 12:26

By Lance Brashear

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San Telmo Steak house is a fixture on the gastronomic scene of Quito, in part because of its size.  It is an enormous restaurant, with three floors and two bars.  But even bigger than the facilities are some of the new ideas now coming from the kitchen.

Martin Avero took the reins earlier this year at this classic restaurant and is slowly transforming it into a broader culinary experience

Avero is a trained chef from Argentina, imminently qualified to maintain the Argentine tradition of barbeque meats and steaks.  But in his short career he has also cooked and trained in New Zealand and Asia.  His aim is to complement the classical San Telmo menu with some contemporary influences.

 “The changes are being made little by little.  Now we are starting with a new menu…the idea is to use all that is classical at San Telmo, which is the meat, but also utilize more of the kitchen,” says Avero.

He adds, “I want to give a sense of the cooking from where I come.  I come from Argentina working in a kitchen that is seasonal with signature cuisine.  You go every week to the market; select seasonal products…come back to the restaurant, sit down and create the menu.”

The changes are slow and very deliberate and he assures that in no instance will any product from the traditional menu be abandoned.   “If there is something from our [old] menu which you liked and is no longer there, we can still do it.  If it is not written on the menu, I will make it for you.”

San Telmo clients will never miss their favorite cuts of beef: ojo de bife (ribeye), bife chorizo (sirloin), picaña (top bottom round), tira de asado (short ribs), lomo (tenderloin), and T-bone.  And a new addition is colita de cuadril (Tri-tip).

Also new is the quality of beef now offered.  “We are now bringing more meat from Argentina than Uruguay.  Everything came from Uruguay before but now [we are importing] from both,” says Avero. 

Uruguay beef is not necessarily inferior to Argentina beef but Avero’s suppliers have shown that what comes from Argentina is more select, underpinning his belief in the origins of great cooking.  “The final work is not from the cooks in a restaurant, but rather the provider.”

Avero demonstrated cuts of beef that recently arrived from both countries.  Side by side, the same meat from Argentina is redder, harder, and, he assures, more flavorful.  The Uruguay beef is a darker color, almost a café color, softer, and though lacking some flavor compared to the same Argentin cut, it is still very, very good.

“The difference is due to alimentation of the animal and the way it is killed and how it was treated during its growth,” says Avero.  In respecting the loyal clientele of San Telmo, Avero will continue to offer all cuts in Uruguayan beef, but clients can now request Argentine cuts.“They will cost more,” but he assures, “the quality is worth it.”

Signature touches

What Avero is seeking more than anything is to give culinary identity to San Telmo through a myriad of culinary touches and selected menu changes.

“We have improved our form of preparation. We are making broths…this was done before but there was not any variety for distinct types of sauces.”

For example:  “Now we have a fish perfume, in which we use the bone and head of the fish, boiling for 20 minutes, and we create a broth - a sauce, for all of our seafood.”

This will be different from the sauces and broths for other meats.  He has created a broth made from the shell and head of prawns, which will be used to create a sauce for their classical, “Lomo a lo Macho,” a tenderloin served with seafood.

It is an effort to give each specialty its own sauce, and thus a stronger identity.  “We have another broth for our lamb – a dark broth that is reduced with panela (unrefined sugar), garlic, and thyme.” 

The menu is also evolving at San Telmo.   Previous pasta selections have been eliminated, replaced by new options: linguini with seafood, lamb ravioli, mushroom risotto, and a beet risotto perfumed with orange peel with prawns.

Some fish and seafood items are new, such as a red tuna dish with cauliflower puree and a tapenade – a black olive paste with anchovies, capers, garlic, and olive oil - while others, like the pangora gratinada (grated crab), has been enhanced.  It is now prepared over crunchy, dough baked in the oven.

Another San Telmo classic, which is not going away because of its popularity, is the corvina (sea bass) criolla with a sauce made of red onion, tomato, lemon, cilantro, and oil, served from the griddle with cooked vegetables.

Salmon is on the menu, but no longer as a carpaccio.  Gravlax is a salmon that is presented in finely cut slices, but has been salt cured for 12 hours, and contains garlic and lemon peel, served with a salad of radish, greens, and vinegar of olive oil and lemon, made in house.

All sausages, including chorizo and morcillo, are also now made in house.

Porkchops are out, but bondiola (a special cut of pork from the neck region) is in. 

A surprising move is the salad menu.  It too is gone, but fresh, seasonal salad mixes will be offered daily.  But, again, if you miss your caprese, Avero will gladly make it for you.

Drinks and desserts are also part of the changes.   San Telmo now has new, signature cocktails including pisco with lemon and basil pisco made from an extract.  A martini de pepino (cucumber martini) graces the list alongside a martini de tamarindo (from the tamarind fruit) made with vodka and flavored with cardamom seeds.

Crème brulee is made with a local “chaucha” vanilla, a natural vanilla that visually enhances the dessert. “It demonstrates that which is natural, made with quality, and care,” says Avero.   

Through all of these changes, which are based on his personal philosophy and contemporary culinary concepts, Avero wants his diners to have a distinct experience where, “all in one place people will find both a delicious barbeque and an extraordinary restaurant.”

San Telmo is located at Portugal 440 and Francisco Casanova, half a block down from Eloy Alfaro.  House cuts of beef are $18-28 and imported cuts are $20-40. They are open seven days a week from 12pm to 11pm.  For reservations call 333-1943/4 or visit the website at


Ciudad Quito

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lbrashear - en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.