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Robert’s Brazilian Restaurants and Bars of the World

Calgary, Canada: Boléro

Boléro is billed as a Brazilian barbecue restaurant (churrascaria) and it is that, in that it serves meat as the main fare, at the table, off skewers, Brazilian churrasco style. The restaurant also uses the “YES MORE/NO STOP” thingy (which the servers ignore!). Beyond these basics, the restaurant was as Brazilian as McDonalds, when I visited in May 2009.

Churrasco options were extensive – 17 in total. The meat was of high quality, but, sadly, poorly cooked. Most servings were burnt on the outside through cooking too quickly at excessive heat. Charcoal is not my favourite taste sensation! Service was OK in quantity, variable in quality. The tendency to cut meat in great chunks rather than to finely slice off a face to give the cut desired, did nothing positive for the dining experience. On a positive note, the salad + bar was very good.

Brazilian wine, cachaça and beer were not stocked, and there was not the slightest sign of a Portuguese-speaking person amongst the servers.

Overall, Boléro (strange spelling – there is no accent in the Portuguese spelling) was an OK restaurant, impressive in size and décor, with friendly and mostly competent staff.

Would return?: maybe

Boléro
6920 Macleod Trail South
Calgary AB, Canada
Tel: +1 403 259 3119


Calgary, Canada: Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue

Highway 2 to 17th Ave SE, right into 26th Ave SE, stop at a railway crossing while a freight train possibly 2km long passes, left at the timber yard, follow the railway line using Dartmouth Road, ease right into an industrial area, pass auto detailers, industrial moulders, left into Manchester Rd. Go to the end. Do a Uey. Where is this restaurant? Ah, there it is, beside Elite Fleet Courier and opposite Calgary Tube Sales.

What Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue lacks in location, it more than makes up for in character. Inside was a hive of activity, diners, waiters, enjoying life. The diners were about equally Canadian English and Brazilian Portuguese-speaking. The staff, and everything from Brazilian Wave magazine at the entrance, to the menu and décor, were unequivocally Brazilian.

As always, I chose the rodizio (endless meat off skewers, carved at the table). Types of meat actually offered were a little limited; quality varied from OK to excellent. Salad was brought to the table, rather than being available at a salad bar. This resulted in a lot of waste, as I am not really into salads. The “YES-MORE/NO-STOP” thingy was a cutout cow of the requisite colours on each side – cute! Unfortunately, tongs with which to take the meat were not provided. Chicken hearts were not offered.

Brahma Brazilian bear was available, but, regrettably, only Chilean and Argentinian wine was on the wine list. The sooner that Brazilians take pride in the quality of wine produced in Brazil, and do something about it, the better for travelling Aussies! Cachaca – yes! Sagitiba – very nice!

Overall, Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue is a great restaurant located in an industrial wilderness. The wilderness didn’t seem to deter many – the restaurant was near full on a Monday night.

Would return?: Until trying to pay, I would have said yes. Now – definitely no. I don’t eat at restaurants that blatantly extract tips.

Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue
3605 Manchester Road SE
Calgary AB – T2G 3Z7
Tel: +1 403 454 9119
Web: www.brazilianbbq.ca


Canary Islands, Spain – La Laguna, Tenerife: Brazilian Pirate Bar

This small bar in the bar area of La Laguna serves a mean Cachaça from a great selection of labels (well, for the Canary Islands). The thing I liked most was the size of the glass – about the size of a small beer!

Nice little bar with an interesting Brazilian barman and some Portuguese-speaking clientele, as well as Spanish-speaking.

Would return?: yes

Address: I have no idea!


Detroit, USA: Gaucho Brazilian SteakHouse

Gaucho Brazilian SteakHouse, another nice surprise! Located a few km north-west of downtown Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A., this is a very good Brazilian churrascaria restaurant. The meat was excellent: picanha (rump roast), pacanha com alho (garlic seasoned roast), filet mignon, alcatra (top sirloin), costela de cordeiro (lamb chops), costela de porco (baby black ribs), fraldinha (bottom sirloin), cordeiro (lamb), costela de boi (beef ribs), frango (chicken), lombo (pork tenderloin), and linguica (Brazilian sausage).

Even better was the wine – I chose a 2004 Miolo Lote 43 Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot (50%/50%). This wine was superb, one of the best wines I have had for some time. Other Brazilian wines were offered: Miolo (regular) 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Miolo 2005 Merlot, Miolo 2006 Pinot Noir, Miolo 2006 Chardonnay, Miolo N/V “Brut” sparkling wine – yes, Miolo was well represented! Rightly so – this winery in Vale dos Vinhedos of Bento Gonçalves, RS, Brazil produces some excellent wine that is presently exported to eight countries.

