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TODAY

Saturday, April 20

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I was brought up in a house where the steak was always cooked well done. Today, my favorite thing about going out for steak is that I can order it however I want it. I still have to saw through meat cooked to tough, gray "perfection" when eating at home (I shudder to think how many good pieces of meat my parents have ruined over the years), but at a restaurant I can savor my medium rare meat in all of its juicy pink glory.

Tango Sur, an Argentinean steakhouse on Southport, used to remind me of eating at my parents' house; although well-intentioned, the chefs here tended to overcook my dinner despite my pleas for shorter cooking times. Lately, however, I've noticed that more attention has been paid to the temperature of the steak. As a result, recent meals at Tango Sur have been extremely pleasant.

Sirloin, strip steak, rib-eye and filet mignon (all served with salad) are listed at the bottom of the "Chef's Special" menu. These steaks, grilled and served plain, are decent enough, but since the cuts of meat at Tango Sur are not nearly comparable to the quality that you get at steakhouses like Gibson's and Morton's (and, luckily, they are priced a lot less, too), I would suggest ordering one of the more creative options near the top of the menu instead. A little seasoning seems to go a long way at this place.

I myself am a big fan of the bife vesuvio, a large piece of grilled steak with spinach, garlic and mild white cheddar cheese oozing out from the middle. This winning combination was swimming in a light white wine and tomato broth, a subtle sauce that allowed the flavors of the meat and filling to ring true. The accompanying tasty fried potatoes soaked up the remainder of the sauce quite well.

Upon ordering this dish, I was not given a choice of temperature for my steak; the server informed me that the chef would cook the steak medium to medium well, a fact that I found odd (and a bit disappointing), but I didn't care to argue with him. When the dish arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the piece of steak was beautifully red; however, it left me wondering about the miscommunication between the kitchen and the wait staff. Sure, I was happy with my bloody meat, but I shudder to think what would have happened had my parents been with me.

Far less confusing -- yet equally delicious -- was the grilled filet mignon topped with a red onion wine sauce. I asked for the steak to be cooked medium rare, and this time my request was granted; in fact, the meat was so tender that it barely needed a knife to slice through it. Two enormous filets were smothered in a thick, sweet sauce, which was sort of similar in consistency and flavor to A1 Steak Sauce but was far more complex. Bright green mashed potatoes were served on the side. According to the menu, these were spinach-flavored, but they tasted pretty bland.

While the entrees at Tango Sur tend to be impressive, the first course definitely needs improvement. The complimentary salad is pretty plain -- a bed of romaine (a major upgrade from the iceberg lettuce used at this place a year ago), two slices of (in my case unripe) tomato and three slices of raw onion with only oil and vinegar as a dressing option.

The deep-fried empanadas appetizer, filled with cheese and meat or spinach, is good but fairly standard. One evening, I decided to opt for something completely different and ordered the prosciutto with hearts of palm. This dish, which was comprised of slices of prosciutto layered over hearts of palm and served with Argentinean golf sauce (a combination of mayonnaise and ketchup), was sort of the Argentinean version of the antipasto salad, although I found it to be uninspiring and the ingredients not so fresh.

The dessert course is much better. I was presented with a variety of tantalizing options, including flan and a chocolate mousse cake, before settling on a terrific marble pound cake covered with thick, sweet caramel -- it was truly delicious and a refreshing change of pace from all that meat.

Those diners who are on a quest to find the highest quality steak irrespective of the price may not appreciate this restaurant; Tango Sur is not the kind of place where you will find the best steak in the city. Rather, it is this kind of place that attracts people from all over who have heard rumors of the bewitching candles and enchanting atmosphere; gotten wind of the friendly servers who don't mind when customers linger over the last dregs of their bottle of wine (Tango Sur is BYOB); and who are craving cuisine that is different and creative. And, in their quest to try something new, they might just have a damn good steak -- as long as they are adamant about how they want it cooked. Believe me, I know, I've had enough practice.

Tango Sur is located on 3763 N. Southport Ave. Most of the steaks are in the range of $13-$19.50. For those who do not eat red meat, a variety of pastas (some vegetarian), chicken and fish are also available.

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About the Author(s)

Kim Conte loves to write and eat, and dreams that one day someone will pay her a lot to do both.

If you feel the need to get in touch with her directly, do so at .

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