Iberia-Sur is a new family-run restaurant at College and Ossington that aims to meld Argentinian and Portuguese cuisine into one harmonious (and delicious) whole. The spot represents a lifelong dream for Argentinian chef/owner Miguel Arce, who set up shop in the former Paul S. Churrasco last month.
"Argentinian cuisine is very European-inspired - there's a lot of influences from Portugal and Italian (food) in it," explains Arce's daughter Jennifer. Their goal was to highlight Argentinian meats and fish, using recipes passed down by family members, with a few nods to the overseas influences that shaped the cuisine.
The restaurant itself features an open grill and a hot table up front, with some Portuguese favourites like round potatoes (with a garlicky twist) and roasted chicken available for takeaway. (You can get piri piri sauce and chimichurri on the side.) In the back is the 50-seat dining room, where the grey-painted walls and glittering chandeliers manage to come off as friendly and cozy.
First out of the kitchen are their empanadas copetin ($10 for four), available in either beef or chicken versions. Arce says the chewy-crusted mini empanadas ("copetin" refers to the Argentinian midday snack) are perennially present at her family's gatherings. Here, they come served with fresh bruschetta tomatoes dredged in olive oil; the shredded, savoury chicken filling is a surprise favourite.
Though it's on the apps menu, the $12 serving of calamari is massive - it's so popular, Arce says, they decided to make it more of an entree. The preparation is simple, as it should be - just fresh calamari, olive oil and a nice char from the grill, with greens and a balsamic vinaigrette as a base. Of course, if you're looking for more of a kick, there's always the house chimichurri (the family recipe calls for extra garlic).
The meats menu spans Argentinian flank steaks and Portuguese versions; we try the New York sirloin ($20), which is flawlessly cooked and smothered in a red wine-based sauce with sautéed mushrooms. On the side: circle-cut Portuguese "pala pala" fries, more roast-potato like in consistency than your usual fried spuds, which stand up nicely to a slab of steak.
The wine list focuses on - unsurprisingly - Portugal and Argentina, with a dozen bottles listed at $25 and up. Their house red - an Argentinian shiraz-malbec - will run you $7 a glass.
Arce says they've begun offering dine-in and take-away lunch options to appeal to the daytime crowd; their Argentine twist handily sets them apart from the dozens of churrasqueiras in the vicinity. Competition is fierce for Portugese food in this neighbourhood, and Latin American grill houses are on the rise across the city, but Iberia-Sur might just offer the best of both worlds.
Photos by Jesse Milns.