Non-beef lovers beware. The Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse boasts of beef, and lots of it. It's nothing like the places which lure its customers in for a free steak, such as a 72-ounce steak if it can be eaten in one hour. The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, TX, revels in such spectacles, but the carnivore in all of us can enjoy our fill of beef in a civilized manner. The Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse is one such place.
It is not free (even if you eat a certain amount of beef). Prices are $29.99 for dinner Tuesday through Thursday and $34.99 for dinner Friday and Saturday evenings, but it is an all-you-can-eat beef love affair. (A Salad Bar only price is available for $14.25.) This Brazilian steakhouse brings the country's tradition of the gauchos, the ranchers' and cowboys' style of cooking right to your table.
But there's really no way you can eat it all.
This style of eating, known as churrascaria de rodizio, is a South American style of rotisserie and can be traced back to the 16th century when Brazilian cowboys cooked their meals outdoors. Today it involves skewering meat and barbecuing it over an open flame -- indoors. Traditionally, coarse salt is used to season the meat, and by placing fattier items near the top of the skewer, the meat retains its characteristic taste and natural juices.
My friend and I dined here recently, and it was not our first time, so we knew what to expect. On this Friday night, our 7pm reservations were not needed. Tables were open throughout the dining room, and in fact, it appeared to be a slow night for diners to the Gaucho. Once seated, we were soon greeted by our server for the evening; drinks were brought, and the gauchos began circling our table with the skewers of beef.
Here's how it works. A card on the table is red on one side and green on the other. Flip it to the green side and Brazilian-dressed cowboys (black pants, black shirt, white tie, Stetson gaucho hat draped over their backs) parade around the dining rooms holding tall spear-like skewers with hot meats taken right off the grill. While the card remains on the green "go" side, the gauchos will continue to offer the meats that come from the grill.
Throughout the course of the evening, we sampled all The Gaucho offered: top sirloin cap, top sirloin (alcatra),tri-tip steak, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, picanha garlic steak, leg of lamb, Parmesan chicken breast, chicken breast wrapped in bacon, pork loin Parmesan, smoked pit ham, pork sausage and shrimp kabob (which is only served on Friday and Saturday).
Grilled pineapple is also offered periodically and meant to be a palate cleanser among the meats.
The gauchos sliced the meat right off the skewer and we'd grab the meat with our tongs, placing it on our plates. Some meats were cut into cubes and served off the kabob. We found all the meats to be excellent -- very tender and some rich with seasonings (such as garlic, chili pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, and onion).
Other meats were marinated; hints of lemon and red wine vinegar seemed to be the main ingredients for this. We especially enjoyed the shrimp which was hot, fresh and heavily seasoned -- especially with garlic. The Parmesan cheese which topped the chicken and pork loin was crisp and browned just enough to alter the flavor of the cheese to a sharp toasty flavor. The lamb was heavy with garlic. Our favorite was the filet mignon.
For almost an hour, we sampled various types of meat, finally turning over our card to red to halt the gauchos.
A wonderful part of dining here, my friend commented, was that we were able to try so many meats all in one setting--back to back. For example, a bite of the top sirloin cap, tri-tip and filet mignon offered us a rare opportunity to compare and contrast the various cuts of beef.
More Than You Can Eat.
The sirloin cap, for example, was robust with flavor of the beef itself and with other meats the spices added another dimension of flavor. With the sirloin cap, the salty edges were a nice touch. The garlic steak was another favorite: no garlic was spared to marinate that steak.
We tried our best not to fill up on the table bread, a soft roll with what we surmised to be a large piece of melted mozzarella cheese inside. A lavish salad bar is also part of the meal, but we sparingly grazed through it. Some items include potato salad, chicken celery salad, tabouli salad, grape tomatoes, shrimp salad, filet mignon salad, heart of palm, tropical fruit salad, jumbo asparagus, pasta salad, spring mix salad, vinaigrette salad, green olives, and more. Soups and rice are also part of the spread.
We had no room for dessert, but I could not resist the Brazilian Caramel Flan ($6), the only dessert made in house, according to our server. Other desserts include various ice creams and cheesecakes. The flan was pie-sliced and tall -- about an inch and one-half decorated with whipped cream. Creamy and rich with vanilla flavor, this flan was a perfect ending to this dinner.
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