St. Petersburg Times

By: Jim Webster

It was about this time last year that a swanky new chain restaurant came to town, touting a pledge that nothing on its menu had more than’475 calories, and there wasn’t a pat of butter to be had in the building. It was the dawn of a new, healthy way of dining out. Seasons 52 is still going strong. But this year, we have another new chain, and it is hard to see it as about anything other than indulgence.

Texas de Brazil opened in February across from International Plaza. It’s a company that is approaching two dozen outlets, each featuring nicely dressed gauchos wielding grilled meats on swords in an fancy setting.

It is the stuff of airline magazine ads and expense accounts. And if you are in the mood to eat a lot of meat, it’s just the ticket.

It is a fixed-price meal. For $43, you sit down, and they start bringing meat to you. The website suggests there are as many as 14 kinds of meat available. On our visit, we saw 10. The diner regulates the amount of meat with a red-light/greenlight card on the table. The only limit is individual capacity. Know this and make decisions responsibly.

The parade of meat is impressive, and critiquing them individually a little silly, as each skewer that comes out of the kitchen is going to be different depending on how long it sat over the fire, and how hot the fire was at that spot. Most of what we got came out in the medium-rare/medium zone, though we got a couple of – cuts cooked more thoroughly. All of the meats were well seasoned. Asked to pick a favorite, I’d say the flank steak. It’s a very beefy cut, rare and meltingly tender. As for my least favorite? I guess I don’t understand putting Parmesan on pork.

The salad area – a remarkable display of salad ingredients and prepared salads and side dishes – is so extensive that the restaurant claims to be a steakhouse that a vegetarian will love. I put that to the test, dining with a vegetarian. The array of vegetables, cheeses and breads makes it a reasonable claim. At $25, it probably Picanha, pronounced pick- AHN-ya, a Brazilian-style beef preparation, is a signature offering at Texas de Brazil. isn’t a place that a vegetarian would make a destination of, but certainly there is more than enough to make an interesting meal. Favorite items from the veggie board were sweet, earthy roasted baby beets and the hearts of palm salad.

A trip to the salad area did cause me one problem. I was away from the table when the gaucho with the barbecued pork ribs came to our table. And he was the one guy who never came back.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011