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Mar 30, 2000 03:51 PM

El Gaucho

  • j

The Portland outpost of this Seattle restaurant opened recently. I haven't tried it yet, but a look at the menu was a little frightening. The prices seem awfully high for the upper left corner, even with the menu price creep that's been going on for the past few years.

Anybody have anything to say about the Seattle Gaucho, or have you tried the spot in Portland?



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  1. I've only been to the Seattle El Gaucho once, because it wasn't on my dime. Excellent service, mighty good meal, but you're certainly paying as much for the atmosphere as for the food. It was fun to see the "presentation" of the place, but I wouldn't choose it if I were paying the bill (and I haven't, since going there over two years ago.)

    3 Replies
    1. re: Retro
      Lauren Edlund

      I have been to the Seattle El Gaucho twice in the last year. Both times were a major disappointment. First off : THEY DO NOT SERVE USDA PRIME MEAT!!! How can you call yourself a premier steak house and serve USDA Choice? Second: The prices. I don't mind paying a lot if the meal is worth it. This is not. Third: The rest of the food is not good quality either. Brown lettuce in my salad, microwaved baked potatoes, etc. If you are looking for a good steak in Seattle, go across the street to Marco's Supperclub and have thier pub steak.

      1. re: Lauren Edlund

        Thanks for your el gaucho thoughts....

        You can read my review of Portland's el gaucho at my web site....



        1. re: Jim Dixon
          Debra (Gig Harbor)

          Jim...enjoyed your review. My husband and I ate at the Seattle El Gaucho last year. We had superb service, and both had the baseball steaks and they were quite delicious. We've recommended the restaurant to friends and associates. My only complaint was the tables were so small. Next time we want a booth. Also--the potatoes (baked and the other way umm forgot) could easily be improved. All in all, very enjoyable experience. p.s. The Caesar salad prepared tableside was very good as well.

    2. an update: visited El Gaucho/Seattle 2 days ago... the rundown: we arrived and were seated in a nice table but the "piano player" was in a synthesizer frenzy so loud that we could not think much less talk (he calmed down a while later). they kindly reseated us along the back wall which helped quite a bit. We ordered drinks and crab cocktails-excellent. moved on to a caesar salad-
      excellent. This is where things started to shake loose....we ordered 2 NY strips and started to check out the wine list. holy moley! i understand restaurants need to make money and markup is high on wine and drinks..i'm used to it and its fine....BUT...there must be a point where it just becomes stupid. I think the point was reached (maybe exceeded) i was looking at wines i knew at prices in excess of 4X RETAIL prices.
      but we pressed on and ordered a rather dissapointing Rioja. The steaks arrived and were seriously over done. The waitperson insisted on returning them and then as is what might be expected happened...they came back virtually raw! (which is ok w/me relative to well done) refrigerator cold under the surface. this made things a bit difficult for my companion but she toughed it out. funny i should use that phrase (i really didn't do it on purpose) if these were prime/aged i really be suprised because i've had them many times and these were not them! tendons running through them that made cutting a chore, if not impossible. then came the fruit/nut/cheese course...which is a really nice idea they have (and i enjoyed it the previous visit). but all the fruit was unripe the nuts were so stale i couldn't eat them (that's saying something) the cheese was good
      some variety of blue cheese (roquefort perhaps) we normally would have had desert but chose to cut our losses (approaching $350) a sad end for what was a good place!
      one last thing i must say... the service was excellent and atmosphere was retro nice!
      (if you could keep the piano player under control)

