August 24, 2018
Meat fans looking for a restaurant off the beaten track might consider adding Don Gaucho—a small Argentinian restaurant—to their list of places to visit. On the east side of Mejiro-dori, near Kudanshita Station, you’ll find its modest sign for BBQ inviting guests into a second floor location. The interior of the restaurant is simple and straightforward, with a red bench seat that runs along one side of the restaurant. Counter seats are also available by the bar, where a window lets customers peek into the kitchen area. It has the look of a typical wine bar. Staff are friendly, attentive and can assist customers in Japanese and English.
Visitors should note that if they’d like the full Argentinian BBQ experience they will need to make a reservation for the BBQ Brasero course (¥3,500/person, minimum two people, drinks not included). The BBQ Brasero option is composed of three courses: an appetizer, salad and bread, and the BBQ meat platter. A second steak course is also available, but does not require a reservation (¥2,500).
The Brasero course begins with a heavy appetizer plate: pâté, cheese, figs, olives, thinly-sliced roast beef and liver. The platter includes pickles, slices of cucumber, grated radish and lettuce, but evidently vegetables takes a back seat here. Unfortunately for those seeking vegetation, the second-course salad is underwhelming: lettuce topped with chopped hard-boiled egg and a light, creamy dressing, garnished with sliced tomato and cucumber. The salad comes with a similarly uninspiring cheese quesadilla, the tortilla only lightly toasted and served with a sprinkle of herbs.
The finale, however, which involves a portable charcoal grill piled high with a variety of meats, delivers on its promise to satiate your carnivorous cravings. At the time of this visit, the good-for-two platter included bone-in ribs, grilled chicken, steak, chorizo and blood sausage. The staff gave us a lengthy explanation of each meat before providing a bottle of housemade chimichurri sauce (an Argentinian dressing made of vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and oregano) to be used as desired.
The salty, generously-spiced surface of the steak and chicken are savory and flavorful, and the insides are juicy. Staff encourage even timid eaters to at least give the blood sausage a try—it’s a moist, almost cakey textural experience, sausage-like in appearance only. The bone-in meat is fatty, juicy and will melt in your mouth. The steak is prepared medium-well and stands on its own, but try a few bites with the chimichurri sauce for a hint of acidity. Fortunately, the portable grill will keep the meat warm so diners can eat at their own pace.
There are also a-la-carte options on the menu, but meat remains the focus. Selections include a miso-marinated ox tongue (¥790), rib-eye steak and potatoes (¥1,980) and a roast beef salad (¥700). The drink menu is standard, with wine available by the glass, decanter or bottle.
If you’re looking for a more low-key introduction to Don Gaucho, consider stopping by for lunch. The lunch menu consists of three options: the Millanesa plate, a thinly-cut piece of steak breaded and fried, served with salad (¥920); the salad plate, with a roast beef salad, rillettes and bread (¥790); or the BBQ plate, barbecued beef and chicken with rice, also served with a salad (¥920).
If planning a visit to Don Gaucho, come with an appetite. Large-volume dishes that don’t skimp on the meat mean that diners can fill up for reasonable prices. Visit with a group of three or four if you’re interested in trying the brasero course, but because the portions are so large, consider reserving just 2 servings. The restaurant is best visited in groups and could be fun for a modest-sized company outing (especially given the striking visual of the charcoal grill). It’s perhaps not an ideal setting for a date. Solo diners might try to visit at lunch, or choose something from the a la carte menu for dinner. Visit for a meat-heavy dining experience at a reasonable price.
1-10-5 2F Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku
Lunch: 11:30am – 2pm
Dinner: 5:30pm – 11pm
Closed Sundays and national holidays