Alex Garcia sure has been busy. This month, he’s opened two restaurants: Carniceria in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (replacing the failed Porchetta); and Gaucho Steak Co. in Hell’s Kitchen. The Food Network chef’s growing empire also includes Calle Ocho on the Upper West Side, Novo in SoHo, and another Gaucho Steak in New Jersey.
Gaucho Steak Co. has opened in a neighborhood that was once considered rough, but nowadays Tenth Avenue buzzes with bars, restaurants, and new condos. It’s a bit of a hike to the subway, but we took a walk south after dinner and found plenty of nightlife in this formerly desolate area. Things get pretty bleak once you get to 42nd Street, but you can see the potential if the #7 train is extended west, and Mayor Bloomberg’s West Side Yards project takes off.
The focus here is Argentinean beef, though Garcia’s menu includes a number of generic nueva latina specialities that I suspect would be at home in any south-of-the-border country. Garcia must have gotten a sweet deal on rent, as nothing is above $20, which is remarkable for a steakhouse. Portion sizes are all generous. The restaurant had been open only three days when we visited. Both the service and the cooking suffered from some glitches that we presume will be rectified.
As yet, there are no wines by the bottle, though we were assured there eventually will be. In any case, we probably would have ordered the excellent sangria. A large pitcher ($24) yielded eight tall glasses.
We suspected that one appetizer to share would be ample, which indeed it was. The Ceviche ($9) came in a tall soda glass, studded with shrimp, lemon oil, jalapeno and fresh lime. We thought it was a perfect summer dish, but expected it to be a bit more spicy.
Steaks are $14–20, depending on the cut of meat, but we both chose the Combination ($18), which comes with grilled sausage, skirt steak, short ribs, grilled onions, and a choice of side dish. The sausage, with a bold, spicy taste, was the best of the three meats. The kitchen did fine by the skirt steak, but it was undistinguished. The short ribs, served on the bone, were a bit over-cooked.
Neither of our side dishes ($4 apiece if ordered separately) quite measured up. Mushroom Rice wasn’t warm enough, while Gaucho Fries were a bit too greasy.
There were assorted problems with the service, none of which seriously inconvenienced us, especially for such a low-priced restaurant. For instance, none of the servers offered us water, and the credit card machine broke down just before we left, forcing us to pay cash. Then, the new cooking equipment blew a fuse, and the power went out for about 15 minutes. However, the management gave us a free pitcher of the sangria while we waited, so I am not complaining.
The décor vaguely suggests an Argentinean Wild West (if there is such a thing). There are only about 30 seats, and the restaurant doesn’t take reservations. When the word gets out, I suspect there will be long waits.
Gaucho Steak Co. (752 Tenth Avenue between 51st & 52nd Streets, Hell’s Kitchen)