I had a good dinner with three friends at El Raigon on Saturday night. We had 8pm reservations and were promptly seated upon arrival. Reservations are required in order to eat there on a weekend night, as we had been turned back a couple of times on previous occasions when we showed up without one. I made mine online through Open Table about a week beforehand.
For appetizers, we shared an order each of Empanadas Caseras ($5), Gambas al Ajillo ($8), Provoleta al Raigon ($8) and the Arugula salad ($7). The Empanadas were good, not quite to the level of the ones I had in Argentina, but on par with any I've had in the Bay Area. The Gambas al Ajillo were disappointing. The prawns themselves (spot prawns?) were fresh and beautiful, but they were not cooked well. It seemed like the pan was not hot enough, so they had a mushy consistency and watered down taste.
The Provoleta al Raigon was pretty good, it consisted of a thin disc of provoleta cheese (very similar to provolone) dipped in flour and then pan seared in oil and herbs. The arugula salad came with avocados, cheese and a red wine vinagrette, and was also good. Next time I eat there, I'll definitely try ordering the Mollejas (grilled sweetbreads), as unfortunately none of my dining companions that night felt like sharing an order with me.
For mains, we shared three steaks (all ordered rare doneness) and an order of chicken. The Ojo de Bife ($26) is a center cut rib eye. It was a cylinder about two inches in height and diameter, and was very high quality, beautifully marbled meat (prime or very close to it). We all liked it a lot, and it was the favorite for two people at the table. The Entrana ($18), which is a skirt steak cut, was also excellent. It was a thin piece of steak (about half an inch), and was sliced before being served to us. It had beautiful char marks on it from the grill, and was very juicy and flavorful. This was the favorite for two of us that night.
On the other hand, the Bife de Chorizo ($26), a cut similar to a NY strip, was disappointing. The meat was much lower quality than with the Ojo, it was more like a low Choice supermarket quality steak, and didn't have any of the great flavor that grass fed beef can acquire. We had to top it generously with the chimichurri in order to get any flavor out of it. The Pollo con Limon ($16), a grilled chicken breast marinated in lemon, was quite good, and a nice contrast to all the beef on the table.
We ordered a couple of sides to go along with the meat. The Espinaca Saltada ($4), sauteed spinach, was very good. I liked the fact that they did not overcook their spinach like a lot of restaurants do, the leaves still had a beautiful bright green color. The Papas Rostisadas ($4), roasted potatoes, were not great, as the potatoes they use are not very good plus they were a bit undercooked. The grilled asparagus and the mashed potatoes that tables around us ordered looked good, would probably try those on a future visit.
Desserts were ordinary. The Flan Casero ($7), country style flan, was overcooked, so it had a hard rather than creamy consistency. The Panqueques con Dulce de Leche ($7), thin pancakes filled with dulce de leche, were fine but not outstanding.
We had looked at the wine list on their website (elraigon.com), and the most interesting thing on it was the last line which reads "A corkage fee of $18 will be waived if a bottle is ordered from the list". The wine list consists of rather uninteresting and overpriced wines, mostly from Argentina (the 02 Felipe Rutini Malbec that I purchased for $12 at K&L sells for $40 on their list). The actual wine list was less interesting to me than what was on the website, as they had removed the three Spanish reds as well as the 03 Finca El Portillo Sauvignon Blanc ($25). On the other hand, they did add a Prosecco to the list, which is what we ended up ordering.
We brought 2002 Turley Zinfandel Ueberroth Vineyard to go with the entrees and a half bottle of 2001 Rieussec Sauternes for dessert. The Turley had great acidity and was not as over the top ripe as some their other wines I've tried, and worked well with the steaks. The Rieussec was unfortunately a bit musty, so it was not showing as well as we would have expected.