South American delights
By Riaz Naqvi
Friday, May 11, 2012

From the cowhide décor to offerings of nearly 20 kinds of steak, Argentine gourmet restaurant Gaucho atDIFC offers a chilled out paradise for carnivores everywhere

One parti-cularly interesting Spanish word is capuda. It rolls off the tongue nicely, allowing the speaker the freedom to extend the ‘a’ sound for a few seconds. It translates, quite literally, as ‘cool’ in English. And in this reviewer’s humble opinion, Argentine restaurant Gaucho at DIFC certainly ticks all the capuda boxes.

It’s tough enough sharing a building with the impossibly chic Zuma, but to try and compete with the relentlessly trendy Japanese restaurant, bar and lounge — on its own turf, no less — now that really takes some cojones (guts).

There’s an air of confidence prevalent throughout Gaucho. You can see it in the sommelier who can describe, with intricate detail, each and every kind of grape drink stocked in a large cellar that boasts over 200 bottles. And you can see it in the décor, which varies between polished steel surfaces, slightly gaudy cowhide that lines chairs and the stylish contrast between dark walls and creamy white leather. Subtlety is evidently not the Gaucho way.

Clientele have the option of relaxing in the upstairs lounge and bar area, or picking from a larger selection of mains in the restaurant section. My partner and I opted for the former, with the dim lighting and DJ’s mellow tunes combining for a very agreeable atmosphere. After settling in quickly, we turn our attention to the lounge’s menu.

For starters, we call for a hot parrillada (barbecue) sampler platter, which includes a mini burger, sweetbreads, churrasco cuadril (rump steak, albeit a tiny piece), chicken empanadas and yucca all served with chipotle ketchup and chimichurri sauce for the meat. Surprisingly, the mini burger proves my favourite item from the selection. In fact, it may have been the tenderest meat I’ve ever eaten in a burger — and I’ve bitten into my fair share of burgers. The empanadas and steak proved succulent, while the sweetbreads were a tasty accompaniment.

My partner opts for the Ecuadorian ceviche for the main course: a light dish comprised of gambas (shrimp) and romero peppers in a citrusy sauce. She gave a pleasant report on the flavour combination; the citrus element of the dish, in particular, was very pleasing to the taste.

My own main was a churassco chorizo. This steak differed from the cuadril we sampled in that this spiral cut of marinated meat, grilled in garlic and olive oil, was slighter tougher — aside from obviously being much larger at 275 gm. The garlic flavour comes through the juicy meat in subtle overtones, but never overpowered by the grilled taste.

For dessert, my partner selected another sampler, made up of three ‘downsized’ items which included a very gratifying cheesecake. I was tempted by a ricotta and lemon cake, which turned out to be a delectable choice, thanks in no small part to the mouth-wateringly soft ricotta. Finally, we washed down our meal with an espresso and cappuccino.

Perhaps I should not have begun with a reference to Zuma; they may share the same building and vie for a similar clientele, but what you get in the food department is markedly different.

Gaucho deserves applause for adopting a bold approach in everything it does, and the second restaurant of this London-based fine dining chain is sure to be a hit, especially in light of the success enjoyed by its sister restaurant in Beirut. Vamos!


In seven words: 
Delish meat in a chilled out atmosphere

What we liked: The massive selection of steak and grape

What we didn’t like: If you’re a vegetarian, it might be better to eat before coming…

Cost for two: Dh400

Contact: 04 4227898


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