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Eat out review: Gaucho.

Where: Gaucho, DIFC, 04-4227898

Decor: Metrosexual "Rawhide"

Atmosphere: Fine dining for big appetites

Must-haves: Steaks, vanilla flan, the Gaucho burger

Rating 3.5/5

Steakhouses are often big manly places, with cowboy hats, wood panelling and fake cacti dotted around. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if you're looking for a stylish date spot and want to satisfy a man-sized hunger, Gaucho is a great bet. It's chic, although the black-and-white hides on the walls are a giveaway as to the menu, which leans towards Argentine-influenced steak, although there are other options on the updated autumn menu for vegetarians or those who don't eat red meat, such as a grilled tuna loin (Dh170), or pasta with a mushroom and red pepper sauce (Dh95). Although I rarely choose chicken when dining out, a spatchcocked chicken from Gaucho was probably the best chicken dish I've had in a restaurant -- sadly, it's not on the new menu, and I didn't dare to try again with the new chicken item (it's grilled chicken with roasted chickpeas). So to steaktown we went, and got a full explanation of the cuts from our very undertstanding waiter, who put up with my constant running upstairs to answer phone calls about a certain Latin singer who was acting like a diva during his interview (there's a poor phone signal in the basement-level eatery). They'll actually bring you a wooden board with the raw steaks (not the ones you will eventually eat, I hope) laid out for explanation. If you're squeamish about what your food looks like before it's cooked, the bloody meat could be a real turn-off. I found it informative, as they really explain exactly what you can expect from a cut -- "the rump is a pure steak flavour, and very lean," I was told, while the sirloin is juicier but not as fatty as the ribeye. It's nice not to see the now-ubiquitous wagyu on the menu -- they use exclusively Argentine beef from British breeds (a rare instance of Argentine-British understanding?). There are also cuts that are marinated in garlic and parsley for 48 hours, called churrasco. we went for a bit of both -- that pure meat flavour in the 300g rump (called bife de cuadril, Dh155) and the 500g tira de ancho (Dh280), a marinated butterflied ribeye that came out crisp on the outside, juicy with meat and fat on the inside. The rump, which, when cooked rare, was lean and tasty with a bit of chew, while the ribeye was incredibly rich.

Pair your meat with the sweet taste of humitas, a fragrant mix of sweetcorn, onion, pumpkin and mozzarella cheese wrapped in corn husks and a fresh baby gem lettuce salad (why don't we see more of this little crisp green around -- it's a delicious change from iceberg or romaine). Starters at Gaucho are tempting -- I would have gone for the provoleta, a dish of grilled Argentinian cheese, or the chorizo beef sausage, but I can't resist a ceviche, and Gaucho has three. The sampler platter (Dh95) gives taste of all; the prawn and tomato one was very sweet, while the tuna tiradito was Japanese-flavoured with soy and avocado, getting a ceviche pop with shards of orange segments. Next time, I'd pick a full portion of the red snapper, a more standard citrus-y ceviche with fennel, onion, mango and chilli. For dessert, you can't go wrong with silky vanilla flan (Dh35), a set custard with globs of sticky dulce de leche milk caramel and a heavenly candied hazelnut that I want to buy boxes of. The apple pancake (Dh35), however, was underwhelming, homey in a I-could-have-made-it-better kind of way.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Nov 7, 2012
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