40-day dry-aged Angus costilla at Casa Vigil
40-day dry-aged braised Angus costilla. All photos courtesy of Casa Vigil

Dish By DishMiami

Behind the Menu (and Pairings) at Miami’s Beloved Casa Vigil


The Argentine steakhouse isn’t new to Miami diners, as we’ve been treated to an abundance of wood-filled meat palaces dripping with Malbecs and chorizos for decades.

What we haven’t seen, though, is anything quite like Casa Vigil, where the Argentine staples of steak and wine are blended with gourmet Mediterranean touches. It’s the creation of renowned Argentine winemaker Alejandro Vigil, who, in addition to producing his own line of El Enemigo vintages is also the winemaker for Catena Zapata, considered by some to be the country’s top vineyard.

Vigil began his venture into the culinary world by serving guests at his sprawling estate in Mendoza, sourcing everything he made from nearby farms. The concept gained so much popularity, he grew to serving over 400 people per night, and Casa Vigil was born. Last year, Mendoza’s Casa Vigil earned a Michelin star and a Green Michelin star for its efforts in sustainability. And this year, Casa Vigil has landed in Miami with a breezy, tropical steakhouse in Buena Vista.

The menu is a mix of Mediterranean and Argentine flavors, with a hearty emphasis on pairing red meat and red wine.

“The nose of Alejandro is unique,” says Casa Vigil owner Marcelo Arroniz through an interpreter. “He can smell any wine, any make, any year. He’s like a bohemian rock star, because he always says what he thinks. So we created the menu to be paired with wines; first is the wine, then everything we created was made to be paired with it.”

To best experience both the menu and its wine list, Casa Vigil offers a five-course tasting menu with wine pairing for $140. Arroniz and his staff walked us through the whole thing, explaining why each dish is special, and why its wines work so well.

Buffalo burrata with semi-dried tomato

Burrata is a staple on any Mediterranean menu, and even when done well, rarely is it anything you’d call “creative.” Casa Vigil bucks that trend, bringing a mix of flavors not typically found in a burrata dish, with a semi-dried tomato and citrusy ponzu sauce.

“We wanted this to be unique, to be kind of different,” says general manager Emiliano Valdes. “That’s why he confited the tomatoes and made the sauce sweet and sour. I tell people this isn’t the classic burrata at all.”

I tell people this isn’t the classic burrata at all. — General Manager Emiliano Valdes

Creaminess is about the only flavor you’ll recognize from other burrata versions, as the first bite is both salty and complex, with hints of fermentation from the confit tomato. The sweet and sour sauce overtakes the creaminess, giving the dish a mix of flavors that makes your mouth think for a while.

It’s paired with a 2020 Catena White Clay made with sémillon and chenin blanc, bringing a strong minerality to balance the sweet and fermented overtones. Once the flavors blend, the entire experience smooths out, offering a calm finish to the intensity of the first few bites.

“The acidity of the tomato is quite high,” notes sommelier Miguel Martinez. “So the idea is to balance the acidity of the tomato while letting the sauce react a little bit.

Argentine empanada with churrasco and chimichurri

The empanada is up there with steak and chimichurri as a staple of Argentine cuisine. But most Argentine empanadas one finds in America are oven-baked, certainly a healthier option but not the traditional preparation.

“They’ve started to oven-bake empanadas, but the original is fried,” says Casa Vigil head waiter Nicolas Cantillo. “So that’s why we took a skirt steak — a traditional Argentine cut — then we mixed it with the chimichurri, which we make exclusively for the meat.”

Aside from being fried, this empanada differs from those you’d typically find on steakhouse menus in that the chimichurri is mixed in with the meat, and also served on the side. Casa Vigil presents this dish with a sweet tomato jam, so diners can play around with the flavors and create different experiences in each bite.

The empanada is paired with Alejandro Vigil’s signature 2020 El Enemigo Bonarda. It’s a smooth red from the highest altitude region in the Valle de Uco, cutting nicely into the spicy, greasy abundance. It also complements the smokiness of the skirt steak while still managing to shine through the empanada’s bold flavors.

Cherry gazpacho

This little glass of soup might seem like a clever palate cleanser, but head waiter Cantillo says it’s the perfect representation of the cuisine Casa Vigil is putting out.

