It's a little confusing, entering the spanking "new" La Rural, located where Pampa used to be, all of the former tenant's decor still in place, the Argentinian menu pretty much—maybe exactly?—the same. When I asked the owner about the relationship between the two restaurants, he replied "the only thing the same is the meat." I assume he didn't mean the actual, physical meat I'd be eating that night, but you never know.
Anyway, new or not, the same or different, my daughters and I feasted on a excellent meal at La Rural this past Saturday night, the food much better than I ever remember having the three or four times I ate—and left disappointed—at its predecessor. We started slowly with some nicely addictive Aceitunitas Rellenas, green olives stuffed with almonds, goat cheese and parmigian, nearly submerged in oil. We probably could have eaten three times what they gave us, but at least the oil did double duty as a dip for our bread.
Next up: grilled meat, including a generous, if inconsistent, serving of Molleja, or sweetbreads, some bites divinely rich and tender, other bites a tad chewy (I had to chuckle, though, watching my kids bicker over who would get the bigger piece of pancreas); and two kinds of sausage, a lovely, juicy, spicy Chorizo (my daughters' favorite), and a hefty Morcilla, which was good for blood sausage—dense, aromatic, tangy—but though Bo and Co gave it a go, its gamey mushiness won't win any converts to the subgenre.
More friendly, and a total table-pleaser: the Empanadas, fried and crispy, our Pollo moist and flavorful (maybe a bit too many peppers for my taste), the Caprese—mozzarella, tomato, basil, all fresh and far more liquid than stringy—a total success, and not at all the "Pizza Hot Pockets" you might expect.
Finally, my daughters split a bowl of Penne Bolognese—the noodles had bite, the sauce was garlicky, sweet and spicy, the dish a huge hit all around—while I tucked into a spectacular Bife De Costilla, a 22-ouncer, beautifully charred, intensely, deeply meaty, and, given its almost-too-rare appearance (I had asked for medium rare), stunningly tender. Really? I'd be surprised if there's a better $20 T-bone in town.
For dessert, we of course ordered the Panqueques de Dulce De Leche, the chewy, caramelized crepes oozing pools of Argentina's national food. Panqueques: fun to say; even more fun to eat.
La Rural is located on Amsterdam Avenue between 98th and 97th Streets. As of 1/12, they did not a have liquor license, nor were they accepting credit cards. We arrived at around 6:30, and though we were seated immediately without a reservation, the place was already pretty full and definitely festive.