Thursday, December 11, 2008

Swords of meat in Ipanema -- Carretao Churrascaria

I have been meaning to write this entry for months now (unbelieveable that it has now been MONTHS, how fast time flies...)

One of my favorite meals we had in Brazil was at our second churrascaria -- Carretao Churrascaria. We decided to take the late flight back from Brazil so we could have a full day on our final day. Sadly, the storms rolled in and the weather wasn't exactly ideal for beaching or meandering around. So what was the next best option? Lounging around at lunch of course ... at least as long as possible.

We decided to go to Carretao in part based on recommendations and in part because it was across from Shopping Leblon (and nestled amongst numerous other stores). We hadn't shopped very much during this trip and what better time than right before we planned to leave!

We didn't know what to expect when we arrived at Carretao -- although it was fairly late for lunch, the entire restaurant was full and bustling. Long tables were filled with families celebrating birthdays, couples were dining on the sides hailing over the waiters, an electric model train chugged along the ceiling, and the general mood was energized and cheery. I secretly was happy to see the waiters carrying around swords of meat (as oppose to just presenting the food on wooden planks as at Marius from our first foray into Rio churrascarias) and was slightly mesmerized by the wide selection of food.

(My first plate...)

In any case, we were seated at a side table, right next to the buffet (hello sushi! 20 types of fresh salad! bacalhau a bras -- a Portuguese dish of codfish stew with potatoes, olives, and egg! fresh shrimp! hello gigantic leg of serrano ham!) and right next to where the waiters popped out of the kitchen with their sizzling cuts of meat. We had our trusty cards to flip over to "green" for "please feed us with lots of meaty goodness!" or to "red" for "must... take... a... break." We had our cold beverages and ordered our side dishes (sweet plaintains, rice and beans, polenta...). We were set.

We ventured to the buffet to start with and stocked up on a bit of everything. I started off with some sushi (never can get enough of it), roasted red peppers, hearts of palm, fresh steamed shrimp (see above!)... We were sure however not to stock up TOO much (and with the knowledge that we could always come back for more, we felt like we could indulge more as the afternoon wore on...).

It was time to flip to green! Almost instantaneously, three waiters arrived at our tables (it reminded me somewhat of when first sitting down for dim sum and the swarms of carts that come to your table...).

The selection of grilled items as extensive. Standouts included the picanha (my favorite -- salty slice loin served with garlic), maminha (beef tri-tip roast, best medium rare or rare!), Argentine contra-filet, miolo de alactra (rump steak), pork ribs (see right)... The meats, to me, were perhaps juicier than those at Marius. There were a number of more unusual dishes including grilled chicken hearts (many many tiny hearts on each skewer!).

One of my favorite surprises was the grilled pineapple -- the grill technique brought out the extreme sweetness of the pineapple with a bit of tartness to wake up the tastebuds. It was perfect after eating so much protein.

(The heavenly flavorful pineapple)

The experience was different than that at Marius - but not necessarily better or worse. I'm glad that I tried both of the churrascarias and I would urge other Rio visitors to try out multiple churrascarias to find one to suit their liking (that is, if you can find time between all the other appetizing restaurants!).

Overall, I thought that Carretao was a very satisfying place to end our Brazilian adventure. We got to order our "chopps" that we learned about on our first day, sample Portuguese and Brazilian treats, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon out of the cold rain. The prices were reasonable as far as churrascarias go in Rio, the service was friendly and helpful, and the food was delicious (and offered some pleasing surprises along the way).

Carretao Churrascaria (Ipanema)
Rua Visconde de Piraja, 112
Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil
Phone: 55 (21) 2267.3965

1 comment:

Tangled Noodle said...

I've been to Fogo de Chao and another local 'churrascaria' concept restaurant in Minneapolis but I don't recall it being as appealing and drool-inducing as your description. Thank you for reinforcing my need to go to Brazil!