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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

When the Flesh Is Weak, Try El Gaucho for Meat

My apologies to the vegetarians, but sometimes there is just no denying that craving for flesh. Having heard how seriously Argentinians take their beef, I decided to head to El Gaucho when the desire for red meat hit late one recent Thursday night.

Settling into a corner table not too far from the grill, my dining companion and I were suddenly overwhelmed with options. Should we go for the beef asado ($16.40) -- a front rib cut that, according to the menu, is a real delicacy "for fat meat lovers" -- or the tender steak fillet ($13.75)? Adding to our indecision was an entire page of skewered selections ranging from a reasonable $8 to $14.

But if variety is not the spice of life, it is certainly a requirement for restaurant reviews. We narrowed our choices down to one of two mixed grills -- one of which offered all sorts of adventurous organ meats, including kidney, intestines and udder.

Our sense of adventure lacking, we set our sights on the beef mixed grill, a $34 assortment for two that included steak chorizo, entrecote, as well as the infamous asado.

Ordering the meal, however, turned out to be more complicated than we anticipated. Starting with a Salad El Gaucho ($10.50), an enticing selection of beans, corn and avocado, and a cheese empanada ($3), we put in our order. But once we listed the mixed grill, as well as two baked potatoes to accompany it, our waitress began to shake her head.

"It's too much food," she said, with only our best interests at heart. "Allow me to help you choose."

For the next several minutes a complicated negotiation ensued. For our part, we were reluctant to relinquish the potato option, and she was not happy about bringing them along with the doughy empanada.

"This is, after all, an Argentinian restaurant," she said. "You should concentrate on the meat."

Our waitress did have reason to worry. The mixed grill weighed in at no less than 750 grams of meat, she said.

With that in mind, we found a suitable compromise, substituting the substantial El Gaucho salad with the considerably lighter Argentinian salad, which turned out to consist largely of Chinese cabbage and Bermuda onions. Satisfied that she had done right by us, our waitress set off to place our order, vowing to find us the smallest potatoes in the kitchen.

While our beef was grilling we were happily entertained by the music of Las Palmas, a delightful duo from Cuba (close enough to Argentina, I guess), who are reason enough to visit El Gaucho on Thursday evenings. The stucco and terracotta dining room also got high marks for atmosphere. Wooden barriers between the tables gave a feeling of privacy, and hanging lamps provided the perfect degree of lighting -- just enough to see the meat you are cutting.

Our mixed grill arrived on a really cute serving tray that resembled, my dining companion commented, a huge metal coffee filter. The purpose of the filter look-alike was to keep the meat warm, our waitress pointed out after we had stabbed too sizeable a portion of steak, further emphasizing the hands-on service they offer at El Gaucho. Two round wooden cutting boards doubled as plates, each with grooves to catch the blood and little knife marks -- comforting traces of former diners.

Unfortunately, the meat itself -- slightly tough and with a hint of lighter fluid -- was disappointing, but this did not stop us from making our way through most of the 750 grams. Thankfully, the side dishes we so cleverly negotiated were the real winners. Some may find it odd to praise anything as seemingly insignificant as a baked potato, but El Gaucho's spud is a worthy one.

El Gaucho Argentinian Grill. Bolshoi Kozlovsky Per. 3/2. Nearest metro: Krasnye Vorota. Tel. 923-1098. Credit cards and rubles accepted.