That, and the strength of my wallet. Because unlike most other foods, commercial restaurant steaks are either good and expensive (SGD100 plus cuts at Cut, Prive, Morton's, Ruth Chris) or cheap and not worth your dollars (Aston's? Please, you'd be better off buying a nice rib-eye and searing it yourself at home). There isn't normally a decent "middle ground," so we're delighted to find out about Salta Argentine Parilla and Grocer which will hopefully fit the bill.
Salta is located at ICON Village, a 3-5 minute walk South-West from Tanjong Pagar MRT station. It's hard to imagine a mall that's more dead; hopefully the lack of pedestrian traffic doesn't affect business too much. The restaurant's centrepiece attraction is a 15-foot long Charcoal BBQ Grill, on which the chefs grill up chicken, lamb, Argentinian beef, and other meats.
After our orders are taken, we're presented with a loaf of pretty nice bread. What we liked was that instead of a slab of butter, the bread comes with a small tub of some sort of olive oil'ed and balsamic vinegar'ed pâté.
Empanadas are an Argentinan specialty and are remarkably similar to large glazed curry puffs. Except that instead of a curry chicken filling, there's about ten different choices - we try the Cordero (lamb & tomato), Carne (beef & capsicum), Jamón y Queso (ham & cheese) and Espinaca (spinach). They're all pretty tasty, and at SGD10 for four empanadas, great value, too.
Our next starter, the Chorizos Tradicional, goes for SGD25 and is a quite-substantial three sausages in itself. We don't care much for the bratwurst-like white colored sausage because the meat is too 'smooth;' but the other two darker sausages are chunky, lumpy and juicy, and delicious.
We also order the Saltoast for SGD8, because it's marked as "must try" on the menu. It's an interesting take on garlic bread - slow toasted until crispy, with loads of cheese and anchovies; the taste of garlic is drowned out though, for you garlic lovers out there.
Food's been good so far, so we've got high expectations for the Ojo de Bife (Rib Eye steak, SGD35 for 300gm). Unfortunately the steak is let down by being unevenly cooked. Some bites were nicely seasoned; others could have used a shake or two of salt and pepper.
What's worse was that even though we ordered medium rare, the steak was medium-well-bordering-on-well-done on one side, and rare-bordering-on-blue on the other, thus we only had half the steak done to our preferred temperature in the middle. A cooking snafu that shouldn't happen in any restaurant, much less one that specializes in steak.
We're not sure if the photos bring it across properly, but we were served a LOT of food, and at the bill coming in at just $83 for two people, it's pretty good value. Shame that the steak was a disappointment, but perhaps it was an off day for the chef? The other dishes were good enough for us to definitely come back again to give them a second try.
Salta is open for lunch and dinner from Mondays-Saturdays (closed on Sundays). Non-halal.