Mrs. Potato

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Mrs Potato rosti

I wonder what Mrs. Potato's maiden name was. And is she related the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head? Do they call their kids tots?

I'm also wondering if Mrs. Potato is Brazilian or Swiss?

Posto 9

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Posto9 dining room

Update: Shortly following the publication of this review, Posto 9's management discontinued the "no tipping" policy described here.

Who knew Lakeland could have such a wonderful restaurant?

Not to demean Lakeland, but I’ve never thought of it as a dining destination, rather a place one passes through on the interstate on the way to the coast to check out a new restaurant in Tampa or St. Pete or somewhere down the coast. Lakeland, I’d surmised, was the sort of place you’d find Harry’s, the Florida chainlet “seafood bar and grille” that indeed sits on a corner across from downtown’s Munn Park.

But just around the corner, in the middle of a block on Main Street, you’ll find Posto 9, a destination-worthy restaurant with charm, atmosphere and very good food.

Steak on Fire

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Steakonfire sandwich

Steak on Fire describes itself as “a Brazilian restaurant on bread,” something I have a hard time visualizing. But I suppose it’s better than describing itself as a Brazilian restaurant on fire.

Basically we’re talking about sandwiches. But big sandwiches. Maybe not so big that you could put a whole building on it, but pretty big nonetheless.

Steak on Fire is a quick-serve operation. You order your sandwich at the counter, take your tablestand with a number on it to one of the booths and then wait for someone to bring the order to you.

Giraffas Brazilian Kitchen & Grill

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Girraffas giraffao

With all the hoopla associated with the World Cup and the world's eyes focused on Brazil, I figured this was as good a time as any to visit Giraffas, the Brazilian steak and burger outfit with a location on International Drive (and another coming soon to Mills 50. There are about 10 Giraffas locations in Florida now open or about to, but there are nearly 400 in Brazil.

I suppose you could compare it to a Five Guys or similar operation. There's little that is enticingly Brazilian about the menu. Save for a few items, such as the shrimp moqueca and a cheese bread called pao de queijo, most of the menu is burgers. (How a stroganoff got here I haven't a clue.)

Latin Quarter Churrascaria

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Latin Quarter gaucho

Scott talks with 90.7's Nicole Creston about churrascarias in Central Florida. You can hear Scott's WMFE-FM segments Fridays at 5:45 p.m. or Saturday mornings at 9:35. Or, click this link to listen to current and past podcasts.

Central Florida now has more than its share of churrascarias, the all-you-can-meat glutfests that remove even the exertion of having to leave one’s seat to go get more food.

For the uninitiated, a churrascaria is a Brazilian steakhouse wherein servers, called gauchos, circulate the dining room carrying large skewers of meat products to slice and serve directly onto the plates of gorging patrons. Rodizio is another term that is often associated with this type of service, although in rodizio style restaurants there are no skewers.

I recently wrote about the opening of Fogo de Chao, which, along with the older Texas de Brazil, offers a high-quality churrascaria experience. The meats are first rate and cooked (and seasoned) beautifully; the staff is experienced and professional, following the proper guidelines for safely serving the foods; and the salad bars, the one time guests will be required to leave the comfort of their chairs, are temptingly stocked with various salads, meats, cheeses, soups and other items that should but never do fill the guests up.

Fogo de Chao

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Fogo salad barFogo de Chao joins the area’s panoply of churrascarias when it officially opens its doors today on International Drive. You’ll remember that a churrascaria is the South American/Brazilain style steakhouse that features grilled meats carved tableside by roaming gauchos. I’ve lost track of how many of these restaurants we have in the area -- they tend to open and close or move without much notice. I do know, however, that Fogo will compete primarily with just one: Texas de Brazil.

 

The two share similarities beyond an International Drive address. Both have an upscale mien, or as upscale as an all-you-can-eat concept can have. And both do a good job in terms of the qualities of meats and side dishes, including the items served on the impressively arrayed salad bar. The advantage may go to Fogo, however, for its better proximity to the convention center and for the way it has designed itself to deal with groups, several at a time and in varying sizes.

 

Fogo de Chao means fire of the ground, and although you’ll want to pronounce the last word in the name chow, it’s actually pronounced shoun. Chow fits better because, like all other churrascarias, it’s all about the food and lots -- LOTS -- of it.

 

Nelore Churrascaria

Written by SJO Staff on .

Orlando has a number of churrascarias, the Brazilian-style steakhouses with the all-you-can-eat concept. The difference between a typical buffet and a churrascaria, however, is that for part of the meal the food comes to you. Among the local Brazilian steakhouses, Nelore does a terrific job.

The first part of the meal is like a regular buffet, but it’s a salad-bar on steroids. Here you’ll find various greens, dressing and other recognizable salad accouterments. But you’ll also see such things as hearts of palm, big artichoke heart bottoms, freshly sliced prosciutto, thick asparagus spears, taboule, chunks of Parmesan cheese, mozzarella, balls of red beets, earthly mushrooms and potato salad.

There are also some hot items in silver chafing dishes, including Brazilian style rice and beans, black beans, white rice, mashed potatoes, fried yuca, grilled plantains and, for reasons I cannot discern, chicken Stroganoff.

But pace yourself for the main event. Once you’ve finished with the salad items, it’s time for meat, meat, meat.

Once you’ve finished the salads you turn a small disc on your table to the green side and soon you’ll  be descended upon by servers dressed as gauchos, Brazilian cowboys with poofy pants. Don’t laugh at them because they’re carrying long pointy skewers and sharp knives. They’re also carrying the best part of the meal.

That would be the meats, and they start arriving at a dizzying pace as soon as one of the gauchos notices a green disc.

He – they were all men when I visited – asks if you would like what he is offering and upon your approval either slide it off the skewer onto your plate or slice the meat for you to grab. Don’t use your fingers; there are tiny tongs on the table for meat handling. After the gaucho slices a corner, grab it with the tongs as he slices the rest of the way through.

You’ll find sirloin and ribeye as good as you’ll find in a high-priced steakhouse. There’s also flank steak, chicken, sausages and seafood. Try as much as you’d like, have more of the best, and when you need a rest, turn the disk back over so the red side is showing – the gauchos will leave you alone.

All of this is a very reasonable $39.99, a terrific deal not only because of the volume but also because of the quality of the food.

And by the way, when the server asks if you’d like something to drink, order a caipirinha, the unofficial national cocktail of Brazil made with lime, sugar and alcohol distilled from sugar cane. Or a mojito with mint, lime and rum. Both were wonderful, quite possibly the best I’ve had of either, anywhere.

Texas de Brazil

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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.
407-355-0355