Brazilian cocktails were on offer. However, I tried a straight Seagrams “Smooth Brazilian Rum” – called cachaça in Brazil and in every other civilized country of the world. For some insane reason, cachaça cannot legally be called cachaça in the United States! One hopes that this insanity is matched by Brazil, by requiring Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whisky to be called Smooth USA Cachaça in Brazil!

The Seagrams “Smooth Brazilian Rum” was an excellent cachaça, pale straw in colour, with complex flavours. The charismatic Brazilian proprietor of Gaucho Brazilian SteakHouse, an affable gentleman who hails from the state of Bahia, helped make the evening memorable with his good humor and generosity.

The only downers: most staff were American not Brazilian (no disrespect meant, but it is not easy to create a Brazilian experience with American servers – any you can’t call them Gauchos etc), and there were no chicken hearts.

Would return?: Definitely

Food: 8
Atmosphere: 6.5
Service: 8
Authenticity: 6
Drinks: 9
Overall: 8 (that means very good)
Date: 12 October, 2009

Gaucho Brazilian SteakHouse
39550 7 Mile Road
Detroit (Northville Twp), MI 48167
United States of America
Tel: +1 428 380 4177
Website: www.GauchoSteakHouse.com


Johannesburg, South Africa: Rodizio

Rodizio is a large, agreeable Brazilian restaurant at Bedfordview, about 15 minutes South-West of Johannesburg International Airport. Boasting both rodizio and a credible a la carte menu of Brazilian dishes – bacalhau assado, bacalhau a maceio, feijoada brazileira, muqueca de peixe, muqueca de pasta – Rodizio can provide a pleasant dining experience. Brazilian background music, and latin dance cararet shows on Friday and Saturday nights, help create a fun atmosphere. Apparently there is a DJ on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Rodizio also has a large dance floor ready for the appropriate occasion.

The restaurant was founded in 1999 by a South African-born gentleman whose family originates from the island of Madeira, a part of Portugal (it was Portugal which colonized Brazil in the 16th century, occupying Brazil to the 19th century. On September 7, 1822, the country declared its independence from Portugal and became a constitutional monarchy, the Empire of Brazil. A military coup in 1889 established a republican government. The country has been nominally a federal republic ever since, except for three periods of overt dictatorship (1930-1934; 1937-1945 and 1964-1985).)

Returning to food, the rodizio meat selection was limited – lamb, picana, serloin, pork and chicken – but enjoyable. Salad of sorts was brought to the table. My friend who selected the muqueca de pasta was not complimentary about it. The legendary Brazilian spirit Cachaça was served, but beer and wine were limited to South African offerings. Staff were South African – and provided good service when encouraged to do so!

The South African word for “traffic light” is “robot”. Rodizio gives a new meaning to the word, and takes the traditional Brazilian “More Meat/No More Meat” thingy to new heights, literally. Rodizio uses a huge red and green wooden “More Meat/No More Meat” device, which they call a robot. Well, I guess that figures – stop/go! The Rodizio robot is at least 150mm high. A case was reported recently of a wayward robot at Rodizio inflicting a broken foot on a careless diner. The injury was treated with three Cachaças.

Would return?: Yes, but not through fields of rampant hippos

Rodizio Brazilian Restaurant
Village View Shopping Centre
Van Buuren Road, Bedfordview
Tel: +27 11 455 1093
Note: The owners have similar restaurants at Victory Park and Fourways, all in the environs of Johannesburg


Las Vegas, USA: Texas de Brazil Churrascaria

Texas de Brazil in Las Vegas claims to be a Brazilian Steakhouse. It is that, serving good quality meat of a variety of types in the churrascaria style of carving meat off skewers at the table. However, that is where the similarity to a Brazilian restaurant ends. Texas de Brazil in Las Vegas is huge, with all the features typical of a large American chain restaurant. Significantly, the staff are totally or predominantly American (USA, that is), with no concept whatsoever of Brazilian culture or language or ways. So there is almost no feel of a Brazilian experience. When I asked about Brazilian wine, there was confusion, followed by pointing to some Portuguese wine on the wine list. Chicken hearts – what are they? I cannot help but compare Texas de Brazil unfavourably with Fogo de Chao in Minneapolis, which rivals the best churrascarias in Brazil, and displays amazing energy and atmosphere.

On the positive side, Texas de Brazil Churrascaria in Las Vegas did provide an excellent salad bar, with some Brazilian trappings.

Overall, Texas de Brazil Churrascaria is a place to enjoy good (not excellent) meat served ineptly in an environment that could be any quality chain restaurant.