      4 Replies
      1. re: rtv

        I agree. El gaucho is ridiculously overpriced. The wine list is beyond so. We had an Agrentinia Malbec, one that goes for about $18 retail, for $115. It was served at about 77-80 degrees! Undrinkable. The steaks were $42 each–one of the cheaper choices on the menu–and were cooked to order. They were served in a puddle of sauce so smoky/peaty–think "reduced bottle of peaty Laphroaig scotch on a plate–and a blue cheese so potent you could have eaten the plate before noticing. I forgot about the appetizer, so let me backtrack. We ordered escargot. I LOVE escargot. These were escargot-tasting rubber bands garlic-buttered to death. I didn't return them because, from experience, if you return an appetizer, the rest of the meal goes downhill. My guess is that they were canned snails killed with garlic butter. For $17 each, well, I've said enough about the snails. The desserts were nothing special, good even...but, since we were already burning through money, we decided what the hell, let's have Cafe Diablos. Cafe Diablo is all about the presentation, because, let's face it, orange-infused, alcoholic coffee is only so enjoyable, but the flames make so much better, right? Or should, for $15 each. Long story short, try to imagine what a bored, frowning bank manager would look like after his 20th Cafe Diablo presentation of the evening. He wasn't a banker, of course, but the floor manager, and he took over from the one high point of our evening: the waiter. The waiter was hilarious. He recognized we'd given up on having a great dining experience and just made us laugh the rest of evening. For example, when we ordered the Cafe Diablos, the expression on his face was, "Probably NOT a wise choice!" and when we tried to order the flourless chocolate cake (didn't that go out in the 90s), he cringed! HA HA HA. I guess the bank manager didn't want the waiter to set his hair on fire a la Michael Jackson. He wasn't concerned with his presentation, that's for sure, and basically bored us SO MUCH that we order espressos immediately after instead. The fruit/nut course was...I don't know how to say it, exactly...BUT WHAT IS THAT ON THAT PLATE? IS IT FRUIT? HOW OLD IS IT? DO THEY EXPECT US TO TOUCH IT, MUCH LESS EAT IT? There was nothing on the fruit tray anyone would want to eat. I assume they serve the same tray all week long to similar appreciation. Did I mention the $440 tab ($530 with tip). If I didn't, let me assure you: It wasn't worth half that. What's probably worse is you realize half way through that your wallet is being destroyed in the process of essentially a terrible meal.

        1. re: fooey

          If you just want a great steak dinner and don't need to try and impress anyone go to the nearest JaK's. You can take everyone you know and not spend as much as you did here. Oh yeah, the steak will be as good as you can get elsewhere and the servers will be enjoying themselves as much as you are. (West Seattle, U District and Issaquah)

          1. re: Mark Nobe

            Completely agree with this. Get a cosmopolitan and a steak sandwich and a salad at JaK's. You will have a lovely meal that is a carnivore's delight and save yourself a lot of money.

        2. re: rtv

          rtv, I think maybe your problem was your choice of cut of steak. NY strips are not known for their great tenderness. Try the filet mignon and you will be happy. Maybe you both weren't clear on how you wanted it cooked in the first place. EG has always erred on the side of less done.

        3. We had dinner at El Gaucho last year and I really couldn't stand the noise and the lighting. You literally can't see what you're eating... This restaurant is a trip back to the 70s.

          3 Replies
          1. re: toploin

            Portland or Seattle? They seem to be two quite different places.

            1. re: MichaelG

              I LOVED the original El Gauchos. The mink lined backs of the booths, the violins, the fantastic "Hunters Breakfast" was unreal! Table side to order omelets, pork chops, huge sausages, fillet Mignon, fried home potatoes, etc., followed by cheese & fresh fruit, thick cream, strawberries, melons, etc. you get the picture! It was so wonderful, I can't even remember everything there was to choose from. Dinner was always the same too, you were made to feel like a VIP! We used to go there a lot as my BIL was a entertainer so after his show we would all head to El Gauchos for the Hunters Breakfast. This became the favorite place to go after concerts, shows etc. For special occasions this was the top of my list along with my other favorite the Mirabeau Room. I can still taste the poached salmon smothered with fresh dungeness crab and then again smothered in a absolutely wonderful Bearnaise sauce.

              I have eaten at the new one in Seattle also a couple of times and it really lacked the understated elegance of the original. It was large, open and loud. I really enjoyed the intimacy of the original place. The food, when I have been to the new one, was still wonderful and the service was great but I did miss the violins and the intimacy with "PERFECT" service of the original El Gauchos. Why do they always have to change something that is sooooo perfect.

              1. re: CookinGal

                oh the Hunters' Breakfast was great .. we used to go after shows when I was in college .. I had high hopes when EG reopened .. but it is just a schtick w/ no soul now.

          2. The food, the service, the environment...ALL A+. Dined with my wife and her two friends three weeks ago and it had been 5 years since we had dined there as regulars (we lived out of state). Our server remembered us by name (we did not have a reservation)... nice touch. Bottom line... 4 martinis, 2 appetizers, 1 bottle of wine, 4 salads, another bottle of wine, 4 steaks, 5 sides, 4 desserts, and a some dessert wine. Total bill $1K and worth every penny.

            If you want to "go big" dine at El will not have a better culinary/restaurant experience (unless you just don't know any better). If the menu prices scare someone then Taco del Mar is down First Avenue about 4 blocks. They stay open late...

