Gaucho: The Veggiebuzzing Cowboy
Gaucho. A Portuguese term that means ‘cowboy’. It’s a word that conjures images of grizzled horsemen who love a well-grilled steak. It comes as no surprise that Gaucho, the Argentine-inspired import from London, is a bit of a paradise for carnivores, with two entire sections on the menu devoted to beef. What does surprise us is the substantial and varied selection of vegetarian dishes. When VeggieBuzz is invited to try out the food at Gaucho’s Dubai outlet in DIFC, it definitely piques our curiosity.
While the cow-print fabric on the walls and on the backs of all the chairs create a unique look, they don't exactly create the most veggie-friendly atmosphere, especially after we are told that they are real cow leather! Other than that, the interiors are quite refined, using a stark black and white contrast to great effect. The chandeliers hanging from the ceiling consist of layers of concentric mirrored discs or clusters of steel balls, both types hanging from extended cords, creating metal clouds over above the tables. The restaurant is definitely larger and more grandeur than most of the London outlets.
As we sit down to examine the menu, we realize there are even more vegetarian dishes than we would have imagined! We order a few appetizers and main courses to experience the broadest range of dishes available. Below is a rundown of the meal.
Humita Empanada: Creamed corn empanada with basil and mozzarella cheese. The sweetness of the corn plays well with the salty empanada shell, and the crisp pastry adds some body to the gooey filling. It’s a great balance of taste and texture.
Goat’s Cheese Flatbread: Crunchy flatbread topped by a tangy tomato sauce with onions, garlic and goat’s cheese. The sauce tastes almost like a tomato chutney. It’s a delightful little bite.
Burratina: Burrata cheese with pesto and an assortment of small tomatoes, including plum and cherry. The burratina is wonderfully creamy, and the tomatoes and pesto are a classic combination.
Artichoke and Goat’s Cheese Pansotti: Pansotti is a type of stuffed pasta, much like ravioli. This particular dish is stuffed with a combination of artichoke cream and goat’s cheese, along with roasted asparagus and pine nuts. The artichoke has a nice sharp flavor that cuts through the richness of the dish.
Truffle and Mushroom Risotto: As a lover of mushrooms and all things mushroom-based, I had expected to love this dish. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too much of everything. The risotto is very rich and heavy, and the mushroom flavor is overpowering. It’s also a very salty dish, which only accentuates the strong mushroom taste.
Grilled Aubergine and Charred Ricotta Salad: The salad is underseasoned and seems a bit of a misnomer. Some scattered crumbs of ricotta and two slices of aubergine are lost amidst a plateful of chickpeas. As a cold chickpea salad, it’s just about average, but the ricotta goes by unnoticed and the aubergine is quite bland.
Linguine: We have the opportunity to taste a pasta dish that’s not on the menu yet, linguine with asparagus in a herb sauce. The dish has a clean, zesty flavor and helps relieve the mushroom fatigue from the risotto.
Along with the above, we have a trio of side dishes. Humita Saltena is a creamed corn and pumpkin mixture served in corn husks that has a nice presentation and a very comforting flavor. Glazed Carrots with stem ginger, chili and honey taste like a slightly sweet Chinese stir-fry dish. Baked and Grilled Sweet Potato brushed with butter is just fantastic, and an easy favorite.
Having gorged ourselves on almost every veggie dish on the menu, we’re feeling stuffed, but have just enough room for dessert. Without hesitation, our server recommends the Dulce de Leche and Hazelnut Cheesecake. Her recommendation proves to be solid. The dish is beautifully plated, and the taste cannot be adequately described. It’s rich and silky and just heavenly. It’s served with coconut Italian meringue, which adds a nice bit of freshness and leaves our palates feeling refreshed. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to the meal.
Gaucho proves to be an unexpected pleasure, offering a large variety of vegetarian appetizers and main courses. Some of the main dishes, such as the risotto, could use a little tweaking to make them spectacular, but the overall meal is very enjoyable. The service is friendly, though our server did disappear for some stretches over the course of the meal. But we'd happily go back, if only to have some more of that spectacular cheesecake!
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: Elegant decor, friendly service, great appetizers and amazing cheesecake
Cons: The main courses aren't quite as good as the appetizers
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