El Gaucho – Raising the Steaks
At its new home in the Stilwerk tower, this beef dealer brings Argentine grilling arts to the steak-hungry Austrian capital
In an LED-lit glass case, six cuts of beef take the stage.
The waiter explains how differences in thickness and fat content influences the taste, or how long to grill it.
The cooled presentation box was a conscious service choice.
"Austrians like to eat steak but they don’t really know what they’re eating," explained Peter Kazianschütz.
His co-manger Michael Grossauer chimed in, "and anything you can see is easier to sell."
Selling the stuff is not a challenge for the Styrian Grossauer family, who have now opened their third El Gaucho.
"In Baden, we had a great start. It was always full," said Kazianschütz.
Opening in Graz and Vienna was the next step. "There is great demand for steak in Vienna," said Kazianschütz.
Since opening in late September in Stilwerk’s glass palace, they’ve been full every night.
In the space recently vacated by Neni im Zweiten, which is almost hidden from view, they have made a warm and inviting oasis amidst Stilwerk’s sleek black marble.
The flesh itself
The key was hooking up with Argentine steak-expert Daniel Veron of the Gaucho Grill academy in London.
Veron has schooled the kitchen staff in every El Gaucho in Austria and returns for quality control on a regular basis.
Another family member, Christof Widakovich is a successful and popular local chef who rounds out the menu with regional favourites and sides.
The Argentine beef comes in cuadril (sirloin), chorizo (rump), ancho (rib-eye), and lomo (filet) cuts. They also offer churrasco, a thin filet cut with a special marinade.
The Austrian Dry Age Beef is sold by the 100 grams in Porterhouse, club, T-bone and rib-eye.
The managers lean towards the rib-eye steak and recommend it as the Argentine favourite since "the fat content makes it especially tasty."
Keeping it light, I went for a "ladysteak" (150g) with a side of truffle gnocchi.
The steak is served solitaire, no frills on the plate and it doesn’t need any.
Grilled medium, it was firm on outside ranging from a deep brown to the perfectly pink and juicy centre.
You can taste the quality in every succulent bite.
Larger groups can order a 1.5-kg Porterhouse to share, and for those who want to get to know the different tastes there’s also the Gaucho Steak Spiess, a skewer with the four cuts of the Argentine beef.
Diners can also choose to "pimp" their steak with a king prawn, grilled goose liver, an organic egg, black winter truffle or a soft-shell crab. It’s like turning the meal into surf and turf, just with more options.
"In America, a steak house can be just like a beer hall, but here, going out for an Argentine steak is something special," Kazianschütz told me.
He mentioned one regular customer who gets a rib-eye steak with 4 eggs sunny-side up. So essentially, you can get the simple meat grilled to perfection, or, literally "have it your way".
The staff is swift, courteous about answering questions, and intrigued by special requests.
The wine list is endless and spans three continents with special attention to South American reds and a vast selection of Austrian vintages.
I accompanied my filet steak with a 2010 Privada from Bodega Norton in Mendoza, Argentina, recommended by the staff.
The lush reds from Argentina and Spain underline the smoky aroma of the meat superbly.
A classic favourite side is the steak frites, which were devoured by each guest I saw order them.
While my truffle gnocchi were delicious, my companion was underwhelmed with the Vogerlsalat, and some other choices seemed odd, like the oriental couscous or spicy green vegetable curry.
The starters are just as eclectic: beef tartar surf & turf is a given, with a tiny crab cake accompaniment, but then there are baked scallops, grilled sheep’s cheese, plus an octopus and blood sausage combo, which I need to eventually try.
Also, the Late Night Steak offer gives you 150-gram filet steak after 22:00 with a side and sauce for only €16.
It’s a high-end steak-fusion approach, catering to the refined Austrian palate. I entered sceptical, but left impressed and satisfied.
I will be back.
Mon.-Sat. 11:30 – 1:00
The grill is on until midnight
Tel: 1 (01) 212 12 10