Texas de Brazil Churrascaria
Brazilian Steakhouse
6533 Las Vegas Boulevard, South
Las Vegas, NV, USA
Tel: +1 702 614 0080
Web: www.texasdebrazil.com


Las Vegas, USA: Yolie’s Brazilian Steakhouse & Seafood

Yolie’s is a pleasant Brazilian restaurant on Paradise Avenue, about a mile off the Las Vegas Boulevard, founded by Sra Yolinda Piccoli.

On arrival, I was greeted in a low key but pleasant enough way. A choice of a la carte or churrasco was offered – I chose churrasco. The wine list was excellent – international and diverse. Two reds from Brazil were offered, a 2000 Casa Valduga Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Casa Valduga Merlot. I chose the Cabernet, which proved to be an excellent choice of a quality wine. Casa Valduga is in the famous Vale dos Vinhedos, Bento Gonçalves, RS, in the south of Brazil.

Unexpected, but a bonus, was a live pianist/singer, an American (USA) with an American repetoire. Whilst not adding anything to the “Brazil” in the name of the restaurant, his music was (for me) very, very enjoyable. On the night of my visit, a Sunday night, the restaurant was quiet, with maybe 20 patrons in a restaurant designed for many more. The well-appointed and stocked bar was popular.

The food at Yolie’s was fine, but limited to seven types of meat. The usual “more meat/stop bringing meat” indicator integral to a churrascaria was absent, and meat was served in chunks from the skewers brought to the table, rather than finely cut. This diminished both the textual gastronomic experience and the Brazilian experience. Chicken hearts, typical of a Brazilian Churrascaria, were not offered. The restaurant also lacked a salad bar (at least none was offered) – salad of sorts was brought to the table. Staff were mostly Brazilian, otherwise Spanish-speaking. Those who appeared to be in charge seemed rather stand-offish in their attitude to diners. By contrast, the two servers were both very personable gentlemen, and contributed a lot to the enjoyment of the evening.

Overall, Yolie’s is a pleasant Brazilian-style restaurant, more Brazilian than American, but without the finishing touches that would make for a truly Brazilian experience.

Would return?: Yes

Yolie’s Brazilian Steakhouse & Seafood
3900 Paradise Road, Suite Z
Las Vegas, NV, USA
Tel: +1 702 794-0700
Web: www.yoliesbraziliansteakhouse.com


London, England: Amber Grill Rodizio

Amber Grill Rodizio is a churrascaria style restaurant in the “little Brazil” area west of central London, at Willesdan Junction, on the Bakerloo line.

I arrived, having reserved, about 8pm on a Saturday night. The welcome from the staff, all Brazilian, was friendly. The restaurant was near-empty. However, this changed throughout the evening. Most of the clientele who subsequently arrived were Portuguese-speaking. Many were in family groups.

I chose a 2006 “Rio Sol” Brazilian cabernet sauvignon/syrah from the Vale do São Francisco, Pernambuco state. Vale do São Francisco has emerged as one of five premium wine producing areas of Brazil, which, incidentally, is now the fifth biggest wine producing country in the world. Quality wine is unusual for a region only 8º south of the equator, a region relying totally on irrigation, and having two grape crops a year. But the wine, my first taste from this region, was excellent – very enjoyable indeed.

For authenticity, Amber Grill Rodizio could not be faulted. This restaurant had all the trappings: chicken hearts, Yes More/No Stop thingy, meat carved of skewers at the table, Brazilian wine, Brazilian beer (Brahma). And the service was outstanding.

All that was lacking was the food! The food wasn’t terrible, just not as good as I had anticipated based on the restaurant’s web site. For a Brazilian restaurant, the salad bar was very basic (not a problem for me). The meat, my passion, got better, much better, as more guests arrived. I suspect that both the restaurant and I suffered a little bit from the economic situation in the U.K. in May 2009 (when I visited).

Would return?: Yes, definitely

Amber Grill Rodizio
47 Station Road, Willesden , NW10 4UP
London, U.K.
Tel: +44 20 8963 1588
Web: www.ambergrill.co.uk


London, England: Rodizio Rico

Rodizio Rico is a very authentic Brazilian ‘churrascaria de rodizio’ in the Islington area of London, about a ten minute walk from the Angel tube station.

Being a churrascaria (pron. shoe-hoss-korea, which translates as barbecue in Portuguese), and Rodizio (which means rotating), the style of service has passadors (meat carvers) passing from table to table slicing different cuts of meat from skewers onto the diners’s plate. The meet is cooked on the skewer at a rotating, usually wood-burning oven.

