I know where Meat Lovers Anonymous should not hold their next meeting. Last night, Mr. Food Musings and I took matching cabs to Espetus Churrascaria (pronounced es-PET-us shoo-ra-SKAH-ri-ya). It's a rodizio-style steakhouse, meaning it's based on the tradition of Brazilian cowboys who sat around the campfire after a hard day's ride and cooked their slowest horses.
(Kidding! They just cooked the cows and the pigs.)
At Espetus (which means "skewer" in Portugese) that translates to "gauchos" dressed in neckerchiefs, puffy pants, and boots parading around with giant metal skewers threaded with great hunks of meat. The system is super fun: a gaucho approaches and looks to see if your table marker is set to green or red. If it's green, that means "Feed me!" (Set it to red when you need a moment to digest or wipe the juices from your chin.) The gaucho then whisks out what can only be called a samurai sword, and before you can say "carnivore" he's sliced off a chunk of chicken wrapped in bacon, a whole prawn, or a sliver of filet mignon.
This proceeds until all 14 of the nightly meats have been presented to you. Last night we chose from things like plump housemade linguica sausages, marinated chicken, pork tenderloin, roast beef, Parmesan-crusted pork brochettes, sirloin rubbed with garlic and sea salt, and even pineapple. I was petrified of missing out on something delectable, so we kept our marker on green for nearly an hour. I said yes to almost everything, but the hands-down favorite of the night was the pork loin, either plain or with Parmesan. It was lusciously fatty, booming with flavor, and very, very tender. Though the steak was also really good, next time I'd probably save myself for the pork.
Throughout the meal, our server dropped off little gifts -- Brazilian cheese bread, fried bananas, and thick slabs of fried polenta that I wanted to take to Vegas and marry. Since man cannot live by meat alone, there is a buffet with fluffy white rice, plump asparagus spears, fresh corn salad, guacamole, three bean salad, cous-cous, slaw and more -- something like 25 selections in all. On Saturdays, the buffet includes Brazil's famed feijoada. The salad-y offerings were decent, and some quite good, but the real draw is definitely the meat. A Catena Malbec was suggested to accompany dinner; it was good, a standard, easy to drink red that tends to please most folks.
By the time you've undone your zipper and turned your marker to red, one of the nice gauchos will ask if there is anything you'd really like to have again. If not, they'll bring you the dessert menu. I was all ready to go with the pastel des tres leches cake, since I have such fond memories of the one from the now-defunct Alma, but our waiter pushed us instead towards the elegantly named "peanut butter thing." ("A lot of people order it because of the name," he says. Um-hm.) It was yummy in an old-fashioned way -- a big-ass hunk of peanut butter ice cream bisected with a chocolate crust, and loads of caramel sauce drizzled on top.
The $44.95 price tag (per person, all you can eat minus desserts and wine) is as hefty in size as the meat, even for a hospitable eat-until-you-drop policy. Still, it's fun for a splurge-a-licious kind of night, and CAV is right around the corner if you're interested in a night cap.