A Rare Steak

Podium Level,
Gate Village 05, DIFC
United Arab Emirates

22nd December, 2017

Good Morning Dubai!” – A 2017 reboot of the iconic Robin Williams movie

The minute hand on the digital analog clock moved one step closer to the number eight, while the hour hand seemed suspended at number five for nearly forty minutes. The noise was unusually loud for this time of day, which meant only one thing – the wheels of the Emirates Boeing 777 were being deployed beneath us as we were minutes away from making contact with the tarmac at the Dubai International Airport. Yup! We were on a plane.

Groggy, as anyone who wakes up after sleeping on an airplane feels, we (the fam and I) shuffled past the aisles as we made our way out of the aircraft, past the jet bridge, and into Dubai airport. If there’s one thing I hate about large airports, it’s the arduous long walk towards immigration and finally the exit. I mean, is it too much to ask for the airport authorities to have the ‘sounds of the ocean’ play loudly on the speakers?! (I suppose it is!) Anyway, as we treaded slowly and steadily through the eerie passages of the airport, my father tapped me on my shoulders and pointed at a minor commotion ahead. Apparently he noticed an airport employee take a ‘selfie’ with someone, and was adamant that it was a celebrity – possibly a tennis player. He asked me to see who it was, and I, begrudgingly, hastened my walk so that I could catch up with this so-called ‘celebrity’. What came next shook me to my core and woke me up in a way that even pouring cold water while I was asleep would have been a pale attempt. Turns out, the ‘celebrity’ in question was no tennis player, but was in fact, one of the greatest football players to have ever graced our TV screens – the original Brazilian magician, World Cup and Champions League winner, and Ballon D’Or recipient Ronaldinho!

Now, what does Ronaldinho, football superstar and icon, have anything to do with food?! I bet you’re asking yourself that question! Well, let me tell you what Ronaldinho, football legend, has to do with food. While the world knows him simply as Ronaldinho, he was once called Ronaldinho Gaúcho (so Wikipedia says!), so as to distinguish himself from another Brazilian legend – Ronaldo. It is to the surname that we turn our attention to as it, unsurprisingly, shares the same name as the restaurant I had the pleasure of dining at. It also so happens (on more than one occasion) that people, to whom I have narrated about my experience at the restaurant, believed the restaurant to be the property of Ronaldinho. While they may share the same (sur)name, I can’t think of anything more dissimilar. After all, Gaucho – the restaurant – identifies itself as being Argentinian, while Ronaldinho is quite clearly a Brazilian. For those familiar with football rivalries, it’s hard to imagine that a Brazilian footballer would be welcome to open up a restaurant in Argentina, let alone an Argentinian restaurant.

So! Let’s be clear. This restaurant is and has never been owned by Ronaldinho. Real bummer innit? That, however, did not stop me from dining at the restaurant with my father. We had some time to kill before we had to drive down to the airport to pick up the rest of our family (my mum and sis), and so we decided to take the opportunity to visit one of Dubai’s renowned steakhouses – Gaucho! Despite it being the weekend, given that we were right in the middle of the Christmas vacation period, we decided against making a reservation at the restaurant. We arrived at the restaurant, located in the heart of the swanky DIFC complex, at around eight o’clock in the evening. We realized, upon entering the restaurant, that Gaucho shares the same entrance with a restaurant/lounge – Indie – and so we were directed to the second entrance, which led us to the mouth of an elevator that took us below to the restaurant where we were to dine at.

As we got off the elevator, we were greeted by a friendly receptionist, who ushered us to our seats. The ambience, not excluding the larger than life glass-encased wine vault, emitted a vibe not unlike that of a Michelin-star restaurant. The high ceiling, hanging from which were large chandeliers, the dim lighting – a little too dim for my liking – the uniformed staff, and the furniture draped in (real or fake) cow hide. The luxurious dining experience portrayed by the ambience could explain the lack of a crowd at the restaurant. Or perhaps it is, as I said earlier, the on-going Christmas break. Let’s run a regression shall we?!

We were offered two menu cards – the drinks menu and the food menu. While my dad was certain on his choice of a drink, and began to survey the list of red wines served by the glass, I continued to flip through the pages to find mine. I was confident that I didn’t want a beer, and my palate was yet to be accustomed to wine, so I narrowed my choices down to either a whisky or rum based cocktail. However, those on the menu weren’t exactly my ‘cup of alcohol’ (not a teetotaller!) and so, as far as I remember, for the first time I was in a loss for drinks. It was perhaps my continued hesitation over my choice that led to our waitress suggesting that the bartender would fix me up with a drink from off the menu. That certainly got my juices flowing, since it was the first time I had ever experienced an off-the-menu suggestion at a restaurant. Was it a gamble that was about to pay off? Or a decision I was about to regret? Well, I didn’t have to wait too long to find out, as our drinks arrived in a matter of 10 minutes. A glass of the Alamos Pinot Noir – a classic Argentinian Malbec wine (whatever that means!) and a whisky based drink called the Godfather. The moment the name of the drink was uttered, I knew I was in for a delight. And boy, was I right! The cocktail comprised of only two key ingredients – single malt whisky and Disaronno Amaretto – simple yet satisfying. The Godfather – a sweet and smoky drink that I, even to this day, request bartenders to concoct when I’m not in the mood for something basic and old school.