At Rodizio Rico, the selection of meat is extensive and of excellent quality. Servings include leg of lamb; beef in a variety of cuts from silverside to picanha, the heart of the rump; pork; chicken thighs and chicken wings, as well as authentic specialities such as chicken hearts. Rodizio Rico also offers, at an extensive salad bar, an excellent array of traditional Brazilian hot dishes and salads.

The waiters, full of Brazilian personality and joy of life, continue to serve freshly grilled meats until you can eat no more. A pure carnivore’s delight!

Would return?: Yes, definitely

Rodizio Rico
77-78 Upper Street, Islington
London, U.K. N1 0NU
Tel: +44 20 7354 1076
Web: www.rodiziorico.com


Melbourne, Australia: BlueFire Churrascaria Grill and Bar

This restaurant has apparently become quite popular in Melbourne. I can’t work out why (apart from focus on marketing at the expense of service). My dining experience was frustrating from start to finish – strange rules as to when you can and can’t have meat served at the table, inept serving of the meat (chunks, not finely cut), and servers with the personality of house bricks, whose sole objective seemed to be to avoid eye contact and anything else that could help establish rapport. The restaurant’s website says that BlueFire has taken the Brazilian churrascaria concept and infused it with a modern Australian twist. I hope not.

Would return?: No

BlueFire Churrascaria Grill and Bar
Waterfront City
Docklands, Vic
Tel: +61 3 9670 8008
Web: www.bluefiregrill.com.au


Montreal, Canada: le Milsa Rodizio

Le Milsa impresses from the first moment of arrival – crowded, noisy from intense social chatter, and with gauchos serving meat on skewers for as far as the eye can see. Unable to secure a reservation on a Saturday night, I was fortunate to be given a table i≈ when I “just turned up” to this very popular restaurant in downtown Montreal.

The wine list, first item of attention, was extensive. I chose the only Brazilian wine on offer, a 2007 Santa Maria Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon, “Brazilio”, from the Vale do San Francisco region of northern Brazil, a region rapidly gaining attention from wine drinkers.

Salad of sorts was brought to the table (there was no room in the restaurant for a salad bar). I ignored the salad, preferring meat. The flow of meat commenced a minute or so later. Ten or so different types of meat were offered: pork sausages, chicken legs, turkey breast with bacon (delicious!), roast pork, top sirloin, strip sirloin, flat sirloin, contre-filet, rib of beef, rib steak, filet mignon, and lamb. Meat quality was generally high. The deep red, intensely flavoured Santa Maria wine complemented the meat perfectly. What a meal!

Regarding mechanics, le Milsa had a green/red more/stop thingy to turn the flow of meat on and off. That worked well. Intriguing, however, was that the gauchos carried tongs to give to diners for taking off the meat, rather that the restaurant providing each diner with tongs. OK, I suppose, but a little weird.

Also surprising was the unavailability of Brazilian beer – almost every basic Brazilian restaurant seems to manage to offer Brahma or some other brand of Brazilian beer. This was more than made up for by the cachaça – Leblon brand. Leblon is an area of Rio de Janeiro; I hadn’t encountered Leblon cachaça before, but it was very good. A pale straw colour with complex flavours. Décor of le Milsa was intricate and interesting, but not Brazilian. Continuous projection of scenes from Carnaval in Rio, plus “Brasil” green and gold shirts of the servers (mostly Canadian, but a few Brazilian), helped, however, to create a Brazilian atmosphere.

Totally unexpected, around 8:45pm, three Brazilian dancers appeared, two girls and a guy. Full of energy! The rest of the night was Brazilian, immense fun complemented by great food and a drink or two (or three).

Would return?: Absolutely, first stop in Montreal

Food: 8
Atmosphere: 9
Service: 6.5
Authenticity: 7
Drinks: 7.5
Overall: 8 (that means very good!)

le Milsa Rodizio (Churrascaria)
1445 Bishop Street
Montreal (Quebec)
Canada
Tel: +1 514 985 0777

Website: http://www.lemilsa.com/


São José dos Campos, SP, Brazil: Churraskilo Bethânia

Churraskilo Bethânia is a member of the Churraskilo self-service restaurant chain in Brazil. Churraskilo, open only for lunch, operates on the “per kilo” concept: the diner receives a purchase card on entry, takes a plate, selects food including unlimited meat carved off the spit, has the plate of food weighed, eats, and pays by weight on exit (weight of the plate of food, not of the diner!).

Churraskilo Bethânia is typical of the “por kilo” restaurants at which I have eaten. The salad bar was good, the meat good, the price excellent. Churraskilo Bethânia was crowded, but not overcrowded, when I visited for lunch with clients on a working day.

