Bellevue got its own El Gaucho in November of ’08, and last Thursday, April of 2010, I finally got to visit it for the first time. Since I’m a working woman on a budget, it was a visit to the bar for the Power Hour Happy Hour, which takes place from 3-6 Monday through Friday. All “bar bite” items are half off and so’s the flat bread. Well drinks and wines are around $6, and while that’s not much of a happy hour price, if you know anything about the chain, it is a pretty good deal. The first thing about El Gaucho in Bellevue is that it’s hard to find. I missed it, did a U-ee, and finally saw the sign. Having to find a parking spot in the deck is difficult because there seemed to be no designated restaurant parking. I’m not sure how much money the restaurant threw at my parking tab, because even after validation I still had to pay $6. I don’t like it when I have to pay to park to eat at a restaurant, because call me crazy, that’s for the birds.
Needless to say, I entered the place a little jaded. However, the luxury of the surroundings soothed the savage Parking Beast.
Lots of people were wetting their whistles after work.
Everybody in the place was eating in the bar area, giving proof once again to the fact that Happy Hours are the Robin Hoods of the restaurant biz in this time of economical woes. My lemondrop was perfect, but I rarely meet a lemondrop that’s not worthy. The other is the Pear Argudo, and isn’t it lovely?
Since it was me and a girlfriend who is a photographing foodie fiend, we ordered a ton of appetizers and took two tons of photos. The server (friendly, informative, and overall good, although we were left alone for long spans of time because of how busy they were, but it was never intolerably long) made a few suggestions, with the Tenderloin Diablo ($9 happy hour) being the most highly recommended.
The spicy sauce was delicious, and the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender. It’s easily the best bar bite on the menu.
We watched a fire roasted pepper flat bread ($6 happy hour) get dropped off at a table across from us and had to try it, too. Fantastic.
Next up was the mac n’ coastal cheddar cheese ($6 happy hour). It’s incredibly rich and very cheesy. We only managed a few bites because it was so rich, but this is definitely something tasty to share at the table because a few bites are all you really need.
Hey, who’s that lady with a camera?
While I was playing peek-a-boo in el baño, my friend ordered the Ahi Tartare ($7.5 happy hour). I love eating with adventurous people, because I never would’ve ordered this dish if things were left up to me. I didn’t like it. I think the capers added too much briny, salty flavor to the already too salty tuna, but I was overwhelmed with salt. The texture wasn’t my favorite, but I am glad I got a chance to try it. With the exception of this dish, I would order everything else again.
Whenever burnt cream is on the menu, it’s hard to resist. So for dessert, we took the server’s suggestion and added a burnt creme to the mix.
I was very excited when the server set it on our table because I love a fantastically caramelized top that my spoon just can’t wait to crush. Unfortunately after the satisfying crunch, the creamy dessert had an unexpected orange flavor that, while pleasant, wasn’t what I really wanted. The menu didn’t indicate that it would be flavored with citrus, so I was a little disappointed. Which brings me to Food Club rule #3–always try the server’s recommendation. She didn’t steer us wrong with the tenderloin, and she definitely nailed a winner with the chocolate bourbon cake.
That was the moistest, the mostest delicious chocolate cake I’ve had in forever. I thought a river of chocolate sauce would ooze out, but it was as though the guy cooking the cake has found the perfect place between liquid and cake that only exists in dessert heaven, and now at El Gaucho. Even the pecan garnish on top is fantastic.
El Gaucho is a great happy hour bar, and maybe one day I’ll try the dining room for dinner. Maybe when I don’t have to pay for parking?