The steakhouse’s relaxed ambiance, more reminiscent of a third wave coffee shop, is one of its main draws.
Food & Drink Restaurants

There’s a new Argentinian steakhouse in town—but it’s Vietnamese by birth

Born in Vietnam, owned by an Israeli-German, with halal-certified steaks and lamb sourced from the United States and Australia, El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse makes the most of its multinational origins.
Cyrene de la Rosa | Oct 25 2019

El Gaucho Argentinian is a branch of a very popular steakhouse chain in Vietnam and Bangkok, with plans of expanding further in Vietnam, Thailand, and soon in Hong Kong. The owners just opened their 13th steakhouse in Makati, the first one for the Philippines, followed by their first European outpost in Slovakia, with plans to open one in Germany as well.

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Although El Gaucho is all about Argentinian steaks and dishes, the story actually began in Vietnam. After more than two decades working in the retail trade, the restaurant’s Israeli-born German proprietor, Dany Himi, went back to his food roots (he grew up in a family heavily involved in the food and beverage business) to open Vietnam’s very first steakhouse concept in Ho Chi Minh in 2011. This first branch was so well received that he ended up opening one successful branch after another in Vietnam. In 2012, he opened the first El Gaucho in Bangkok, Thailand and it also became an instant hit. Now, he has over four branches in Thailand with plans of further expansion.

Over an intimate lunch at El Gaucho’s first Philippine outpost, Himi’s son, David Timm—who together with another brother now helps their dad run El Gaucho—shared that his dad’s good eye for finding the right location and keen attention to details, honed by the years he spent working in retail, have been the key factors to their steakhouse’s success in Thailand and Vietnam. He added that El Gaucho’s Philippine location in Century City Makati was recommended by a Jewish friend.

Timm explains, “Based on our experience, one of the toughest parts in opening a new restaurant is finding people to run and manage it.” So, they thought why not open where their best servers and managers are from? Timm claims, “Our best (most efficient) and nicest employees, who are not nasty… are all from the Philippines.” As a result, some of their opening staff members at the Makati restaurant are actually former staff members from Vietnam and Bangkok, who are now based in Manila.

USDA Prime Rib cooked medium rare, best eaten with a sprinkling of salt.

El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse brought its winning modern contemporary signature look to Manila, which features a clever combination of wood, bricks, and metal. As you enter the L-shaped space, guests are greeted by an inviting long bar on one side, and tables awash in natural lighting, coming from the floor-to-ceiling windows, on the other side. At the end of the long bar and main dining area is “El Butcher Shop” where the grilling of the steaks is done, while a proper wine cellar stands at one corner. There is also a small private room for 14 on the left side of the butcher’s area. The overall vibe is casual and fun, yet refined at the same time.

A fancy long bar with the butcher’s area in the back.

The restaurant is named after the legendary gauchos, horsemen or cowhands of the Argentine pampas or grasslands, where cattle raising is a primary way of life. However, El Gaucho doesn’t serve Argentinian beef. Rather, the meat available is mainly grass-fed, free-range beef imported from Australia and the United States, with a decent selection of cuts including rib-eye, prime fillet, NY striploin, as well as lamb chops.

For Moslem diners who observe halal, El Gaucho is one of the few, and perhaps the only steakhouse in town, where all the meat dishes (steaks, lamb, and sausages) are halal certified, which ensures that the meat complies with religious rituals and observances of Islamic Sharia law.

Halal certified Grilled Lamb Chops, the author’s favorite.

The USDA Prime Rib and the succulent Grilled Lamb Chops that we got to try for lunch were simply prepared and cooked to the doneness that you request. But what stole the show were the tasty sides, especially the Baked Sweet Potato Fries, Potato Gratin, Baked Macaroni, and Creamed Spinach.

Side dishes include, from left, Creamed Spinach, Baked Sweet Potato Fries, and Potato Gratin.

For dessert, there was decadent Flan Caramel, citrusy Homemade Cold Cheese Cake, and for something a bit different, a shot of complimentary frozen caramel-infused vodka, usually served at the end of every meal at El Gaucho.

A shot of frozen caramel-infused Belvedere vodka on the house.

To get more bang for your buck, guests can dine between 11 am and 5 pm to avail of discounted lunch specials with choices like a 250-gram Black Angus Fillet Steak or Grilled Lamb Chops for P1,590+, inclusive of one free side dish.

El Gaucho is located at the G/F Trump Tower, Century City, Salamanca Street corner Kalayaan Street, Makati City, conveniently located beside Century City Mall where parking is available. Just exit the mall through the Kalayaan Street entrance (beside Conti’s), turn left and walk 2 to 3 minutes to Kalayaan corner Salamanca Street and you’ll see El Gaucho’s main entrance immediately on your left. El Gaucho is open daily from 11 am until late. For reservations, call (0917) 323-8019

 

Photos by Cyrene de la Rosa

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