If you thought America was the land of BBQ, I’d have to say you’re mistaken. That title belongs to Argentina – the most barbeque happy country on Earth. The people of this great country eat roughly twice the amount of beef per capita as we do in the states – and it’s all cooked exactly the same way – on a parilla grill over on open fire of chopped wood and logs.
At Maro Wood Grill, an Argentinean inspired restaurant, located in picturesque Laguna Beach owner Maro (short of Mariano) Molteni and Executive Chef Debra Sims (a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu) are working hard to bring you that same experience with their culinary works of art. With a focus on sustainability, fresh ingredients, and simple yet thoughtful concepts, their fresh organic cuisine showcases the best of Argentina which is home to some of the best and finest cattle producers and steakhouses in the country.
Each menu item is carefully and thoughtfully executed and planned out via the brilliant mind of Chef Sims. Her flavor palate comes to life on the wood grill and then to your plate to savor. Since Maro Wood Grill implements a wood grill for almost all their cooking, you’ll notice that your food has a slight char but that’s part of the fun and adventure.
Before you start drooling (or is it too late?), let’s discuss the food at Maro Wood Grill.
Our tasting adventure at Maro Wood Grill began with amazing grilled green beans and mushroom empanadas. The char on the beans and the salt gave it a great flavor. The empanadas themselves are not fried, yet baked which makes them a bit more doughy vs crusty. They were packed with a delicious filling of organic mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, and onions.
Up next was this delightful dish – Ricotta Noquis and Grilled Tomatoes. I love food that has a great story and this one is a winner. The 29th of each month in Argentina is Dia de Noquis – the day of Gnocchi. This is the day that everyone gets together to each noquis in Argentina. Since payday fell on the first of the month for most families, they had to scrape together whatever they could find and it was usually potatoes and flour – the foundation of noquis. The 29th also honors Italian Saint Pantaleo who has had many miracles attributed to him so therefore, the day was considered lucky. The dish is usually served with money underneath but ours was served with a bit of ricotta and grilled tomatoes. We all like a little green but the flavors made up for the lack of cash and we consider it a miracle to be dining in Chef Sims presence at Maro Wood Grill.
Our journey to Argentina takes us to these wondrous Grilled Oysters Rockefeller with a burnt lemon wedge. Yes, you can grill oysters and they’re simply amazing when you do so.
If it couldn’t get any better, my favorite dish of the night was this amazing, moist, “fall of the bone” Mesquite Lamb and Baba Ghanouj. A hush fell over all those in attendance with just one bite and on cue Chef Sims walked out asking “so, how do you like my lamb?!” Muffled praises, satiated palates all looked at her at the same time and nodded. I saw a sly grin on her face before she disappeared back into the kitchen for this gem – the Flat Iron and Chimichurri and Short Rib with Vegetables. After all, Argentina is known for its beef and all meat served at Maro Wood Grill is grass fed – you’ll notice the difference in the texture and flavor – this was no exception and true to Argentina’s roots.
Our night at Maro Wood Grill ended with two exceptional desserts. Usually one will do, but how fortunate was I to get two?! With creativity in mind, we were first presented with this Grilled Fruit and Passion Fruit Curd. The char on the pineapple paired with the cool, clean curd was just perfect and refreshing.
Our last dessert was the Golden Foodie award three time winner – the Banana Bread Pudding. One bite and you’ll know why. Not too sweet, this is the perfect way to end any night.
My palate had an amazing adventure taking a taste tour of Argentina at Maro Wood Grill. If you’re looking for something different or an impressive date night or dinner spot, head down to Laguna Beach – the locals sure know how to keep this one a secret.