Lords of the Dance
By Bill Gerdes
Tango Baires in Upland is a 25-minute drive from my home base on a Saturday, a jaunt that involves at least two freeways, five bucks in gas and two hours. Tango Baires is worth it. This unpretentious, occasionally sleepy café, serves up some of the best food in the area, not just great Argentinean cuisine.
The word from the folks at Tango was that they had a new menu to check out, and all I could think about during the drive was the quality of their old menu. The empanadas, the parrillada and the pastries were all delicious in a subtly simple way. Hopefully they hadn’t decided to bring in a live dance show and enliven the menu with “dipping sauces” or some other such rot.
And the good news is that the song remains the same at Tango. Part owner and Chef Diego Bryentun still greets you at the door in a chilled and knowledgeable way. And his mother and head chef, Yoly Bryenton, still serve up simple, delicious fare, new items on the menu included.
Simplicity can be overrated. A Dodger Dog is simple but wildly over praised. Too often though, beautiful and simple dishes lose out to more fanciful, but less soulful offerings. Tango is simple done right. Want simple? Start with the bread; airy, fluffy, totally a nutrient-free wish fulfillment that goes perfectly with the chimichurri sauce, a mix of parsley, olive oil, garlic, and other spices. Or the picada plate, a simple antipasto of Lego-construed chunks of sweet ham and salami along with fairly generic chunks of white cheese. Nothing about the dish is amazing, but it’s comfort food, made even better with a glass of red. The house salad is simple too, yet enlivened by a unique purple-olive dressing that spiced up what could have been a throw-away portion of the meal.
And then enter the cannelloni, which is everything but simple. It’s enlivened by a tremendous pink sauce composed roughly of tomato paste, butter, provolone, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, along with a secret thickening agent that brings the whole deal together. It’s firstly subtly sweet, then you notice a bit of heat and kick to the sauce. Frankly it’s wonderful and makes the dish as it lords over the delicate yet stuff-able tube-shaped pasta. There are several choices for the filling—I went with the chicken and spinach, a pairing that went quite well with the sauce as the chicken has a bite to it too.
Tango Baires also offers up a variety of Argentinean sandwiches both hot and cold; they serve breakfast and they’re open fairly late on a Friday or Saturday. Their pastries (currently made off-site) are also quite tasty—I tried the paneques, deceptively soft-shelled pastries that give way easily to your fork, opening up into a lake of the best caramel I’ve ever tried. It was at this point that my daughter said, “We have to come here more often.” We will.
Tango Baires Café, 870 E. Foothill Blvd #2 Upland, (909) 985-6800; www.tangobairescafe.com. Mon-Thurs 10:30AM-9PM, Fri-Sat 10AM-10PM, Sun 10AM-9PM. MC, V.