If you are a meat lover, as well as a fan of having several choices when dining out, a Brazilian steakhouse is an experience that you must try at least once. Beware that you may experience a very similar feeling that is often induced by Thanksgiving dinner. Eileen and I decided to try Rodizio – The Brazilian Steakhouse located in the Coconut Point Mall in Estero.
The restaurant was recommended by a pharmacist aid at the local CVS. Coincidentally, when she asked for my birthdate, and I shared that it was January 5th, she excitedly told me that we shared a birthday. When I asked if she had done anything exciting for her recent birthday, she told me about Rodizio. I will certainly thank her for the recommendation next time I see her.
For those who have not had the Brazilian steakhouse experience, and they do refer to it as an experience, it is like nothing you have experienced before. It is the closest thing to a luau that I can think of. You are initially offered two ways to “experience” the meal. The first is to enjoy the entire experience which means unlimited access to the salad bar and unlimited access to all of the meat offerings. At Rodizio the price for the entire experience is $36.95. That includes unlimited meat, salad bar and a dessert choice. The price for just the salad bar is $26.95.
Because we were mainly interested in the meat, and because we mistakenly thought that the salad bar alone was not a good deal at $26.95, we chose to engage in the entire experience. We definitely made the right choice even if the reasoning was slightly askew.
Our waitress quickly brought us three appetizers that are standard at each table. All were tasty and addictive. There was a small bowl of Brazilian Polenta which is presented as three inch sticks, similar to French fries, that are lightly breaded and fried with a garlic and salty flavor. There was also banana fritas, which is small fried bananas with a cinnamon-sugar coating. The third item we were already quite familiar with. They are called pao de quejo, or translated, bread made of cheese. They are small rolls that are fluffy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside made with cheese. If you are a bread-aholic, as am I, you will have to force yourself not to block out everything else and just ask the waitress to keep bringing more pao de quejo. They are that good.
The way the dinner is constructed is that you are given a small wooden toggle that looks like a miniature dumb bell. It is green on one end and red on the other. You are free to help yourself to the salad bar first and when you feel that you are ready, you turn your toggle to the green side up and the meat serving begins.
Salad bar is a complete misnomer or understatement in this case. There are ready made salads such as mozzarella or capreze salad , fruit salad, strawberry salad, standard garden salad , Caesar salad, as well as more individual items than you can imagine to construct your salad creation.
There were also eight to ten hot side dishes offered including three kinds of potatoes, a hot pasta dish, collard greens, Brazilian black bean stew and rice and beans.
After we had enjoyed some salad items we went back to get a couple of small helpings of side dishes and returned to our table a put up the green flag. It was not up for long when a series of “gauchos” came to our table bearing meat offerings that were carved fresh at our table. Rodizio offers over a dozen different meat offerings and they all made their way to our table over the next half hour or so. All are rotisserie grilled and melt in your mouth with a ton of flavor. There were at least four cuts of beef including top and tip sirloin, and center cut. There was also chicken and chicken hearts, pork tenderloin, ham wrapped in bacon, lamb, sausages and even salmon.
Carving and serving the meat table-side
After trying small helpings of most of the items, including the chicken hearts, which I had never experienced, we had to turn our toggle back to red, for a much-needed break which turned out to be a permanent break. Even small helpings of several of the meat choices adds up to more meat than most are used to consuming at one sitting.
Finally, we turned our toggle on its side indicating that were ready for dessert. We weren’t really ready, but I don’t think we would have been allowed to stay in the restaurant until morning. So we forged ahead. There were six offering each one looked better than the rest. Eileen chose a three-layer chocolate cake with ice cream, banana medallions and chocolate sauce. I chose the caramel flan with a crispy cinnamon cookie. Neither were needed, but both were excellent and we enjoyed as much as we could.
It should be noted that aside from the waitress and the “gauchos” our table was visited by at least three other staff including the manager. The service was excellent. The waitress brought the bill and explained that if we filled out a survey we would be eligible for a full experience meal for one dollar on our birthdays. She asked when my birthday was and I told her. She exclaimed, “No, sir. Mine is on January 3rd.” I then told her how we had ended up making the reservation in the first place and she credited my meal for the one dollar.
All in all the meal was excellent, and getting a deal on top of it did not hurt. Now that we have had the full “experience” and understand the process, we can better plan the meal and focus on what we might enjoy the most and possibly avoid the turkey day syndrome when and if there is a next time.