Phantom Gourmet: Tango In Arlington

ARLINGTON – This is a steakhouse where you can get a whole lot more, and spend a whole lot less; where the atmosphere is fun instead of formal; the flavors are fresh and different; and value is off the charts. This is Tango.

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Located on Mass Ave, right in the center of Arlington, Tango restaurant has been sizzling up some of Greater Boston’s best steaks for more than a decade. Owner Ricardo Mermet was born in Buenos Aires, but moved to the US about 50 years ago. When he opened Tango, he wanted to bring the flavors of Argentina to Arlington.

Today, the restaurant is run by his daughter Alissa, who carries on the tradition her father started fourteen years ago.

“We’re an Argentinian restaurant, but I really consider us a steakhouse. You can come here; you can get a great cut of meat; you can split some appetizers, have some really good Argentinian wine. We try to make it as fun and as inviting as possible.”

Bacon wrapped dates at Tango, (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Bacon wrapped dates at Tango, (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

As soon as you take a look at Tango’s appetizers, it’s obvious this isn’t your same old steakhouse. There’s a gooey crock of provolone cheese with tomato, oregano, and truffle oil; a grilled avocado topped with melted mozzarella and stuffed with prosciutto; and addictive cheese-filled, bacon-wrapped dates.

“When you bite into it it’s salty from the bacon and a little creamy from the cheese, and you get that sweet date, and the contrast of all those flavors just really work great together,” described Alissa.

For a true Argentinian appetizer, order some empanadas, all made in house and filled by hand with your choice of chicken, vegetables, ham and cheese, or beef.

Beef Empanadas at Tango, (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Beef Empanadas at Tango, (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“My favorite is the beef,” Alissa declared. “It’s a very classic recipe from Argentina where there’s a little bit of hardboiled egg and raisin for a little bit of sweetness. It’s very juicy, and kind of drips down your chin sometimes, but it’s a really delicious and fun way to start your meal here.”

For even more authentic flavor, try some of Tango’s homemade chimichurri. There’s some on every table, and it goes great with just about everything on the menu.

“It’s my dad’s recipe. It’s very tangy from the vinegar, but you’re gonna get a lot of garlic and a lot of herbaciousness, mostly from the parsley and the oregano and all of the other spices that we put into making it. It goes great with the bread that we give you. It’s excellent on any of the sausages, on the meats. Frankly, it’s great on everything.”

Filet Mignon at Tango, (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Filet Mignon at Tango, (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Of course steaks are the star at Tango, all cut in house and cooked on a coal fired grill imported from Argentina. There’s a tender eight-ounce filet that’s great on its own, and even better topped with one of Tango’s signature sauces. For something a bit beefier, check out the thick cut, 20-ounce Sirloin.

“It’s a huge hunk of meat. It’s got a little bit of fat to give it some flavor, and a little bit of tenderness to it,” Alissa explained. “So we put it on a wooden board, and it comes out to your table, and it’s a very massive plate of food.”

Priced in the mid-thirties, this steak is a real deal, and even better, it comes with your choice of two sides, like the thick cut Tango Fries.

Tango Fries at Tango, (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Tango Fries at Tango, (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“They’re cut almost like chips, but they’re not crispy like chips are. They’re a little bit thicker, so you get that nice creamy potato on the inside, and then we toss them with a little bit of fresh parsley and garlic, and a little bit of salt, and they’re fabulous.”

A meal at Tango feels like you’re dining at a steakhouse in Argentina. Latin music fills the air and beautiful art covers the walls. But nothing will transport your taste buds to South America like the dish known as the Parrillada.

“If you want a real classic Argentinian dish, I would definitely go for the Parrillada because you’re gonna get a lot of different cuts of meat,” explained Alissa. “You get a little bit of everything. We put a beef short rib on there that we grill, which is a very classic Argentinian cut of beef. We do some Argentinian chorizo on there, chicken, sweetbreads, and a little bit of blood sausage. It’s a big meal.”

Best of all, this mountain of meat is served on a personal sized grill.

Parrillada at Tango, (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Parrillada at Tango, (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“We have a little bit of flame underneath to keep the meat hot while it’s on your table, and we bring it over to the table and people just stare,” Alissa said. “It’s a real showstopper and the dish really does turn heads.”

With appetizers around $10, most entrees in the twenties, and desserts like homemade flan, and crepes with dulce de leche, for just $8, a meal at Tango really is a night of affordable luxury. For an even better deal, every Sunday to Thursday there’s a fun menu of $5 bar snacks like grilled shishito peppers with lime, pork croquettes with hot honey, and a classic Argentinian street food sandwich called Choripan.

“It’s filled with our Argentinian chorizo, a little bit of grilled peppers and onions, and slathered with chimichurri. It’s a pretty big bar snack, but it’s a real classic dish so we’re happy to offer it.”

Alissa is also happy to carry on the tradition that her father started at Tango.

“I love that this is something that is so close to my dad’s heart. It’s about his heritage and his history, and now I sort of get to live that with him. And now he just gets to come in and enjoy himself and see what the fruits of his labor has given him.”

You can find Tango at 464 Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington, and online at tangoarlington.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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