Rico South American Steakhouse looks like what would happen if a minimalist painter teamed up with Hemingway to design a restaurant. Bare grey walls are broken up by artwork with splashes of colour, and napkins as red as a torero’s muleta complement the dark studded leather chairs and booths. The courtyard at the entrance is less severe, softened by potted plants. On one side the kitchen is visible through a large pane of glass, allowing observers to watch the cooks prepare the food as if in an aquarium display, a quirky feature that makes you wonder how the kitchen staff feel about it.
Arriving late, we saw our friend nursing an Old Fashioned (VND95,000). “The staff took care of me,” he explained, shrugging off our apologies. They continued to take care of us throughout the night, striking the perfect balance between being welcoming and attentive without being overbearing.
But all of this is merely window dressing. For a steakhouse, what really matters is the steak. Rico offers many different cuts of beef, including wagyu and Australian steaks, with a variety of choices for sides and sauces. I chose the 200-gram Australian tenderloin (VND389,000), rare, with nothing but a glass of shiraz (VND150,000) to accompany it. My friends opted for pork ribs (VND279,000) and an Australian ribeye (VND339,000), with baked potatoes, spinach, and grilled corn for sides (each side dish is VND59,000).
Bring on the Beef
My tenderloin came out thick and perfectly cooked; I attacked it like a matador performing an estocada, slicing until the juices ran freely. The meat practically melted in my mouth. We were all silent for a good 10 minutes as we set about the serious business of tucking in, cave-people communicating solely in grunts and moans of satisfaction, almost as if we had fought and killed the meal ourselves.
Eventually we slowed down enough to share. The pork ribs were tender, the meat nearly falling off the bone, and came with an incredible honey-mustard sauce. The ribeye was a bit chewy for my taste, as it was ordered medium-rare, but dipped in a red wine sauce (VND49,000) that came in a tiny saucepan (kept warm on a metal plate over a tea light), it had a wonderful flavour.
In spite of its small size, the baked potato was presented beautifully and had some tasty accoutrements (sour cream and spring onions took a starring role), while the grilled corn was good, but not particularly noteworthy. The spinach was delicious; although never a favourite of mine, I found myself enjoying it immensely and wondering if I had matured. Upon further reflection (and after losing a knife-fight to my friend across the table), I decided that was not it.
For dessert we split a crepe with chocolate ice cream (VND89,000) and a chocolate fondant (VND59,000), which went nearly as well with our red wines as the meat did. Although a pleasant end to the meal, the desserts did not particularly stand out; the presentation was lovely but the fondant was not as rich as I would have liked. The focus here is clearly on the steaks, as it should be.
Rico’s stellar steaks and service should recommend it to meat-lovers everywhere. I set out in search of an answer to the age-old question, “Where’s the beef?” and although it has only been open since December, Rico South American Steakhouse has managed to respond with a resounding “Here!”
Rico South American Steakhouse is located at 56 Tran Quoc Toan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15.
13 — 15 extraordinary to perfection
10 — 12.5 very good to excellent
8 — 9.5 good to very good
5 — 7.5 fair to good
0 — 4.5 poor to fair
The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals