This must be a wonderful time to own a churrascaria. Meat, after all, is the darling of the dining scene, and churrascaria means meat.
Well, not literally. Churrascaria (tchoo-huh-scah-REE-uh) actually means house of barbecue, but to fans of this type of Brazilian steakhouse, it means meat, meat and more meat.
Texas de Brazil is a small chain out of, no surprise here, Texas that is riding the wave of low-carb popularity with a new location on International Drive. This isn’t the first churrascaria to open in the area. There have been a few, and just last year we visited another on I-Drive, Crazy Grill, which does a fine job overall.
But Texas de Brazil takes this concept to a new level. The surroundings are almost luxuriant, the service is nearly fawning, and the food is well prepared and plentiful in the all-you-can-eat concept. As to whether the $38.50 charge is a value, that depends on just how much you can eat and still enjoy yourself. I had a good time at TdB, and if you were to have weighed me when I went in and again when I left, I think the price per pound would have made it a bargain.
The first thing you’ll notice about Texas de Brazil is the colorful décor. You’ll probably see it through the windows as you circle the building trying to find the front door. Such is the parking arrangement that the entrance is on the opposite side of the restaurant.
The interior is painted a startling deep ruby red, and throughout the restaurant are gigantic sprays of silk flower arrangements that radiate their colors into the room. Floors are hardwood and tables are covered with white cloths.
The columns and ceiling beams are fashioned to look like iron girders with extruding rivets. I didn’t quite get the connections, but a manager told me later it was meant to look like a large factory in Brazil.
The wine cellar is enclosed in a glass-walled chamber just off the center of the large room. Next to it is a square buffet/salad bar. This is where your meal begins and, if you’re not careful to pace yourself, where it will end too.
The salad selection includes fairly simple greens and dressings, but also has more unusual items, such as tabbouleh, sushi and hearts of palm. In between you’ll find artichoke hearts, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, roasted red peppers, beets, buffalo mozzarella, grilled portobello mushrooms, potato salad and pasta among others.
There are also cauldrons of soup, sauteed mushrooms, black beans and rice. The black beans weren’t very flavorful, and some of the items weren’t worth the wasted calories. The Brussels sprouts, for example, were practically raw, and the sushi wasn’t done well enough to warrant its inclusion on a Brazilian buffet. But the rest of it was perfectly acceptable.
Still, I think I’d rather concentrate on the meats, and wonderful meats they were.
There is a method to the meat service and it requires proactive participation on the diner’s part. Circling throughout the dining room you’ll see a horde of servers, called gauchos after the Portuguese word for cowboys, carrying large skewers and chef knives. Each place setting has a paper disk that is green on one side and red on the other. Place the green side up when you’re ready for meat and these gauchos will stop by to offer you whatever they’re carrying. In some instances the servers fairly swarmed about the tables, descending on diners with flashing knives.
Each diner also has a set of tongs. Some of the meats and sausages are in small chunks, which the gaucho can simply slide off the skewer onto your plate. (All the servers were careful not to allow their skewers to touch a guest’s plate – a sanitation issue.) Other meats, such as top sirloin, leg of lamb and pork ribs, must be sliced. The gaucho makes a small cut and then asks the diner to grab hold with the tongs while he slices through.
The meats were all cooked over charcoal fires and well-seasoned. They were imbued with a smoky taste that complemented the herbs and spices, and the quality of the cuts was unquestionably high. Oh, and as if all that weren’t enough, your lead server will bring mashed potatoes and fried bananas to your table.
If you need a break, or when you think you’ve had enough, turn the disk over to red and the gauchos will pass you by.
If for some reason you still have the ability to eat something more, the Brazilian papaya cream ($6.25) or the chocolate mousse cake ($6.25) for dessert. And for more Brazilian authenticity, try the caipirinha ($7), a drink made with lime, sugar and cachaca.
Texas de Brazil is more expensive than Crazy Grill, but it also offers a more upscale experience, especially considering the International Drive location. If you’re following a low-carb diet, or if you just appreciate good grilled meats, you’ll think you’ve gone to hog – and cow – heaven.
Texas de Brazil is at 5259 International Drive, Orlando. It’s open 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Prix fixe $38.50.