It’s Saturday night at Tango & Malbec and prime beef fragrantly sizzles over the custom-made parilla, a traditional Argentine grill fueled by pecan and mesquite wood. Bold malbec wines are shared at every table while tango music beats in the background. As the name suggests, the cultural dance of tango and Argentina’s flagship malbec wine both play a significant role in this handsome 7-year-old Galleria-area chophouse specializing in Argentine and Uruguayan cuisine.
“Tango & Malbec is my ode to the beautiful restaurants I enjoyed when living in Argentina. We want to show Houston what a high-end Argentine restaurant and the culture of tango looks like,” says owner Gina Pagni-Ferreira, pointing to her rustic-chic space featuring exposed brick walls, lipstick-red accents, an intimate wine room and animal rugs. “In Argentina, tango is more than a sultry partner dance. It’s passion and a way of life.” That passion shines on the wine list flaunting more than 40 malbec selections, one of the largest collections in Texas.
Although malbec grapes originated in southern France, the transport of vine grafts proved that the varietal thrived in Argentina. From fruit-forward to full-bodied or elegantly balanced, the malbec selections here elevate the robust menu of grilled beef starring dry-aged tomahawk steak, short ribs and Akaushi ribeye sparked with garlicky chimichurri and jalapeno-kissed cilantro crema. “The best malbecs are rich and velvety, full of dark fruit flavors enlivened by a peppery zing, made with grapes grown in arid Mendoza,” says wine director Enrique Varela. Rare finds like Fabre Montmayou 2013 Gran Reserva Malbec ($80), heady with blackberry, chocolate and coffee notes, and with a lush finish, draw connoisseurs for an unparalleled dining experience. “You won’t see many of our malbecs on other Houston lists.”