Would return?: Yes

Villa Bethânia
Av. Francisco José longo, 1429
Villa Bethânia
São José dos Campos, SP
Brazil
Tel: +55 12 3941 1628
Web: www.churraskilo.com.br


Sydney, Australia: Braza Churrascaria

Braza Churrascaria in Leichhardt is a great Brazilian restaurant by any standard! The staff, all Brazilian I observe, are superb – very friendly and engaging, enthusiastic, efficient – all the characteristics that help make dining at a Brazilian restaurant a cultural, as well as culinary, experience. Being a serious Churrascaria, the diner receives an endless meat in a variety of types and cuts, coming relentlessly to the table, until the diner says “STOP”, probably temporarily! The quality of meat at the Braza was high, and the serving off large skewers brought to the table was perfect – thinly cut off a selection of faces.

One of the several qualifications of the Braza as an authentic Brazilian restaurant is its wine list. The last time I was at Braza was with guests, I chose an outstanding 2004 Reserva Boscato Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery and vineyards are located at Nova Pádua in the Southern Sierra of Brazil, part of the privileged Rio das Antas Valley region, in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Rio das Antas Valley is a premium wine producing region of Brazil. Not well known, but red wines from this region rival the best reds of France, Australia, Chile, and South Africa. I add that the worst wines produced in Brazil are poison!

Overall, Braza Churrascaria is an outstanding Brazilian restaurant. I have been there twice. I look forward immensely to my next visit.

Braza Churrascaria
Authentic Brazilian Barbecue
13 Norton Street
Leichhardt
NSW, Australia
Tel: +61 2 9572 7921
Web: www.braza.com.au (excellent web site)


Sydney, Australia: Churrasco Coogee

Churrasco Coogee, in the south Sydney seaside suburb of Coogee, presents itself as a Brazilian style restaurant. It is certainly that. The welcome on arrival is genuine; the staff mostly Brazilian. Service is excellent – friendly and efficient. Recorded Brazilian music adds to the experience.

Churrasco Coogee, established by an Australia couple, departs from many of the Brazilian traditions, while holding to others. Price is fixed for all you can eat in a session (6-8pm or 8-12pm), with meat brought to the table. Some servings are from skewers, but meat is mostly brought on trays. A red/green wooden thingy is used by the diner for turning the supply of meat on and off. Churrasco Coogee has no salad bar – Brazilian beans, rice and potatoes are brought in bowls to the table. An a la carte menu is also available. The restaurant is appointed in deep wood tones, with very modern styling and an informal flair. Bookings would be advisable – the restaurant was busy on a Tuesday night when Mike (my son) and I visited.

The potent Brazilian spirit Cachaça is served (Sabitiba brand), solo and in the traditional Brazilian Caipirinha. So too is a Brazilian beer – Palma Louca Pale Pilsen, from the small town of Jacareí, in São Paulo state (this brewery is about 10km from PPI’s office in São José dos Campos, Brasil).

Would return?: Yes

Churrasco Coogee
240 Coogee Road, Coogee
NSW, Australia
Tel: +61 2 9665 6535
Web: www.churrasco.com.au (excellent web site)
Note: The owners have a similar restaurant: Churrasco Sydney at 60-70 William Street, Wooloomooloo.


Tokyo, Japan: Tucano’s Churrascaria Brasileira

A Brazilian Churrasco restaurant in the Shibuya area of Tokyo, Tucano’s has the feel of authentic Brazilian to it. Brazilian waiters, Brazilian male vocalist singing and speaking in Portuguese, and two slightly dressed female dancers. The girls could have only been Brazilian – great personalities, great energy, and very pleasing to the eye.

During my visit to Tocano’s in March 2009, eight or so different types of meat were brought to the table, plus the obligatory chicken hearts! The service came in waves, but was frequent enough, friendly, and above all, authentic Brazilian. A salad bar was provided – pretty ordinary compared to some churrascarias, but adequate. Anyway, who goes to a churrascaria to eat salad (except Brazilians)?

Clientele was mostly Japanese, with a few Brazilian couples, and the odd foreigner like myself. The dancing girls pulled guys up onto stage for dancing with them – I was one of the lucky ones. Overall, for me, Tucano’s was a fun place with good churrasco. Price was quite reasonable for Tokyo (YEN 3300 plus drinks).

Address: B1, 2-23-12, Dogenzaka Shibuya-ku
Tel: 03 5784 2661
Web: www.pjgroup.jp/tucanos
Getting there: Shibuya train station, Hachiko exit