Friday, August 15, 2014

Brazilian Steakhouses

If you are not an avid carnivore, you may not have noticed that approximately 500,000 Brazilian steakhouses have been opened in the United States over the last five or six years.

I visited one of these establishments recently for a meal with friends.

Here's how it works:

You are shown to a dining table laid out in the usual fashion, but with one extra thing: a round piece of cardboard, about the size of a drink coaster, at each plate.  The coaster is green on one side and red on the other.  Pretty simple.

Across the room, you will see a large salad bar and perhaps another display of hot side dishes.  Circling the room will be gauchos -- servers -- bearing slabs of roasted meats on large rotisserie spikes.

Your waiter will arrive to take your drink order, invite you to visit the salad bar and explain the red/green coaster procedure, which is as follows:  If you are hungry for meat, you will turn the coaster's green side up, and the roving meat purveyors will stop at your table offering to slice off servings of various delicacies.

Here are some of the offerings:

     -- Top sirloin
     -- Bottom sirloin
     -- Beef ribs
     -- Ribeye steak
     -- Picanha (a particular beef cut roasted with garlic, I think)
     -- Lamb chops
     -- Pork loin
     -- Sausages
     -- Pork ribs
     -- Light meat chicken
     -- Dark meat chicken
     -- Shrimp, maybe

As the meal proceeds, you sample various selections, some of them multiple times.  You forget about the salad bar and keep eating meat.

Eventually, your stomach will tell you that you have eaten enough.  If you are smart, at this moment you will turn your coaster over so the red side is showing.  Then the gauchos will stop dropping by to offer you more meat.  (You may burp a few times.)

When all the diners at your table have turned their coasters red-side-up, your waiter will return to ask if you would like to have some dessert.  Again, if you are smart, you will decline politely.

Then will come the check.

Brazilian steakhouses operate on a prix-fixe, all-you-can-eat basis.  Prices generally range from the low $40s to the mid $60s.

You will settle your bill, stagger to your car and drive home.  You will think to yourself, several times, I can't believe I ate all that meat.

If you have been joined at your meal by a young person with a fast metabolism, you will marvel at the younger person's jaunty demeanor and appetite for more food just a few hours later.  (Brazilian steakhouses cannot make much money on diners like these.)

The next morning, you will waken feeling less full.  Possibly you will be able to eat a small breakfast.

You will not consider going to a Brazilian steakhouse again for several months.  Maybe on Father's Day, or maybe when the younger person asks to go there for a birthday celebration, the idea will be raised and you will agree to join the party.

You will do the whole thing again.

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