Sunday, September 28, 2008

Carnivorous much? Churrascaria Take One

So, I've plunged into the state of the "meat coma" on several occasions -- our location of choice was always Fogo de Chao for the infamous meat coma. "Avoid the salad bar! It's a trap!" were always the warnings before heading to Fogo - don't get me wrong, the salad bar at Fogo is QUITE delicious, but that is its danger ... filling up too much before settling down with the little red and green card, for the onslaught (ok, no pun intended) of men with swords of meat.

So of course, I had to go to a churrascaria in Brazil. We asked around, trying to find one that wasn't OVERLY touristy to go to, but one that would also satisfy our steak cravings. We decided on Marius (note: as oppose to Porcao, a chain that has also found itself in Miami and New York), known for both their meat AND their seafood. We kept in mind the warnings again - avoid the salad bar! Don't fill up! We take a cab up Copacabana Beach to Marius - it was pouring rain and the gentlemen at Marius happily brought us from our taxi under umbrellas. And in we walk... and what a surprise. Of course I had in my head images of Fogo - dark wood, spacious surroundings, very classic looking... and of course I had images in my head of, well, a steakhouse. At least an American steakhouse? Little did I realize that I actually had these visions... didn't really realize it until I entered Marius. Marius is wonderfully ... kitchy?

I loved how it looked. We sat in the room with high ceilings that had all sorts of housewares hanging from the ceiling - old car parts, an old bed frame, pots, pans...flags of random countries... and then a wall covered in colorful porcelain plates...
and then the bathroom floor covered in semi-precious gemstones (unpolished but identifiable... i loved it... for someone that was once very interested in geology, this was a very unexpected, yet pleasant surprise). Another room looked to be covered in shells.

In any case, I digress. The waiter asks us, meat or seafood. We exclaim, in unison no less, "meat!" We are seated and are invited to try to the buffet first and then the steak/meat would follow. We were familiar with this procedure and dutifully inspected the "salad bar." Much to our delight, the salad bar was not so much "salad" but a seafood bar. Think piles of raw oysters, crab legs, broiled lobster, raw calamari, raw shrimp, steamed shrimp, grilled fish, sauteed mussels... the list could go on and on. Irresistable... and resist we could not, so we filled our plates with seafood (and I added some asparagus and hearts of palm to my pile...). When we arrived back at our table, our plates were stacked two or three high, in preparation for switching out plates. We dined on our seafood, without any regret although our stomachs were filling up... and then the meat started to arrive. One chef in particular kept coming around with a cutting board of different cuts of meat... there were no swords here. I admit, the tourist in me wanted to see swords. But the presentation was still very nice and the meat itself very good. I mistakenly said that I liked my meat "medium" ... medium resulted in well-done meat every time and at some point, I just stopped getting meat for myself, and ate off my companions "rare" (read: medium to medium rare) cuts. We had many parts of the cow - sirloin, filet mignon, rib eye etc... chicken legs, pork loin, and sausages also came around. The meats were generally tasty, albeit a bit salty and some dry (we found that much of the food in Brazil is saltier than we would normally prefer). The selection was less so (meat-wise) compared to Fogo, but the smaller selection of meat was made up for by the seafood selection (although I will admit that I missed the bacon wrapped chicken and bacon wrapped steak that I always looked for at Fogo).

Next time, we decided we would do it differently. One of us (or perhaps two) would get the "seafood" option and the other two (or one) of us would get the "meat" option. We spied on the tables near us that got "seafood" and instead of having steak brought to them, different types of seafood made with many different preparations were brought to them. Think the buffet but even more.

There was also a dessert bar... I wandered over there to check it out, but my belly was way too full. The dessert selection didn't look as promising, plus it costed extra. One thing I wished I would have tried there was a caipirnha... I've yet to have an actual one here (I don't count the teeny one with the feijoadas), and there was this push tray of glasses and caipirinha ingredients next to our table. Marius actually has their own cachaca. Next time. We've seen churrascarias everywhere in Rio and Fortaleza. I'm not sure if they are actually filled with tourists or locals... or perhaps both. Marius seemed to have a mix of company -- we arrived on the earlier side, and two large tables of who appeared to be locals were finishing up birthday celebrations, before several waves of non-locals arrived. We head back to Rio after our stay in Fortaleza... I admit that I am curious to try another churrascaria. Perhaps we will venture back. As for now, we are eyeing some of the restaurants in Ipanema for more modern fare... We'll have to see.

No comments: