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Restaurants & Bars 15

Gaucho Grill Calamity (long)

TomSwift | Jul 22, 200304:59 PM

In our daily delivery of junk mail yesterday came a menu flyer from GG. Mrs.Swift read it, was intrigued, and insisted that we go there (Woodland Hills branch) for lunch today. Ever skeptical, I did a quick search on this board and, amid a handful of posts, saw red flags such as "decidedly ordinary Americanized food," "middle-of-the-road Argentinian" and "pedestrian." Cooler heads did not prevail, however, and off we went.

For starters, we had Provoleta ($4.95), a wedge of melted Provolone served in a hot skillet and topped with chopped onions, tomatoes and oregano. This actually was pretty good, with a deep brown, crunchy crust and the cheese and veggie combination was pretty tasty. Also had Mollejas a la Parrilla ($5.95), billed as tender grilled beef sweetbreads, thin cut with chopped onions, tomatoes and lemon. I asked our server if they really meant beef, as opposed to veal, sweetbreads and she didn't know. She stood there, looking at us expectantly. I had to suggest that she might ask the chef, which she did. Veal. One of the reasons sweetbreads aren't on more menus is that they are extraordinarily labor intensive: The membrane and connecting tubes and tissues must be removed before cooking. This is a preliminary cooking step not in the GG kitchen manual. While the swetbreads were beautifully grilled and had a delicious char and crispness, they were nearly impossible to cut. Once cut, they chewed into a tough, chewy mass in the mouth that would not break down. Although the portion was generous, two bites was all I could manage, both deposited into the napkin and then on the bread plate. The veggie mixture was delicious.

The pacing of the meal was off, with the mains delivered while Mrs.Swift was still working on her cheese and I would have been in the middle of the sweetbreads had I been eating them. Off go the uneaten sweetbreads to the side of the table.

For mains, one Asado de Tira ($14.95), 3 slabs of very thinly cut beef short ribs, grilled medium with a great smell and beautiful char. There's a reason, however, that short ribs are most often braised rather than grilled. Unlike the sweetbreads, the ribs *were* impossible to cut, tear or otherwise seperate. Mrs.Swift picked up a slab and successfully took a bite, but couldn't chew it due to toughness. Ditto my attempt. The remainder of the portion was untouched. I had a Chorizo sandwich on a French roll with Chimichuri sauce. The sauce was a standout - delicious. The roll had very litle character and tasted as if it was one of Weber's finest. 2 butterflied and grilled Chorizo, with tomato and lettuce. The sausage wasn't bad (I was dreading gristle) but I would have prefered more flavor...this was pretty benign.

Our server and a hostess came to the table several times to refill ice tea but apparantly didn't see the two uneaten full plates of food as neither asked if there was a problem with them. The total, before tip, was $39.73 (or 4 lunch specials at Echigo). We'll not be going back.

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