Meat never goes out of fashion, but certain types of it seem to. Last year it was burgers that every second restaurant claimed to specialise in, and some are now predicting that nose-to-tail dining, that eat-the-wholebeast food ethos that originated in London over a decade ago, is next in line. Steakhouses, meanwhile, appear to have been neglected by the city’s independent restaurateurs, with nearly of them residing in upscale hotels.
Given this state of affairs, we’re not surprised that this new, warmly lit, richly attired steakhouse located at the top of Sukhumvit Soi 19, directly opposite the Westin Grande Hotel, is already packing them in. We’ve been twice and on both occasions it ticked the ambiance, service and food boxes with aplomb. Our only real nitpick: it’s pricey.
Apparently a mirror-image copy of other branches over in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, El Gaucho draws it stylings from Argentina, the country with the second highest beef consumption rate after the US . Outside, there’s a huge seated terrace. Inside, the big, two-storey structure that gleams behind it has a bar downstairs and spacious seating area, complete with windows spanning the far wall, upstairs.
Exposed brick, rusty metallic surfaces, wooden floors and black and white pictures of South American life give the place real visual appeal. Wooden seating ranges from high tables to settees and low sit-down tables fill its warmly spot lit nooks. And topping the slick cosmopolitan setting off are uninterrupted views out across traffic-snarled Soi 19.
Imported from the US, Australia and Argentina, the meat sits in a chiller cabinet by the front door. The first page of the menu offers you the chance to ‘be your own chef ’: select a slab on the spot and take it home raw (prime black angus from B1,490+ kg; lamb chops B1,190+ kg; homemade chorizo beef and pork B790+ kg and B590+ kg respectively). Otherwise, they’re sizzled on the grill the Argentinean way – with just a pinch of sea salt – then served to your table on heated metal trays, sans extras.
Get ready to spank some money. Prime wagyu takes pride of place on the menu, a 200 gram fillet mignon of the stuff coming in at an eye-watering B2,990++. But, in our opinion, there’s no need to drop such a big wad, not when the cheaper options are this good. The Prime Black Angus ribeye (250g B1,300++) was a long and juicy slab with intense, gratifying marbling; and the fillet steak (250g B1,390++) was even better – one of the tenderest, succulent hunks of meat we’ve chomped on this year. Cheaper ‘choice’ cuts are available (250g fillet steak B980++), as is other, even more affordable meaty fare such as braised lamb shanks, chicken skewers and homemade beef burgers.
The sides and sauces that you order to go with your steak are rich and comforting and good for sharing, though honestly, such is the flavour and juiciness of the meat, we could live without the latter. Our picks: the creamed spinach, garlic mashed potato (both B90++), and, if we had to pick a sauce, the traditional chimichurri or pepper.
More exciting for us was the wine selection, which, as you’d expect, is heavy on the reds. Four of the 52 bottlestrong selection are available by the glass, our pick being the spicy, peppery Malbec from Argentina’s Uco Valley (B330++ per glass, B1,350++).
If El Gaucho didn’t have the talent to match its sky-high prices, it would be a spectacular failure. But it’s a slick operation that has hit the ground running, with few noticeable kinks and a relaxed vibe and sharp service (most of the staff appear to have been seconded from the other branches) in addition to its seriously spot-on meat. Little unforeseen perks like the complimentary shot of butterscotch schnapps at the end only sweeten the deal. Hotel steakhouses, you’re reign of supremacy is at an end.
Sukhumvit Soi 19 | 022-552-864 l daily 4pm-late | elgaucho.asia/thailand