“Our chef is Spanish, and Casa Vigil is from Argentina, so we wanted to mix modern Mediterranean food with Argentina,” he says. “Gazpacho is originally from Spain, and we gave it a little twist with the cherry because [chef] was looking for something not too acidic to put into the mix. Something to clean the palate before the short rib.”

The tasting menu serves the cherry gazpacho as a shot, but when ordered à la carte, you’ll find it served in a martini glass. It brings strong notes of onions, garlic, and capers, a refreshing blast of the Med in the steakhouse surroundings. If chimichurri were a soup, it would taste a little like this.

40-day dry-aged short rib

According to literally everyone we spoke with at Casa Vigil, this is the dish that earned the restaurant a Michelin star. The standout hit from Mendoza is a short rib aged for 40 days, then slow-cooked for 72 hours before getting tossed on the grill for a smoky finish. Then, it’s topped with a steak juice-and-wine reduction, and served with cabbage mashed potatoes on the side.

“Argentines, we are meat lovers, and that plate is the most popular thing at Casa Vigil in Mendoza,” says GM Valdes. “Everybody, when they do the coursed meal with wine pairing, they ask for a repeat of that plate.”

This speaks volumes for the Argentine appetite, as the short rib is a hunk of beef that could tip Fred Flintstone’s car over. The three days of cooking serve it well, as you can literally pull the meat right off the bone with your fingers and pop it in your mouth with minimal chewing. The aging and smoking give the short rib enough flavor to stand on its own, as the meat is rich without relying too much on fat. Combine your bite with the soft crunch of the cabbage mashed potatoes and the dish gets just the right amount of texture. And the mild sourness of the potatoes complements the richness of the beef.

The short rib is paired with the 2019 El Enemigo Cab Franc, which gets just a touch of Malbec thrown in to balance it out. The wine adds a chocolate-y note at the end of each bite, almost like a hint of dessert after a hearty forkful of comfort food.

We are meat lovers, and that plate is the most popular thing at Casa Vigil in Mendoza. — General Manager Emiliano Valdes

Filet mignon chateaubriand

Some people are creatures of habit,  and even when visiting a world-renowned Argentine restaurant, they’re going to want a filet mignon. Casa Vigil is happy to oblige, though not without making its take on filet more than just a piece of meat. The filet mignon chateaubriand comes topped with a fluffy pillow of foie gras and a layer of caramelized onions, making it more of a carefully created dish than a simple steak. The truffle mashed potatoes on the side complete the effect.

“This was kind of our ‘Don’t worry about it, we got you’ plate,” says head waiter Cantillo. “What we did was put the foie gras on top and caramelized onions in the middle to cut the fat from the foie gras and the saltiness from the filet mignon. It’s kind of a sweet and sour thing, but if you want more sweet, we have the port-shallot reduction on the side.”

It’s paired with Vigil’s blockbuster Gran Enemigo 2017, a single-vineyard cab franc that scored a 97 from James Suckling. The pairing’s intent is obvious as soon as you take a sip, as the wine’s smooth, bold flavors tame the sweetness from the caramelized onions and foie gras. The filet is, well, a filet, and acts as a sort of canvas for the other flavors. And when you add in a bite of the truffle mashed potatoes, you’ll get a little more complexity.

Sheep’s cheesecake with quince fruit

The big finish is a Mediterranean-Argentine take on the Golden Girls’ kitchen classic, taking a small circular sheep’s milk cheesecake and topping it with a gelatinous layer of quince fruit.

“In Argentina, every dessert is quince with cheese,” explains head waiter Cantillo. “The sweet and sour again, right? The sheep’s cheesecake is a unique recipe from the chef’s grandmother, mixed with the quince from Mendoza. So again, it’s mixing the Mediterranean and Argentinian influences like the rest of the menu, kind of bringing the cultures together.”

The sheep’s cheesecake is a lot earthier than the New York-style cheesecakes one might be used to, a jolt Casa Vigil offsets nicely with the sweet quince fruit on top. It’s mellowed even more with a sip of the paired dessert wine, Rare Wine Co.’s Special Reserve Madeira. The lone, non-Argentine wine on the tasting menu is an absolute fruit bomb, but perfect for a cheesecake that isn’t overwhelmingly sweet on its own. And it offers a bright finish for a meal that can easily drop you into a food coma.