I’d normally think you’re onto a pretty good steak spot when the dining room chairs of a restaurant are made from cow hide.
That’s exactly what I first observed when being shown to our table at Gaucho Hong Kong, an Argentinian steak restaurant in the heart of Honkers. I was a little bit seduced by the subdued lighting and very shiny dining area that was all black marble and the aformentioned cow hide chairs.
Interestingly, Gaucho is a very successful chain of steak restaurants that is predominantly located in the UK, with around a dozen outlets dotted mostly through London. With a nod to its Argentinian heritage, there is one outlet in Buenos Aries; one of three international Gauchos (the others being Dubai and here in Hong Kong).
If I was dubious about an Argentinian Steak restaurant with a home base in the UK, my mind was put at ease once I read a little bit about where the restaurant group secured its beef. Gaucho recieves its beef exclusively and is sourced solely from the Pampas; an area of Argentina that’s famous for its fertile soil. The Aberdeen-Angus cattle are therefore reared on luscious grassland, which I’m told can be tasted in the quality of the beef served.
Well, I was about to find out if the claims were warranted!
But before I could get onto the main show, we had to navigate the restaurant’s extensive menu; which ran over several pages and took quite some time to study. While we were doing so, one of the wait staff sauntered over to our table with a board containing the different cuts of beef that would be available to us; leaving no doubt why we were in Gaucho in the first place!
For such a large starter menu, I found it a little difficult to find options that I really wanted to try; partially because I couldn’t get past the chorizo option, and partially for the overly fancy options available!
Anyway, we managed to make our choices. While we waited, a small bread platter was delivered, along with some of the sauces that we’d need to use with our main courses. There was a lovely smear of salted butter on our slate of bread, but it was probably not enough for my liking, so I had to be a little bit mean spreading butter on my sour dough.
The girl’s order of ceviche of snapper, served in a neat little pile with grapefruit and grilled corn arrived. The large squares of fresh snapper tasted quite sweet and the addition of jalapeño and wasabi added some contrasting heat. There were also little chilli flakes in the dish, probably not so necessary given the jalapeño, which at times tipped the balance too far to the heat. Having said that, there was a lovely little creaminess to the dish that made you want to keep going back for more.
I’d ordered the chorizo sausage that was served with a mix of pickled peppers and red onion. Mmmm, I’m gonna say that the presentation was less than appealing, in fact, we had a little chuckle at what the squat little sausage looked like on the plate. I’m a huge fan of Spanish chorizo, less so of the Argentinian variety. Where there is usually a sweet hit that holds a little heat with the Spanish variety, the Gaucho version was just overly sweet. Without the hit of paprika, it was just a sausage. I’ve had great Argentinian chorizo at places like Djapa, so it was just a little disappointing overall. Equally, I didn’t find the pickled papers and onion to add much value, they looked quite limp on the plate!
With a mixed start to the meal, we both hoped that there would be a lift with the steaks. After all, it was the main reason why we were at Gaucho.
First things first. I’m going to say that the beef from Gaucho is very, very tasty. We could certainly tell that the beef had been lovingly sourced and we could taste the fields of Pampas in every tender bite.
However, the presentation of our steaks left a lot to be desired. A LOT.
I know that steak can be hard to present at times, but Gaucho had sliced the beef into medallions and just haphazardly plonked them on plates; with not even the hint of presentation in mind! Many steak restaurants will have a little pile of garnish, maybe a vine ripened tomato, something to take away the blandness of steak.
I’d chosen the leaner tenderloin and the girl had chosen the slightly fattier rib-eye; both were cooked to perfection and as I mentioned, quite yummy.
Now, I do know that a steak restaurant will present steak simply and you need to order sides; and of course we did. We’d actually asked for vine ripened tomatoes and the dauphinoise potatoes, the latter being superbly creamy and a wonderful accompaniment to the beef (of course!). Unfortunately, instead of our vine ripened tomatoes we received an heirloom tomato salad, on it’s own not so bad, but definitely not what we’d ordered.
A minor annoyance for what had been attentive, if not a little slow, service on the night.
We should have left it there, but decided that we’d check out the desserts, which admittedly looked pretty good on the menu.
Seduced by the prospect of some sabayon (ask me about this sometime), the girl ordered the poached plums with mascarpone sabayon, orange compote and shortbread crumble. It was a very ordinary looking dessert that probably missed the mark for the girl, who was looking for something a little sweeter. The plums were stewed and quite sweet, but she really wanted a big hit of creamy sabayon and it just wasn’t there.
I loved the look of my salted dulce de leche and hazelnut cheesecake; a circle of milk chocolate ganache was speared by a marbled chocolate shard and coconut Italian meringue was toasted on the side. While it looked amazing, the ganache was really quite dry and the meringue a little grainy; overall there was not enough moisture in the dish, which made it heavy and hard to eat. I did love the tempered marble shard, which was just great quality chocolate.
I’ve been on a quest lately to find a great little steak restaurant where I can crack on for a simple and delicious piece of beef at a reasonable price. I’m not so sure I’ve found it in Gaucho. Look, don’t get me wrong; the main star of the show, the Argentinian beef, was sensational. It’s flavour profile was rich and inviting, very beefy and sweet; a joy to eat.
However, the associated elements of the meal were not up to the same high standard as the beef; the desserts in particular. It’s definitely a place that I’d give a second go to; I really did enjoy their tasty produce. There’s even some more starters that I’d give a try (if I was in the right mood); but I’m not sure I’ll be rushing back.
Gaucho seems to be one of those mid-level restaurants in Hong Kong that has potential; but in it’s price range, there are quite a few other beef restaurants that are better; Beefbar is one that springs to mind (the Michelin Guide recently rewarded them with a star).
Given it’s part of a large and successful chain of restaurants, I’m sure it will stick around and continue be an option for those that want a tasty beef steak. I do think it needs to up its game with everything else though….