Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cowboy Food, Argentinean Style

When I come to Monterrey I don’t usually have too many fix plans for after work hours. I go by the flow of the job. So when something actually happens what I roughly planned to do it’s great. Tonight was such a case. More luck than actual effort.

I was in meetings till late and missed my ride back to the hotel. A colleague offered me a ride if I was willing to wait until 7 pm when he completed some training. No Problem. I had lots of other work to do. Upon my arrival back at the hotel I bumped into another colleague and an ex-employee of our company and an impromptu chat revealed that they were on there way to dinner. No definitive destination yet.

Sometimes life is all about asking and sees what happens. After all, the worst that can happen is getting a no answer. So I mentioned that I have never been to El Gaucho restaurant, whether they are willing to go there and they said why not. One restaurant is as good as another. So off we went.

El Gaucho, the cowboy, is an Argentinean-style steakhouse that has built the reputation as one of Monterrey’s best restaurants for meat and good service. It is located on the southern highway on your way out of town towards Villa Santiago. It was still before 8 pm so parking was not a problem when we got there and neither was getting a table without a long wait. We got there just in time as the place was getting crowed. An interesting feature of the restaurant is that they present you with a platter of the raw meat so you can see the size and the cuts that are featured on the menu. It’s then that you realize why their menu offers steaks in half and full portions. For example, a half order of rib eye steak is about 1 ¼ inch (30 mm) thick and about 16-20 ounces (1/2 kg) in weight. That’s a lot of meat. This is no place for vegans.

We started with a mixed green salad topped by a creamy white cheese and also ordered a Queso y Chorizo (melted cheese with spicy sausage), but this order were never delivered. Strike one against the establishment. I ordered a filet mignon wrapped on bacon and covered with smoky mushrooms to be washed down with a half bottle of Chiati Ruffino from Italy. My steak was certainly not topnotch and far to tough for a filet mignon. My colleague had an arracherra cut (skirt steak) and said his was quite good and tender. I suppose I can say I should have…rather than…but at a place like El Gaucho with a good reputation that line of reasoning should not be required. Strike two.

The wine was reasonably good, but then they were just pouring someone else’s labor of love. There was no immediate room for dessert. I would like to say the service was good, but when they brought the check and we got billed for the Queso y chorizo which we never received, I had to strike El Gaucho a final time and send them to the dugout.

We returned to the hotel and I opted for a dessert of hot Brownies and vanilla ice cream with cafĂ© Americano in the hotel’s restaurant while I write this post.

In conclusion, if you are a big meat eater and love big portions and you are lucky to pick the right cut and get the grill master on an excellent evening then El Gaucho is the place to eat in Monterrey. Unfortunately tonight they will not be on my list of recommended restaurants, simply too many little things against them for the price of the dinner.

But I am glad I went. The place came highly recommended, reviews on the Internet were good, and it just wasn’t my night for an excellent meal. That happens. Simple as that! Some you win, some you lose. And if you don’t go out and try you will never know.

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