The grill failed us with a main course of jumbo shrimp, having sucked the moisture, right along with the flavor, out of the crustaceans; they were truly inedible. Fortunately, an entree of grilled whole rock Cornish hen was big enough to share; while not dripping with juice, it was satisfyingly moist. And all main courses were accompanied by an assortment of vegetables, including slightly overcooked broccoli; sauteed, skin-on potatoes; and chewy corn on the cob commonly known as cow corn -- corn raised for animal feed. It was especially disappointing to this Jersey girl, who grew up nibbling ears of Silver Queen and Bread-'n'-Butter, some of the world's best corn.
But the chewy corn wasn't as distressing as the provoleta (a square of grilled provolone cheese dusted with parsley and slippery with oil), or an overly sweet beef empanada. These two appetizers had something in common with the rolls brought out beforehand: All of them tasted as if they had been pre-prepared and then reheated in a microwave. Worse, the provoleta looked as if it had been purchased in a novelty store. ("Fool your friends! A sure-fire laff riot!")
"Gaucho pancakes," dessert crepes stuffed with dulce de leche, also had a made-beforehand taste. But they might have stood a chance with their thick, sticky filling had they not been under-flambeed with brandy. The resulting fumes were noxious, as was the gasolinelike flavor that coated the tongue after just one bite. A refrigerator-burned chocolate minibundt cake didn't fare any better.
So I guess you could say I didn't like El Gaucho. I'm already bracing for a flurry of hate mail, similar in tone to the responses to my reviews of Malaga, Botin, and Victor's Cafe.
Tony Marin, president of the Hispanic American Business Association, outraged on behalf of Victor's, took me to task in a letter to the editor about what he termed my "hatchet job." I "have a right to my opinion," he wrote, "[but I] also have a great responsibility as a journalist able to reach multitudes and to form public opinion."
15700 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami; 305-947-5555. Open Wednesday through Monday from 6:00 till 11:00 p.m; Friday and Saturday till midnight. Open Sunday 5:30 till 11:00 p.m.