Gran Fierro Argentinian Restaurant

Gran Fierro Authentic Argentinian Restaurant in Prague

When Juan Cruz first met with the team he had charged with decorating his new Argentinian restaurant, he needed only two words to describe his vision: “chic and rustic.”

“I didn’t want to do a folkloric thing,” he explains. He wanted Gran Fierro to feel authentically Argentinian, but understated. Rather than mount cows’ heads on the walls or hang pictures of gauchos, he preferred to take a more subtle approach. Traditional elements would be present in the restaurant’s details.

But the layout of the restaurant initially posed a small challenge. Gran Fierro is located near the National Theatre, on Vorsilska Street, in a high-ceilinged space that used to house a dine-in-the-dark restaurant. Pod Kridlem Noci was one of several international establishments that replicate the experience of eating while blind.

Amazingly, the local architects and designers Juan had commissioned to redesign the location, Dagmar Stepanov and Katarina Varsova , managed to open up and brighten the interior in only three brief months. A backlit bar outfitted with a selection of colorful Argentinian wine bottles now illuminates the rear and formerly “blind” portion of the restaurant. There are dusty red cushions, ombré lamps, and turquoise floors and side panels on the custom-made wooden tables. “Chic” is, indeed, the word.

Gran Fierro’s more rustic elements can be found in the belts Juan bought in Argentina and that border the restaurant’s seat cushions not unlike suspenders. They’re made of real leather and are the same ones gauchos, or Argentinian cowboys, wear. All of the waiters at Gran Fierro also sport these accessories of a “guarda pampa” pattern, a traditional South American design characterized by the braided repetition of diamond or cross shapes. Like the Matte cups found at the small store at the back of the restaurant (many restaurants in Argentina have shops that sell a version of the food and sauces they offer on the menu, says Juan), these belts, along with food like frozen empanadas, will soon be for sale.

Juan is originally from Buenos Aires, and says he is the only Argentine owner of an Argentinian restaurant here in Prague. “I’m not a cook, but everything on the menu is something I like. That’s part of the importance of having an Argentinian owner. You’ve been eating these dishes since you were a kid, so you know how they taste. That’s how I can innovate. Because I know the essence.”

Gran Fierro’s head chef also hails from Argentina. With the help of his fellow South American cooks, he prepares meals on a Josper Grill from Barcelona. A Josper is a cross between a grill and an oven. Although it is normally open, the Josper at Gran Fierro can be closed. This traps the humidity in with the meat, and renders the latter “more tender and smoky.”

It seems it is only a matter of time before the notoriously meat-loving Czech people and other carnivorous visitors beat a well-worn path to Gran Fierro, which opened just a few months ago. They will find on the menu traditional dishes from a number of South American countries in addition to Argentina. All of the restaurant’s meat offerings, from the Bife ancho or ribeye steak, to the Parillada, an excellent and nicely portioned selection of three different meats, are served on aluminum panels inlaid in wood. The aluminum keeps the food warm while you eat, explains Juan. Like the restaurant’s tables and lamps, these trays are all custom-made.

Juan also owns another Argentinian restaurant in Prague: El Fierro Grill, near Namesti Miru. While that eatery has less seating and is “mainly for takeaway,” Gran Fierro was designed with the Latin notion of “sobremesa” in mind.

Juan translates “sobremesa” as, “After you finish [eating], you keep talking and drinking.”

Between the restaurant’s authentic design and cuisine, Gran Fierro does seem well outfitted to induce a lingering state of mind. Like his approach to the restaurant’s décor, Cruz believes success is about keeping things simple.

“In Argentina, we only put salt on the meat. When the meat is so good, you don’t need more than that.”

Anna Storm, Prague.TV 13.03.2015

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