I had one of the best meals of my life today.
We were in Aruba today, home of an Argentine Steak house of international fame, “El Gaucho.” It's been around since 1977, and has grown from a tiny mom-and-pop operation to a restaurant that can serve 400 people at a time. Reservations are a must (we reserved via email from the ship), if you ever get a chance to visit – and let me tell you, if you are ever in Aruba and are not a vegetarian, you owe it to yourself to go there!
We were there celebrating our music director's upcoming vacation – he leaves in eleven days, and this is the best restaurant anywhere on our two Caribbean runs, so it was the natural choice.
The restaurant is fancy without being pretentious – thick wooden doors and a modern yet relaxed bar decorate the entryway. We waited perhaps ten minutes before being seated. The first sign that we were in for a treat were the well worn leather seats and wooden plates (in the Argentinian style). We had garlic bread and beer for appetizers, as well as a type of Argentinian dish whose name I can't remember but consists of a type of pastry filled with meat, egg, and olives. It was pretty damn good, but it paled in comparison with the main dishes.
I ordered the “Gaucho Steak,” and after about half an hour I was presented with a square wooden dish that contained a truly impressive slab of meat (along with mashed sweet potatoes with butter and chives, broccoli sauteed in garlic and oil, and rice). The truly impressive thing about the steak, though, was not its size, but its flavor and texture. I've never had a piece of steak that melted so readily in my mouth – the comparison to butter is overused, but in this case it is totally apt. It was the most tender, juicy, delicious, flavorful piece of meat I have ever eaten.
The steak came with three different options of topping. I tried a little of each. The first was like barbecue sauce, except that it was lighter and tangier than any other barbeque sauce I've ever had. It had a much thinner consistency than any sauce I've used before, and mixed well with the juice from the meat. The second was a mixture of minced pickled vegetables and herbs – I'm not sure what exactly was in it, but there was garlic and parsley and pretty much everything wonderful. The third option were these pink sour onions, very crunchy and also a great counterpoint to the meat itself. I ended up picking the first option as my favorite.
After dinner I ordered the Argentine Ice Cream, which was essentially a vanilla ice cream sundae with sweet potato caramel on it. Also delicious, although I was thinking about the sherbet as well.
I am absolutely stuffed. It was the only meal I ate today, and that's probably a good thing.