By: Zaine Dean

Vegetarians, skip this one. You can imagine what you’re in for at Texas de Brazil, the culinary union of the world’s two greatest carnivorous destinations: an all-you-can-eat, slow-roasted, expertly seasoned meatfest of the highest order. The Texas de Brazil concept originated in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where the rodizio style of eating (an unending string of meats accompanied by a varied salad bar), has long been a dining tradition. The concept moved with the founding family to Addison, Texas, who opened Texas de Brazil in 1998. Since then, the restaurant chain has spread across the land like sauce on a rib — even crossing the water into Aruba and Trinidad. Of course, at this point I only care about the location anchoring one corner of The Village at Gulfstream Park. And having enjoyed churrascarias (Brazilian style steakhouses) in the U.S. and Brazil, I jumped at the invitation to tear into a complimentary feast at the swank new venue. But I also had an ace up my sleeve; I brought my Brazilian friend with me to get the expert’s take on just how well Texas de Brazil measured up to the real deal. Our findings? Three words: Did. It. Ever.

On the Menu Churrascaria 101 Meet the Meat If you’ve never eaten at a churrascaria before, here’s the skinny (and I mean that in the most ironic way possible). Once seated, you receive a token with a green and red side. As long as the token stays green, you can attack the salad bar at will, and the servers will keep the meat away. When you’re ready for the main course, simply flip the green side to red. Then prepare for the onslaught of meats to come your way, served from skewers directly to your plate by friendly waiters dressed in gaucho fashion, like the gentleman pictured here.

We sampled over a dozen meats during our meal, but I’m only going to cover our favorites.  Before we get to the food, let’s start with the caipirinha, Brazil’s classic cocktail. Made with Cachaca, a sugar cane rum, crushed ice, fresh lime and cane sugar, TDB’s version earned the full approval of my Brasileno buddy, who cheered its just-right sweetness and fresh-cut lime tang. No churrascaria is complete without a prodigious salad bar, and Texas de Brazil delivers a huge bounty of salads, soups, appetizers and other small plates. Again, I can’t comment on all of them, but the greatest hits included asparagus with raspberry vinaigrette, fresh artichoke hearts, smoked salmon fillet with Creole mustard, and a traditional black bean stew (feijoada) accompanied by crisp chunks of bacon. And here we go!We started off our marathon meat-a-thon with tender, juicy cut of sirloin. The typical style of preparation at a churrascaria involves salt-rubbing and roasting over an open flame grill. But, as my friend noted, the meats here had a richer seasoning than the strict Brazilian style, an indication, perhaps, of catering to the American palate. Whatever the reason, it works wonderfully. Before we continue, I must mention the delicious mashed potatoes and sublime fried banana, which added a nice balance of starch and sweetness to the meal. Also don’t miss the Brazilian cheese bread.

Take a well-done cut of sirloin and season generously with garlic, and you have a mouthful of beef bursting with flavor. Parmesan Chicken Breast Fans of churrascarias maintain several theories and strategies about how to best enjoy them, such as “don’t waste time at the salad bar” and “skip the sides.” I’ve also heard “ignore the chicken and focus on the beef,” but that would be a mistake here. The perfectly cooked chicken thighs at TBD boast a phenomenally crispy parmesan crust. Lamb Chops Even those who typically find lamb gamey will go gaga for these thick, ridiculously juicy chops — one of our favorite meats of the evening.Top Sirloin Ah, the top sirloin, or as Brazilians call it, the picanha. I’m told it’s the favorite cut of meat at a churrascaria. The art and melt-in-mouth goodness of picanha lies in its super-thin cut; on our first pass, my friend found the cut a bit thick; on the second, it proved perfect. (I happily wolfed down both rounds.) Barbecued Ribs My buddy summed this one up well: “It’s a barbecued rib,” he proclaimed. “Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a delicious barbecued rib.” In other words, you can’t go wrong with this tasty delight. Beef Rib My hands-down favorite, the buttery-soft texture of this beef rib must be savored to be believed. I barely needed cutlery to get through mine, which quite literally melted in my mouth.

Afterwards, I had no choice but to flip the card over, signaling my surrender. After-Dinner Cocktail Brazilian Rose You can enjoy this sweet and tropical cocktail before dinner if you like, but it makes for a satisfying end to a meal. The beautiful presentation comprises passion fruit, Grand Marnier, and Cachaca. Dessert Papaya Cream After such a heavy meal,I decided to end on a light and sweet note. The cool, rich cream of papaya topped with a liquid layer of creme de cassis fit the bill nicely.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010