Meat. Meat. Meat. I am unabashed, even proud to say these are three of my most favorite words. We are a dying breed, it sometimes seems, those of us who eat meat and announce that we embrace it.
Meat lovers know where to go to get their fix. One place where the meat flows generously is The Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse. Since 2003, Gaucho has brought a little of the South American tradition of churrasco (Brazilian barbecue) to Tulsa.
This type of South American barbeque has a rich tradition, some historians say dating back to the 16th century when Jesuits, a religious order founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola, arrived in Brazil from Europe.
They helped the indigenous people tend to roaming livestock. Eventually, in search of gold, these cowboys -- or gauchos -- began heading south with their herds. Before resting for the night, they dined on fresh meat, which they roasted over hot stones. This tradition of roasting meat continues today in the form of churrascaria de rodizio, where servers move from table to table bringing hot roasted meat on skewers of varying types to hungry guests.
In fact, at The Gaucho, our server told us there are 12 types of meat served each night, and even grilled shrimp on weekends. The way this works is quite simple. Dining here is an all-you-can-eat affair; prices are $29.99 Tuesday through Thursday and $34.99 Friday and Saturday nights. Prices do not include drinks and desserts, but it does include a fully-stocked salad bar and all the meat you can eat.
The night my friend and I dined, the restaurant was fairly packed in one little dining area, one of a number of little dining rooms which make up this restaurant. The tables were a little close together, but we managed to work through this, and others did the same. Once seated, we were promptly greeted, and the server provided us with cheese bread. Special drinks for the night included margaritas, $5, and a wine featured for the evening was $22. I ordered the margarita on the rocks and my friend a glass of water. My drink was attractively served in a classic margarita glass; it was a decent version of this drink, but the mix used had a faint artificial lime taste to it.
Next, the fun began with circling around the salad bar to decide what to select. My plan was not to fill up on the prelims (salad and fixings), so as to have a hearty appetite left for the meat. The selections at the bar were attractively arranged and presented. I conservatively stacked my salad plate with tabouli salad, chicken celery salad, grape tomatoes, a few cubes of pepper jack cheese, one jumbo asparagus, Brazilian oven rice and beef stroganoff. The salad bar is full of variety, and what I did not sample was Brazilian potato salad, shrimp salad, filet mignon salad, heart of palm, tropical fruit salad, pasta salad, white rice and black beans.
My friend and I returned to our table to begin the first of two main parts to this dining experience. All salad bar items were very fresh. The Brazilian oven rice was exceptionally good, made with long-grain basmati rice and just a hint of spices (tomatoes, garlic and onion?) to give it an exotic flair. With the salad, we were served one of my favorite items here -- hot cheese bread. Little rounds of bread are filled with cheese, and then warmed until the cheese is melted. It's a wonderful blend of warm, soft bread with the melted cheese.
As we were eating our salads, the gauchos, or meat servers, were moving in and around our table looking for their signal to begin serving meat. All tables have a card, one side red and the other green or "Yes Please," which means bring on the meat. We flipped over the card to green, and immediately we were visited by waiters grasping long skewers of hot meat from which they slice portions onto our plates. The meat selections include top sirloin cap steak (picanha), top sirloin (alcatra), tri-tip steak (maminha), filet mignon wrapped in bacon, picanha garlic steak, leg of lamb, pork loin parmesan, parmesan chicken, smoked pit ham and pork sausage. On Fridays and Saturdays, shrimp kabob and grilled pineapple are also served.
My friend and I sampled each type of meat that was served, and even had pieces of very sweet grilled pineapple between bites of meat. We found all the selections very flavorful; some meats were a bit dryer than we'd prefer, such as the pork loin parmesan. It had a great flavor, but was on the dry side. The filet wrapped in bacon was probably my favorite, tender and richly flavorful. The chicken was very good with a strong garlic flavor. The lamb was heavily marinated and quite mild, an enjoyable surprise.
As long as we had the green card exposed, the meat kept coming. We finally had our fill, but not until we were sure we sampled all that was offered this weekday evening. It sounds like a medieval meat feasting event, and in some respects it is. I'd prefer to think of it as a glorious evening of indulging my primal urges, not gluttonously so much as in celebration of what has been provided for our sustenance.
Brazilian caramel flan, ice cream (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) and cheesecake (strawberry, turtle, plain and chocolate) are available for dessert, but not included in the dinner price.
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