Sunday, July 11, 2010

Brazilian Barbecue - Churrascuria

We first dined at a churrascuria in a small seaside village in Brazil. We walked to the restaurant on cobblestone streets a few blocks from our hotel. There were no cars on the streets. The cooking was done inside the building and all the seating was on the patio outside. A full moon, warm ocean breezes and Brazilian soft pop music (in Portuguese, of course) set the scene for this dinner. A large platter of grilled meats was delivered to our table. Lamb, pork and beef, cooked several different ways. Traditional Brazilian accompaniments were included – fruit juice, green salad, malagueta pepper salsa, beans, rice, bread, sliced tropical fruits and some of the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten. I asked about the potatoes and understood enough Portuguese to learn that it was a combination of yucca and potatoes that made it so good. I don’t know if this was “all you can eat”, but we certainly had more than we could eat for the equivalent of about $40 American money.

Maybe if we had been in Rio or Sao Paulo, the churrascuria would have been more like our dining experience at Pampas in Palo Alto. The restaurant interior was crisp and modern and the entertainment provided by a jazz trio. We chose to order the rodizio, which means you get unlimited access to the side bar accompaniments, as well as all the grilled meats.

There was a large selection of salads, fruits, cheeses and vegetables on the side bar, many that I wouldn’t think of as Brazilian, such as tabouleh. But my traditional Brazilian dining is mostly limited to Bahian cuisine, which is a very specific regional style, unlike the rest of the country. I passed on the ordinary salad and vegetable choices on the side bar and found some real favorites in the coconut sweet potatoes, mango slaw and tropical fruit salad.

I also tried most of the grilled meats that came my way, as well as the grilled abacaxi (pineapple). It was some of the best pineapple I’ve eaten. All the meats I sampled were well seasoned and nicely cooked. My favorites were the picanha (top sirloin) and fraldinha (skirt steak). The maminha (tri-tip) was my least favorite as it was a little tough and not as flavorful as the other cuts.

The service at Pampas was excellent. Every time we indicated with our token that we were ready for another serving of meat, one or two servers would magically appear with a new selection. Even our water glasses were never allowed to be less than half full. It’s a little expensive, but if you have a big appetite and can eat all night, it’s a fun way to try a lot of different preparations of grilled meats and sample the sides. More than anything, it makes me want to brush up on my Portuguese and head back to Brazil.


  1. I've been to a couple of churrascurias, but all in the States, none in Brazil. I'm sure they pale in comparison to the real thing. Still, I must say they were tasty and quite the meat orgy. ;)

  2. Good advice, I would eat so much I would have to stay all night, wouldn't be able to move. Love trying foods that we can't get at home, and no better way than at a buffet.