We’re often looking for something new and different to eat, but sometimes it’s just a matter of finding a chef who’s been doing exactly what we’ve been craving all along. Enter AMA, an Argentine Supper Club. We peel back the red velvet curtain into a woody rustic room and are initially unsure what to expect until… Chef Sebastian Gallucci appears with disarming charisma and confidence. This passionate gaucho knows what we’re about to discover: that his flare for Latin cooking is exciting.
Argentine empanadas are baked, not fried and these scrumptious purses of ground and seasoned beef, enveloped in delicate folds of pastry dough, are baked crisp to lip-smacking goodness. Vibrant vegetarian empanadas, generously sprinkled with queso fresco and brushed with chimichurri are garden fresh and sing of spring.
The ceviche platter bursts of colour and flavour that makes me want to grab my dining partner and dance a tango. It’s just the right acid balance, not sour, but sprightly. Plump shrimp, toasted corn, mint leaves and blood orange luxuriate in bright acidity and rest on a creamy guac that I scoop with bliss.
Chef Gallucci’s industriousness lead him from a local-favourite food truck, Che, to his AMA restaurant, but he’s not forgotten the dish that first ignited the palates of his loyal patrons: his chorizo sandwich. It hits all the right notes. Light, but totally filling, meaty chorizo is complimented by fresh peppers, and lovingly set in a warm, fresh and wholesome Portuguese bun, so soft and yet crunchy, and it is so satisfying I would be happy to eat this every single day. This is the difference that fresh ingredients make. Chef Galluccii enjoys sourcing from local vendors in Kensington Market, and we are the better for it. For my tastes, there is too much chimichurri, as it overpowers the chorizo, but my dining partner says, with full and happy mouth, “No. You’re wrong. This is delicious.”
Argentine cuisine is renown for the Asado. No dinner would be complete without indulging in the chicken thigh, marinated in spices for twelve hours, and then slowly roasted on the grill. Oh so tender chicken is so cluckin good and smoky, and it is hard to believe how much we love the mashed potatoes on which it is beset. We marvel at how much care and attention to ingredients this kitchen must take to make every ingredient stand out with wholesome taste and texture.
Now, the main event in any Argentine menu: Pampas grass-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free Argentinean beef. Coveted around the world, I have rarely seen it on a menu outside Argentina, and never in Toronto. For the beef aficionados among us, we know that in the right hands this is the best beef in the world. The rib eye is served on a wooden board, with a drizzle of olive oil and gently sprinkled with sea salt. This is my partner’s first taste of Argentine beef, and this kitchen does not disappoint. It is so juicy and robust, and proves that we don’t need to dine at a steak house to enjoy the best steak. Accompanied by sweet golden beats, we are in love with every bite.
Feeling stuffed, like a human empanada, I pass on dessert…until it’s sweet aroma wafts through the dining room and I submit to it anyway. Resistance is futile. A warm delicately rolled pancake with creamy dulce de leche and drizzling of nutella is sinfully decadent and begs us to linger a little longer in appreciation.
AMA, 930 Queen St. West, 647-349-9262
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Associate Publisher and Executive Editor of DINE and Destinations magazine.