I often wonder if money were no object, how my life would be different. I’d travel more, I’d get a nicer car and a bigger house and I would definitely eat out more, particularly at Brazilian Churrascaria style restaurants, which can be found all over the country. We’re lucky enough to have several Brazilian Steakhouses in Southern California, like Gauchos Village, in Glendale. If I were a rich man I’d be a regular there.
A Brazilian Churrascaria is an all you can eat Brazilian Steakhouse. Just let that sink in a moment. Steak, all you can eat. And they don’t just serve steaks. In addition to bacon-wrapped filet mignon; marinated skirt steak, tri-tip; top sirloin, garlick beef; rib eye and smoked short ribs, the selection also includes Polish Sausage; BBQ chicken thighs; marinated pork Loin; and marinated lamb. All you can eat. Most Churrascaria restaurants also have a large salad bar with a decent selection of low-carb options. (Plus, there’s plenty of rice, beans, potatoes, and bread, if your party includes carb eaters). But you’re not going come to a Churrascaria restaurant and spend $30-40 per person so you can have salad. You come for the Churrasco (the Portuguese word for barbecue). You come for the meat, which is cooked directly over coals on skewers the size of swords.
The servers wander through the restaurant carrying these enormous cuts meats on the skewers, looking for diners signaling that they’re ready for more. The signal is a rectangular wooden block with the one end painted red, the other green. When you’re ready for some meat, you stand the block up by your table, green-side up, and soon a server will approach and let you know what offered on the skewer. Some cuts are sliced right at the table from the skewer, others are precut and placed directly on your plate. On the night we visited Gauchos our party consisted of two carb eaters to “carb restricted” dieters and, of course, one very strict low-carb fanatic.
The carb eaters seemed very pleased by their salad bar selections and went back for more. I was taking a very fussy approach, making sure that none of the foods I chose had “hidden” carbs. This was surprisingly easy. I walked away with a bed of baby spinach leaves, some fresh brazed asparagus, and a bit of cheese. No way I was going to fill up on salad!
Back at the table, we ordered our drinks, set out our food signals and didn’t have to wait long for the first server, offering garlic surloin. As it turned out on this night, the first cut was pretty much everybody’s favorite. The steak was tender and juicy. Plenty of fat. Seasoned just right. My first rule about a restaurant is that they’ve got to do a good job making their signature dish and here Gaucho’s met all expectations. They also far surpassed my second rule: Their food has to be better than what I could do myself at home. (Actually, that’s a minimum standard).
After enjoying the first cut, the next server came, this time with bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon. The filets were tender, and the bacon gave the meat a bit more flavor. The biggest difference between a Churrascaria and any ordinary steakhouse is the variety. The filet was followed by pork, then tri-tip, there was some spicy sausage in there, more garlic surloin. Just one after another, I kind of lost track.
One note of caution, though. I don’t think I’d go back on a weekend. The Brazilian Restaurant was packed. There were times when we had to wait a little too long for the next selection and one of the servers (the guy with the short ribs) never made it to our table. So we had to settle for all we could eat of all the other great cuts. But, if you like a party atmosphere and a large raucous crowd, then Friday and Saturday nights are like mini carnivals. On a small stage in corner several festively (albeit scantily) clad Brazilian Samba dancer performed, and they were joined by a few diners. (I respectfully declined the invitation). Everyone in our party had a lot of fun, but, seriously, I was there for the food.
Brazilian Churrascaria style restaurants are a bit pricey for my budget. But, they are ideal for special occasions, especially when we go out with friends who have never been to before. And when I get rich and famous, you’ll know right where to find me!