Always on the lookout for a new cuisine to sample, I was intrigued when a friend with connections to South America raved over El Chivito D’Oro, a restaurant which he described as a Uruguayan steak house.
It is indeed that, but also a go-to place for many of traditional dishes of Uruguay.
The cuisine is meat-centric, with influences from Italy, Spain and Portugal. The national dish called the asado — meat cooked over a wood fire in a special oven called a parrillero — is the draw here. The meat is alluringly displayed in a glass case when you enter along with some equally enticing tartas and empanadas.
We started off with a hefty slice of the ham and cheese tarta. It was probably intended as a lunch dish rather than an appetizer, but it beckoned to us from the display case. Imagine a mash up between a quiche and a grilled cheese and ham sandwich, and you’ve nailed this tasty snack food.
The Ensalata de la Casa was a kitchen sink of a salad. Four of us hardly made a dent in the grande version of this artistically arranged platter of mostly marinated veggies. The greens played a minor role in a mélange of cauliflower, broccoli, hard-boiled egg, pickled mushrooms, peppers, hearts of palm, rollmops of ham and cheese and other miscellany.
The unquestionable main event is the grilled meats. Of the steaks, the standouts are either the entrana (skirt steak) or asado (short ribs). Both are well marinated before grilling and a bit on the salty side. The portions will satisfy the blood lust of the most dedicated carnivore. They are served with an especially flavorful chimichurra sauce (parsley and garlic) and tomato salsa. There is also a particularly lush mushroom sauce that can be ordered as an extra. Gravy lovers will be delighted.
Various combo platters allow you to compare cuts of beef, augmented by various sausages, veal or chicken. The chorizo is garlicky and juicy. The morcilla (blood sausage) is more of an acquired taste. It’s bland, and heavily studded with chunks of fat.
With the exception of wonderful spinach, which was lightly sautéed with loads of garlic, the sides were disappointing. The fried yuca (cassava) and tostones (fried green plantains) tasted like they were waiting under a heat lamp since before I got up that morning.
The restaurant’s namesake dish, and also a national dish of Uruguay is the chivito. The word literally means “baby goat,” but somehow, in Uruguay, has become the moniker of a uniquely Uruguayan type of hero sandwich usually combining beef with lettuce, tomato, ham, mozzarella cheese and mayonnaise. There are three different versions of this specialty served here.
There were no desserts listed on the menu, but when we asked our server if they had a typical Uruguayan sweet, she beamed and scurried into the kitchen, returning with a Chajá, a sphere of sponge cake, meringue, whipped cream and peaches vaguely resembling a small cauliflower.
Chivito d’Oro offers generous portions of quality beef, grilled to a Latin beat. Their baked specialties like tartas and empanadas are also worthy chow. The wine list offers some affordable, and very drinkable South American wines. Leave the vegetarians at home and have a steak out.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.
El Chivito D’Oro
84-02 37th Ave.
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Price Range: Appetizers $8—12, Mains
Setting: Small, unpretentious.
Service: Friendly, helpful, bilingual
Hours: 11 a.m.—1 a.m. daily
Alcohol: Wine & Beer
Credit cards: All
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes
©2013 Community News Group
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