Overlook the Pampas
Far from the Patagonian grasslands is an Egyptian eatery that goes by the name Gauchos, discovers Gamal Nkrumah
Gaucho is an adulteration of the word huachu (vagabond) in the tongue of the indigenous Quecha people of South America. The word started out as a description of wandering cowboys roaming the wide expanses of the Pampas of Argentina. They developed a unique culture akin to that of the cowboys of North America. They tended their cattle in their traditional attire -- loose-fitting trousers called bombachas originally imported from all places of Turkey, and their ponchos. Most owned nothing but their horse, and were armed with their facón (large knife) and leather whips. They drank yerba mate, the traditional Argentinean herbal tea rich in caffeine and nutrients, they chased bands of the indigenous population hunting them nearly to extinction to make room for their cattle ranching. Yet, they acquired something of a legendary lifestyle much envied by the effete urbanites of Buenos Aires. The Gaucho lifestyle was an uncomplicated, macho way of life. Food was simply prepared, frugal but tasty and based in the main on the freshly-slaughtered meat of their cattle, flavoured by the herbs of the Pampas.
Inspired by the Pampas perspective, a unique restaurant, for Egypt at any rate, cropped up in the Food Court of the new satellite city of Al-Rehab, New Cairo. Gauchos faces a serpentine lake that slithers through the centre of the new city. It is a glitzy neighbourhood with people determined to party and revel in the relatively fresh clean air of the new town. There is a pioneering spirit in place; you can feel it in the air.
The Pampas, of course, are the grassy plains of South America. The windswept plains of South America are a world apart from the desert east of Cairo half-way between the Red Sea and the Nile. Yet, you get a taste of the produce of the Pampas. The beef, I was assured, is Argentinean. The word Pampas also derives from the Quecha language, and it conjures up images of the Gauchos, the accomplished horsemen of the plains. Yet nothing can be further from the glittery reality of Al-Rehab's Food Court. Bright neon lights that come in all colours, gaudy signs that dazzle, blinding by day and lurid at night.
The waiters look nothing like Gauchos, though. They are neither rough, nor tough. A couple were actually waitresses sporting black scarves and matching black sombrero hats. I took my sons to inspect the curious place. The menu was replete with Argentinean delicacies. Don't go by the English translations, just follow your instincts. Otherwise you will be thoroughly put off by the " smoking chicken" and " caw shops ", or worse the unspeakable, poor " littel caw ", I suppose it should have read veal.
It is estimated that no less than 50 per cent of Argentina's population is of Italian origin. And, therefore, I was not surprised to see an entire section of Gauchos pasta, including the penna ala Gauchos. There was another section devoted to pizza. Needless to say, I hardly glanced at that particular corner of the menu. Argentina's fabled Empanados, savoury pastries of spinach and pine nuts or beef olive and eggs, were not on the menu. The Gauchos are the proverbial carnivores. You simply do not enter the Gauchos for a pasta dinner. I was at Gauchos, rather unabashedly, for the meat. Even the arroz criollo (rice and red kidney beans) was not about to tempt me.
My sons opted for the burgers, much to my chagrin. I sometimes have cravings for a good burger myself. And, my sons assured me that the burgers were delicious. My younger son pronounced the papas fritas (French fries) superb. My elder son favoured the puréed potatoes, wickedly creamy, with chunks of potato and lashings of garlic.
My T-bone steak was delectable as well. My mind wandered to the juicy steaks of Argentina. The Bife de Chorizo (sirloin encircled with a belt of scrumptious crackling) and the Bife de Cuadril (the lean and flavoursome rump cut. And, the churrasco (cuts) and the divine chimmichurri sauce -- olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, fennel, herbs and spices.
The hot beverages, though, were a bitter disappointment. I searched in vain on the menu for the famous Argentine mate tea. It was nowhere to be found. Instead I was shocked to stumble across Turekt Kofli, which in Arabic reads Qahwa Turki (Turkish coffee). It all seemed so far removed from the Gauchos and their grazing cattle on the prairies or steppes of the southern cone of the Western Hemisphere.
The Food Court
Tel: 02 2692 2860/1
Dinner for two: LE160