Our second day coming to a close and we had to hit something with the local BBQ magic – Churrascaria. Churrascaria is generally served Rodizio style, in which it takes all of the meat, puts it on giant skewers, gives the giant skewers to waiters, and those waiters constantly shove it on your plate until you die.
It’s heaven and it would be truly unforgivable to make any trip to Brazil without taking this for a spin, even if it meant losing your Vegan magic powers.
A quick check of both our Rough Guide and Google put us on to Churrascaria Palace which, given we were planning to head to that part of Rio, suited us just fine.
- Website: http://churrascariapalace.com.br/en/
- Location: Rua Rodolfo Dantas 16, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
- Price: €60-€80 / 65-85 USD per person (drinks dependent)
- Good for: Large groups, events where you’re not paying (esp. business), carnivores
- Bad for: The hip pocket, vegetarians, couples
The first thing we noticed about Churrascaria Palace was that we were so spaced out we’d forgotten to take down the address. Fortunately, much like a porn director, I have a sixth sense when it comes to large chunks of meat. This sense soon led us unerringly to a rather fancy looking entrance, out of which a very pleased looking man stumbled. He looked at me with a blissful grin plastered on his face and meat swimming in his eyeballs, flipped a thumbs up, and grumbled “i’s good”.
We entered in and were unsurprised to see that the prices were higher than recorded elsewhere. This is a common theme with many places we visited. It seems prices in Brazil have risen somewhat on the back of their Olympic showcase. Still, we were committed and prepared to fork over some cash, even if it did work out to be almost €60 for the buffet.
The staff whisked us over to a table, sat us down, explained that we could eat anything from the buffet, that meat would come to us, and within moments had taken and supplied our beer orders.
The beers were excellent. Marta took a Bohemia and this was our first try of what remains our favourite commonly available beer in Brazil. I took something dark and rich to really go with the hulking great slabs of meat that were being ferried around by the rapidly moving, yet unhurried, waiters. It was called Amazon Beer Açaí Stout and was deliciously rich and fruity. Nothing spectacular, but an excellent partner for the meal and with a nice twist of local colour.
Along with the beers arrived four large ramekins, each filled with a different side dish. We had fries, onion rings, pão de queijo, and rice. These, like everything here but my belly, are bottomless so you can dive right in.
We hit the buffet and loaded up. I tried Feijoada for the first time (meh), then piled on smoked ham, sashimi salmon and tuna, several different cheeses, more cold cuts, sushi with strawberry (!), quail eggs, mornay crab, many salads, beetroot, mussels, asparagus, shrimp (solo and in dishes), and so much more that to write it would fill up the rest of this post.
Not only was the buffet large and diverse it was, for the most part, excellent. I wouldn’t have paid that much money for the buffet, but for half that cost I would have been happy with it alone. And that’s not even the best part. Now we get to the meat of the discussion.
This was, indisputably, some of the best meat I have ever tasted in my life. While one, maybe two, of the dozens of cuts I tried were a little dry, most were moist and bursting with flavour.
I can’t list everything that was there but here are some of the highlights, among a starscape of highlights:
Beef Ribs: Marta’s personal favourite for this meal, these were immense and were rolled out on a cart by the serving staff. Ribs were hacked off whole or chunks of meat were simply lifted from the bone. The meat was so soft and so tender it was difficult enough keeping it on your fork to get it into your mouth. Make the effort though. It’s well worth it.
Picanha: The go-to meat chunk in Brazil, Pichanha is a beef rump cut (aka sirloin cap) and it’s done to perfection here. Always served on skewers and with a nice layer of fat left on the outside, Picanha is sliced thinly with the fat attached. The combination of salt, juicy flesh, and fat makes a magnificently melty mouthful that literally made my brain spark and my toes curl.
French Rack: Perfect lamb smothered in garlic. I was confused about what all the white things sprinkled over this were at the start, but that first garlic loaded explosion put all doubt to rest. Full of the richness I’d expect from an expertly done rack of lamb and with enough garlic to knock out a horse, I went back to this a few times (much to Marta’s dismay)
Chicken Hearts! I’ve always loved these little guys but they get little love from most people. I first tried them as a child and really enjoyed the texture and complicated flavour. Engaging with them again as street food in China several years ago put them back on my map. Then, lo and behold, they pop up here in Brazil. I freaking gorged myself on these. I couldn’t get enough. The best chicken hearts I’ve ever eaten. If you’ve never tried them before, it’s time to toughen up and take them for a spin. You might be disappointed, on the other hand, you might discover a new and long-lasting love affair…
The Rest: It’s all awesome. Cooked to perfection with each cut bringing its own flavours and textures to the table.
- Food: 5/5
- Value for money: 3/5
- Service: 5/5
- Atmosphere: 4/5
It’s a little expensive but go try it if you’ve got the money to spare. Better yet, convince your boss to hold a business lunch there and do it on someone else’s dime.
Also try to have time to spare and don’t rush it. It’s easy to hit bursting very rapidly as the Rodizio style of service and an open buffet can quickly overwhelm even the staunchest gut.