            I do agree with a "poster" below regarding Jak's...incredible steaks. Different atmosphere but excellent food.

            9 Replies
            1. re: falcon75

              I do know better, and I know this is flat out wrong. If you want to "go big" and "lose all", yes, go there, by all means. If you want great food for prices to match, you'll get all of the price and none of the food (or wine) at El Gaucho. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.

              1. re: fooey

                You are certainly entitled to your opinion...So where you do you dine and recommend in Seattle? Curious...

                1. re: falcon75

                  Taco del Mar, of course. I pay $200 for a fish taco. It's an exceptional dining experienence. Who needs El Gaucho when I have that?

                2. re: fooey

                  I agree with falcon and disagree with fooey. Falcon's right! It's expensive but excellent. Both food and service are top notch!

                  1. re: AlbertaHound

                    It's a steakhouse, people! Personally, I like the atmosphere of el Gaucho; and that's what you're paying for. I've eaten there many times and feel that it's a great place for a steakhouse experience, and is in line with steakhouse prices. But as far as this opinion goes:
                    "If you want to "go big" dine at El will not have a better culinary/restaurant experience (unless you just don't know any better). If the menu prices scare someone then Taco del Mar is down First Avenue about 4 blocks."

                    There are at least 6 better restaurant/culinary experiences within 4 blocks of El Gaucho. (And that's not even counting the now closed Mistral). Come on falcon, "expensive" does not equal "quality." Steakhouses tend to plateau at the same level. The quality of the food is merely a factor of the quality of the beef and the nature of the aging process. El Gaucho is no better or worse than other "high-end" steakhouses in the area. Comparing Steakhouses to Steakhouses is relatively simple, taking into account food, service, and atmosphere. That being the case, El gaucho rates about average. But when Falcon75 claims "the best restaurant / culinary experience", relegating those who do not agree with this uneducated opinion to Taco Del Mar; he / she is obviously oblivious to what a true culinary experience really is. One can actually get a much better prepared steak at Tavolata (try the 2lbs Ribeye!) because the person preparing your food is a real Chef with training who does so much more than broil 100 steaks a night. Because of this, a steakhouse experience can only be a fraction of a great restaurant experience because the food will never reach the level of a truly amazing restaurant. One could spend the same $1000 for 4 at Mistral (or Shiro's, Saito, Lamprea, Zoe, etc.) and have an experience light years ahead of the el gaucho experience. Sure steakhouses have their place, but Falcon75, you really need to expand your horizons if you want to have a truly exceptional restaurant experience.

                    1. re: hhlodesign

                      Listen to hhlodesign people. His comments are spot on. Do not be fooled into thinking that expensive means excellent.

                      1. re: hhlodesign

                        Have to disagree with one part.

                        While "the best restaurant / culinary experience" are a long stretch for El Gaucho, if you're specifically looking for steak, I think the best steaks are at steakhouses (Morton's, Daniel's, El Gaucho, etc), not

                        This is what they do. You're probably right that cooking 100 steaks a night doesn't make you a great chef, but it makes you damn good at making steaks.

                        That said, I've never had the steak at Tavolata, so I'll have to give that a whirl some time.

                        1. re: GreenYoshi

                          True, if you do it 100 times a night, you're probably pretty good at it. I agree with that.

                          However, I contend that the skill involved with cooking a steak breaks down to:
                          A) how much salt you put on it
                          B) when to flip it
                          C) when to remove it from the heat.

                          While the guy doing this 100 times a night will become pretty good at this. A recent CIA grad (or Art Institute, or Seattle CC for that matter) working the line at a "real" restaurant will be just as adept, if not moreso. Also, the one working the protein station tends to be one of the more experienced members of the kitchen.

                          Speaking for myself only, I have never had a Steakhouse steak in Seattle better than the Wagyu Flatiron at Veil, or the Grilled Hangar at Zoe; (not to mention that ribeye from Tavolata. My God!)

                          PS thanks Lauren! ;)

                        2. re: hhlodesign

                          We should cut Falcon75 some slack...he is from Texas, after all (judging by his earlier posts? correct me if i'm wrong)...they just have different cuisine down there...

                  2. I think El Gaucho IS dramatically & enjoyably different & entertaining in their decor, theme & staff.....but the food, IMO, falls short of matching that ambience quality.
                    Maybe a "Texas de Brazil" franchise needs to open here to 'expand' on El Gaucho's
                    type of "STEAKHOUSE" experience.