G/F Trump Tower at Century City, Kalayaan Avenue, Makati City
Open from 11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. (Saturday to Thursday), 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Friday)
(SPOT.ph) It was Patrick Kreier's fascination with South-American culture that led him and his family to create El Gaucho, an Argentinian-style steakhouse. Though they hail from Germany, they went on to launch their first branch in Vietnam, and have since opened 16 stores spread across Thailand, Slovakia, Germany, and Hong Kong. Now, the Philippines officially joins that list, as El Gaucho recently opened their first Philippine branch at the Trump Tower in Century City, Makati.
Kreier explains that the name “El Gaucho” is the South-American term for "cowboy." A nod to this can be seen in the interiors: wooden tables, brick walls, and hanging lamps all come together in this space, which allows natural light to shine through during the day. Toward the center of the restaurant, you’ll spot a glass counter labeled the El Butcher Shop, where you’ll find the restaurant’s signature meats available for takeaway. There is a sense of refinement to El Gaucho but the overall atmosphere is one that is relaxed and homey. “We want [the restaurant] to be fine-dining, but casual,” Kreier clarifies.
The food similarly mimics this philosophy, as they use simple ingredients to make dishes that are familiar and comforting, but brought to new heights. El Gaucho welcomes guests with their house bread basket, which arrives on the table with pats of garlic butter, garlic confit, and zesty salsa criolla. From there, you’d be well-acquainted with Argentinian cuisine by way of their appetizers. Those looking for a light bite will be happy to know El Gaucho carries a good roster of salads, including the Beetroot Salad (P790), which brings together arugula, walnuts, olive oil, feta, and sweet, earthy beets. The Beef Carpaccio (P890) is another refreshing option, with thin slices of beef given the umami richness of parmesan cheese, lemon, and olive oil.
If you’d prefer to open up your meal on a more indulgent note, El Gaucho won’t disappoint. Try the Provoleta with Chorizo (P990), a skillet of provoleta cheese that arrives sizzling hot at the table, waiting to be dug into and devoured (pro tip: dollop some all over the house bread—it’s life-changing).The Salchicha (P490)—a homemade Argentinian sausage—looks simple, but packs a surprisingly spicy punch as you chew through. Their Beef Empanada (P490) sports the perfect ratio of thin, crispy crust to flavorful meat filling, which gets its Argentinian flair from capsicum peppers and olives mixed in with the beef. And perhaps the most sinful of the lot is the Foie Gras (P1,390), which features a pan-seared slab of foie on mashed potatoes, its richness balanced out by the dollop of caramelized apples served on the side.
But those are just the appetizers. Be sure to leave space for the main attraction: the steaks. Kreier shares that they are especially particular about the quality of their meat, sourcing their steaks from select farms in America and Australia, and you can be assured that what they serve in the Philippine branch is the same that they serve across the rest of the world. Try the Filet Steak (P2,390 to P4,690/Australian Black Angus Beef, P3,490 to P6,890/USDA Prime), which delivers a robust, beefy umami with supreme tenderness and just the right amount of fat; or, go big with the Tomahawk (P1,190/100 grams), a bone-in hunk of Wagyu that’s full-on flavorful and fatty and just about melts in your mouth. Lamb lovers will be happy to know they also serve excellent Grilled Lamb Chops (P2,190 to 2,390) that are succulent and not at all gamey.
At El Gaucho, the meats are seasoned with little more than salt to showcase its natural flavor. But should you want to take the experience further, you are more than welcome to take your pick from their wide array of sauces, which includes classics such as Chimichurri (P190), Bearnaise Sauce (P190), Red Wine Sauce (P290), and others. Don’t forget the sides either, which range from French Fries (P250), Truffle Mashed Potatoes (P490), Macaroni and Cheese (P250), and more; it’s a delight to treat your tastebuds to their varying flavors and textures as you work your way through the meats.
For all of El Gaucho’s no-holds-barred approach when it comes to the mains, the desserts are no mere afterthought, either. Conclude your meal on a creamy note with the Flan Caramel (P490) or the Homemade Cold Cheese Cake (P550), the former tempting with its silky-smooth texture and the latter, with its bright tang. Meanwhile, the Dulce de Leche in Crepe (P550) tempts with its generous caramel filling—perfect for pairing with a hot cup of coffee. An indulgent bite awaits with the Hot Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream (P550), a hot-meets-cold affair that mingles the creamy with the bittersweet. Whichever you choose, don’t miss out on the El Caramel, a housemade digestif of a shot of caramel vodka that’s taken in one go, its deep caramel notes resounding long on the tongue even after you’ve swallowed.
Argentinian dining may be a relatively unexplored territory in these parts, but it doesn’t stray too far from Filipino culture when you think about it: it’s simple but hearty food in huge portions, made for sharing and best devoured with the people you love.
Photos by Vincent Coscolluela