REVIEW – TEXAS DE BRAZIL
March 16th, 2011 | Press
San Antonio Express-News
By: Edmund Tijernia
Lamb chops are one of the many meat dishes available at Texas de Brazil.
That piece of picanha, red and juicy, hanging off the skewer in a gaucho’s hands, just taunts with its medium-rare goodness and a well-browned and salty crust. How can you tell it no?
It’s a regular occurrence at Texas de Brazil, the newest addition to a quickly growing field of churrascarias, or Brazilian steakhouses. This suburban Dallas-based restaurant chain follows the now well-known formula: Start with a massive salad bar and then let the meat fest begin. Every diner has a small coaster-sized disk. When it’s green, the waiters — dressed as gauchos from the Pampas — come by the tables offering various cuts of meats. They keep coming until the diner flips the disk to show red. Stop.
The format is actually a combination of the all-you-can eat style of a Brazilian rodizio and the grilled meats of the churrascaria. It’s a temple to gluttony, a magnet for travelers on expense accounts and an all-too-tempting way to come down with a meat hangover. Seriously. If you’re not used to eating a lot of meat at one sitting, this kind of indulging could lead to a very sluggish next day.
Fortunately, all this meat is pretty decent. So is the enormous salad, etc., bar, the service and atmosphere .Now let’s not get carried away with the praise. It’s not like the meat here rivals a truly great steakhouse, but then that’s probably not the intention.
When it comes down to it, this place offers mostly beef cooked over charcoal, seasoned only with a generous dusting of rock salt. The occasional leg of lamb, lamb chops, pork cuts, sausage and chunks of chicken wrapped in bacon make their way to the table, too.
But the Pampas is the region of South America known for its beef, and there’s plenty of it: Fillet, fillet wrapped in bacon, flank steak (a personal favorite), beef ribs and the top sirloin cut known as picanha. They go very nicely with one of the reasonably priced bottles of malbec from Argentina, a wine that matches the beef and simple seasonings.
If you’re to do the Brazilian experience, a visit should begin with a predinner caipirinha, the classic cocktail of limes and sugar muddled together with a healthy splash of the Brazilian spirit, cachaça. Here, there’s a choice of a traditional caipirinha or flavored with a little passion fruit or mango purée that add notes without ever turning cloying.
Then it’s time for the massive salad bar, which includes a range of vegetables, salads, including a creamy and tasty potato salad dressing, tabbouleh, a slightly tart and spicy “Brazilian vinaigrette” dressing and a bunch of cheeses, including a tasty grilled provolone. Next to the soup of the day sat a big pot of feijoada, the black bean and pork stew that is really Brazil’s national dish. Granted, the version here was little more than a black bean soup, but this place deserves credit for including it at all.
The only genuine disappointment in the salad bar was the sushi, little more than tough crab and cream cheese. There are far too many other worthy items on this salad area. With the salad course out of the way, the meats begin and the best thing to do is to try and pace yourself. Good luck with that.
Service here proved friendly but not overly chummy, and certainly the waiters all had learned their lines about describing the restaurant. Next step is to make the lines sound less scripted. Not a big deal, because the waiters on a pair of visits gave a sincere sense of wanting our visit to go well, and this sense seemed evident at other tables, as well.
The restaurant advertises its aerial wine artists, or “wine angels.” The hostesses are suspended on wires and perform acrobatics in the two-story wine storage area that covers the back wall. It’s fun having that activity in the background, and there’s something charming about watching tourists walking up to the wall and taking pictures.
There is, of course, another more crucial question: If you’re going to spend a little more than 40 bucks per person on dinner before drinks, is an all-you-can-eat meat fest the best choice? We all answer that question differently.