I missed the last Queens Dinner Club dinner but was able to make this one and I was looking forward to an Argentinian meal. El Gauchito is a 40yo butcher shop in the Argentinian section of Corona, Queens. After a while the owner added some tables and chairs and later his son broke through to the store next door to expand the restaurant. And it is still also a butcher shop.
We were in the smaller section and I sat with two gentlemen – father and son. It turns out the father has been to every Queens Dinner Club dinner except the very first one. We did not talk much except to exclaim how delicious everything was.
First course was not on the menu. Salame (o jamon) con queso (provolone, salami (or ham), and tomato) covered in their chimichurri. What made it work better than a regular antipasto was their chimichurri, which is fresh and full of garlic.
Then came an antipasti of a few traditional Argentinian foods. Beef tongue I could eat. But would I be able to eat the pigs feet? Turns out, I could eat it all because everything had been marinated and cooked with so many herbs and vegetables that the mix made everything delicious. The lengua a la vinagreta (beef tongue in vinegar sauce) was served with red peppers, the patitas a la vinagreta (pigs feet in vinegar) was a chopped up terrine, and the berenjenas en escabeche (pickled eggplant) managed to maintain the eggplant taste despite being boiled and covered in vinegar. The specialty in the middle of the plate was matambre con ensalada rusa (stuffed rolled veal with Russian salad – potatoes, peas, carrots, and mayonnaise). Matambre means hunger killer and the veal breast is stuffed with spinach, carrots, ham, eggs, and roasted red pepper and then boiled.
The arugula salad had hearts of palm, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and Parmesan.
The parrillada (barbecue) course featured a mixed grill of meats cooked over an open flame. The steaks are not crusty but soft on the outside. And both the entraña (flank) and vacio (flap) steaks were like butter to both cut and eat. Melt on your tongue. There were also delicious suck-the-meat-off-the-bone asado de tira (short ribs). And I am not a sausage person but the salchicha parrillera (Argentinian frankfurter) and morcilla (blood sausage) were delicious. I have never liked morcilla before but their version is so good. You did not need to add their chimichurri on any of the meats but you would be a fool not to.
A little meat went a long way and I was glad that we had to wait a bit for dessert. In the meantime, they served us siphons – chocolate milk with seltzer – a sort of Argentinian egg cream.
Dessert was a slice of flan. There was extra and I took advantage and had a second slice. It was lighter than most flans I have had. And in addition to the liquid caramel, there was some hard-cooked sugar served along with it.
This was a wonderful find for me and I look forward to bringing people to El Gauchito and eating there again and again. You can tell the owner cares about the food and his customers. He wants you to have a good time and he wants to serve you the best food he can find.
By Carene Lydia Lopez