 ( From left to right ): Beef Chorizo Sausage; Bife de Ancho; Bife de Lomo (Medallions); Dulce De Leche Cheesecake
(From left to right): Beef Chorizo Sausage; Bife de Ancho; Bife de Lomo (Medallions); Dulce De Leche Cheesecake

Now we move on to the more important part of our visit – the food! We began with a starter of Beef Chorizo Sausage. Yes, the one sausage! It arrived not long after the drinks. The single beef sausage was sat on a bed of crushed chickpeas, marinated in lime and smoked paprika, garnished with a tiny red onion wedge and a stalk of coriander leaf. Drizzled around the sausage was a thin coating of olive oil. It was a pity that we were only served the one sausage. I suppose that’s what I should’ve expected. Clearly it didn’t say ‘Beef Chorizo Sausage(s)’! The chorizo was smoky and the added sprinkles of paprika elevated the flavours of the chorizo with a mild spice. The bed of crushed chickpeas was the numbing agent for the spice and added a crunchy texture to the dish. Overall, the dish was pleasing on the stomach. I suppose the only criticism would be the two unnecessary components on the plate – the drizzle of oil around the sausage (as chorizo is naturally oily) doesn’t appeal to the eye, and the wedge of onion isn’t exactly a vegetable I would want to bite into. I only wish there were two sausages so that I could have had one all to myself!

It was time for our main course to arrive. Now, I love steak as much as the next person in the restaurant. So, it was hard pressed for me to choose the lightest of steaks available. However, in my defence, it is not often that I have the opportunity of dining at a steakhouse as luxurious as Gaucho, and so I wanted to take full advantage of my opportunity and try out as many dishes as I could (naturally, this means dessert!). So, when our mains arrived, my Bife de Lomo – beef fillet medallions – looked relatively underwhelming as compared to my dad’s meaty, juicy Bife de Ancho – ribeye steaks. However, if the steaks tasted as good as they looked, then the worry was all for nothing. Thankfully, it did! My fillet was cooked to perfection – medium rare – juices dripping down on to the plate with every poke of the knife. Added to that, the marination of the South American red chimichurri sauce just made the dish better and better with every mouthful. The side of mashed potatoes with chives was probably the heaviest dish on the table, but it worked well with the spice of the chimichurri marination. The ribeye, on the other hand, was marinated with garlic, parsley, and olive oil (closer to a green chimichurri) and served with a side of creamed spinach. Temperature was once again spot on – a nice, dark pink hue on the inside. The taste was similar to that of the filet, only on the heavier side, given the cut of the meat. I didn’t have a chance to taste the creamy spinach, but it looked similar to the ones I’ve seen on TV. The marination, however, didn’t add as much flavour as my chimichurri sauce did, and is probably the only bone of contention for me for the main course. However, that is just nitpicking on something close to perfection.

‘Looks can be deceiving’ – They! Despite the relatively diminutive nature of the steaks, they were still quite filling. So, when our waitress arrived with the dessert menu, I was in two minds. Just for a second though. The moment I laid my eyes on the words ‘Dulce de Leche Cheesecake’ I knew what I wanted, and I knew nothing – not even my almost full stomach – was going to stop me from ordering dessert. When it arrived, it looked even better than what I had expected. The cheesecake was moulded in the shape of a chocolate fondant (an almost perfect circle) and shone brightly as the star of the dish. The caramel sauce was served in a miniature saucepan, while crumbled remains of toasted marshmallows lined up one side of the plate. Remember when I said the mashed potatoes was the heaviest dish on the table. Well, that title soon changed hands the moment I took a bite of the cheesecake. It was everything a dulce de leche cheesecake should be – rich, milky, creamy, heavy, yet not overly sweet. However, it did take some help from my dad to finish the entire dessert. Again, nitpicking on what was easily one of the best cheesecakes I have ever tasted, I wasn’t a huge fan of the toasted marshmallows and felt that to be, for lack of a better word, a slight overkill.

The hour hand on the clock moved closer to ten, and we felt that it was time to call it a day, and let all of this delicious food digest before we headed out to the airport for the pick-up. We (well, my dad) paid the bill, and we set off back into the elevator, looking down on what had been a memorable and delicious experience. It would be a while before I get another opportunity to dine at Gaucho. Not because of how lavish and luxurious the entire experience was, but because I tend to try out different places before I start re-visiting old ones. Overall, my evening could not have been better spent. If anyone of you have a few hours to kill (and a few bucks to spend) on a cool winter’s evening, I would recommend a visit to this extremely fashionable cow slaughterhouse.

Gaucho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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