Globe North Dining Out

Pair offer a tasty bit of home

May 10, 2009
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Tango Grill Café
12 Chelmsford St., Chelmsford
Open for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner: Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.
Major credit cards accepted
Accessible to the handiapped

When Nashua residents Peter Varas and Diana Garcia opened Tango Grill Café in Chelmsford for breakfast and lunch in January 2008, Garcia said their goal was to create a quaint, "homey" place where they could delight customers with exceptional food and personal attention. Since adding dinner hours last September, the husband and wife team also have been able to share more of the Argentine and Chilean dishes in which they specialize.

During our visit on a recent Saturday night, our party of four enjoyed a variety of American and South American specialties. For appetizers, the Italiana salad ($8) featured four large, ripe tomato slices, each topped with a thin slice of mozzarella cheese, basil, and drizzled olive oil on a bed of lettuce. While we enjoyed it, we were even more impressed with the flavorful chorizo ($5), a long, grilled Argentine sausage served with diced tomatoes, onions, and capers.

Even a simple, complimentary basket of warm, crusty French bread was made special with a delicious, cilantro-based dipping sauce that Varas makes himself. When one member of our party praised it during Varas's visit to our table, Varas eagerly asked if he'd like to try a spicier version, which was also enthusiastically received.

Because everything is made to order, patrons should be prepared for a noticeable but not unreasonable wait for entrees to be prepared. Of the house specials that can be prepared for one ($24) or two ($36) people, we ordered a single serving of paella Valenciana, which had a plentiful amount of chorizo, pork sausage, chicken, shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels cooked in fragrant yellow saffron rice flecked with diced red peppers.

This dish was notable in taste and presentation, with an assortment of colors, subtle flavors that naturally blended, and the visual appeal of mussels rising from all four corners of the dish. The diner was initially hesitant to order it, noting that rice dishes can be risky because of the tendency to under- or overcook them, but she was pleased with her decision.

The pez espada a la parrilla ($24), or grilled swordfish, was tender and well seasoned after marinating in a pleasing combination of white wine, garlic, lemon juice, onions, and parsley. Another selection from the seafood portion of the menu, milanesa de lenguado ($17), was sole that had been breaded, lightly fried, and topped with thick prosciutto, a rich homemade red sauce, and cheese so that it resembled chicken Parmesan.

For side items, our seafood diners ordered mixed vegetables (a combination of broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower) that were serviceable, though they seemed bland in comparison to the butternut squash that stood out with strong flavors of nutmeg and cinnamon.

The steak special ($24) was a 14-ounce top sirloin cooked in red wine and beef stock. It was moist and perfectly cooked to the diner's medium specification. The accompanying broccoli was firm and the creamy mashed potatoes were garlicky without being overpowering.

Although we weren't hungry enough for dessert, we would have had a variety of options, including flan con dulce de leche (custard with caramel sauce) for $5.50; Panqueque con dulce de leche (crepe with caramel filling) for $8; brazo de reina (sponge cake with caramel filling sprinkled with powdered sugar) for $8; torta de mil hojas (layers of filo dough with caramel sauce) for $8; and tiramisu (Italian layer cake) for $6.

Instead, we enjoyed another glass of refreshing, homemade sangria, which was stocked with enough sliced fruit to be considered a meal in itself.