Sunday, 10/07/2022 09:31

Food and fire: Los Fuegos

By Carlos Ottery

In the pantheon of international cuisines, a few countries seem to dominate the airwaves. Italy, of course, as well as France, China, Japan, and perhaps Thailand.

The rustic meat-rich fare of Argentina is less talked about. But Los Fuegos in downtown Hà Nội is changing that, with its vast array of top-quality dry-aged beef, stunning salads, impeccable wine list and casual yet sophisticated vibes.

Los Fuegos translates as "the fire", a fitting name for a restaurant that eschews gas and instead cooks all its food using local lychee wood on a series of huge handmade grills and ovens.

You can see and feel the fire of the open-plan kitchen as you enter the elegant restaurant nestled on leafy Đặng Thai Mai Street in Tây Hồ District.

FEAST: Steaks, duck and more. VNS Photos  Nga Hoàng Thanh

The boss

On arrival, we are greeted by chef and proprietor Emilio Fusé. Despite being busy preparing an upcoming event for a foreign ministry, he sits down and takes time to discuss the food he is so passionate about, before overseeing a decadent feast for our party of four, taking in everything from steaks, duck and lamb to octopus, carpaccio, empanadas, blood sausage and more.

Such is the quality and attention to detail paid to his dishes, it’s a surprise to learn that Fusé is not a classically trained chef but learnt much of his craft himself, working on farms where he would put on events at weekends in typical Argentinian Asado-style.

“Well, I was born and raised in a small town called Viedma, the historical capital of Patagonia, on the banks of the Rio Negro river. People are very connected to nature and the land. All the food is cooked on an open fire there, so my food is rooted in that particular Argentine food culture,” he says.

“Some of my family have a small farm on the outskirts of the city, growing fruit and raising polo horses, and we often put on gatherings, events, birthdays parties and things like that. But actually, many of the food events I put on were when I ran a dairy and cattle farm in New Zealand in the town of Matamata. It’s where they filmed a lot of Lord of the Rings, and very beautiful there. That’s when I was arranging most of my farm-to-table food experiences.”

BLOOD PUDDING: Morcilla on toast, with fermented black garlic.

Appetisers on

Whilst it is undoubtedly the meat that takes centre stage at Los Fuegos, we started with a spectacular array of appetisers (VNĐ90,000 to 380,000), of which there were many highlights.

The standout dishes included ‘watermelon & feta’, a toothsome snack served with walnuts, basil, onions, and balsamic vinegar. This excellent refresher served as an ideal palate cleanser for what was to come.

The starter that sang the most, for me at least, was the "smashed morcilla and apple”, a Spanish-inspired dish of homemade blood sausage served on toast with apple and red bell peppers. Rich, salty and sweet, it would be spectacular alone, but Fusé served it alongside black fermented garlic, raising it to another level.

The black garlic is hard to describe, providing a unique flavour. It’s fermented for three weeks and almost becomes a paste with notes of liquorice and chocolate, not something you will find too often.

One of our party insisted the sashimi-grade grilled octopus was the star of the show; cooked in a sous vide for 8 hours, it becomes soft, avoiding the rubbery texture often associated with the tasty mollusc, and is served with a tangy red pepper sauce.

The stuffed burrata Caprese was another fine addition to our dazzling repast. A joy to behold, the giant burrata, served on a mound of fresh organic tomatoes, basil, and balsamic, simply oozes onto the plate as you cut into it, the rich creaminess of the cheese offsetting the slight sharpness of the rich-red tomatoes.

Despite the complexity of many of the dishes, there are also more straightforward working man’s snacks, such as empanadas (Angus beef, hand and cheese, and Caprese); and choripan, a plate of mini grilled Iberico sausages served hotdog style with salsa Criolla and chimichurri, a favourite at Argentine football matches. These are great with beer, though they would be a fantastic option for children not quite ready for black garlic or grilled octopus.

The appetisers had more than done their job, with a range of flavours and textures, I wondered if the group would be ready for the meaty mains to come.

Fortunately, we were told we could take a little time before the grilled meat arrived, so we could chat, drink a little wine (a Malbec, of which Argentina has become a leading producer), and take in our surroundings.

MEATY HEAVEN: Carpaccio with buffalo mozzarella and capers

The restaurant itself is simple and uncluttered, bathed in warm ambient light. There’s open brickwork and the gentle flickering of the wood ovens. It strikes just the right balance of unfussy, casual and refined. You could equally come here for a quick lunch with the kids or on a special occasion to splurge.

Meat heaven

And so the mains arrived. Fusé is something of an expert on beef, the majority of which he dry-ages in specialist machines to keep at a precise temperature and humidity. During the process, moisture is expelled and redistributed in the meat, tenderising the steaks and enhancing the taste, giving a rich, complex flavour you can’t get from regular beef pulled straight from a fridge.

There are almost a dozen varieties of steak served here (from VNĐ380,000 and upwards), and we tried three different types - inside skirt, bavette and tenderloin - each with their own characteristics.

For those who like the juicy melt-in-your-mouth cuts, the tenderloin is king. Extra flavour was added with a rich butter sauce, and a dash of cured duck egg grated lightly on top, almost as if it were a fine parmesan, adding depth to the tender, silky cut.

The bavette and inside skirt were fuller steaks with more complex beefy flavours. Though they cost less than the tenderloin, steak aficionados often prefer these cuts. The bavette offered the middle-ground option, a deeper flavour than the tenderloin but softer than the inside skirt (Fusé’s favourite). The meat here is full and flavourful, and while not the cheapest in town, it offers far better value than most of the high-end steak chains in the capital.

A wide variety of sides and salads are available, including creamy spinach, sauteed mushroom, a fantastic beetroot and goat’s cheese salad, and many more. For those wanting something a little different, try the mollejas (veal sweetbread served on skewers with grilled apricots), a sweet and tender offering, unlike anything we had tried before.

For diners who want a meaty dish but prefer not to eat beef, there is an excellent smoked local duck breast served with a cider and apricot reduction and magnificent smoked grass-fed lamb shank braised in cider before cooking to impart a slight sweetness. Los Fuegos is a meat lover’s heaven.

Despite being thoroughly sated, we couldn’t help but try the ’churros con dulce leche’ (VNĐ100,000), sticks of deep-fried dough filled with Argentinian caramel, with a chocolate sauce on the side for dipping. Divine.

For those that want to eat like a gaucho and taste the unique style of Asado cooking, you will not find anywhere better than Los Fuegos, where smoke, meat, salads and wine come together for a truly standout dining experience. This restaurant is fire. VNS


Los Fuegos Argentinain Steak and Grill

Add: 35a, Aley 12, Đang Thai Mai

Open: every day from 11am to 11pm

Tel: +84 97 346 39 95

Comments (0)

Related content