Judging by the fact that churrascarias – Brazilian steakhouses – have been in existence for more than 200 years, it’s safe to say that the country knows its grilled grub intimately. Churrasco, the tradition of cooking meats on skewers over hot coals or embers, was invented by South American cowboys – or ‘gauchos’ – who cooked their catches on sword-like skewers out in the open. Over the years, this cuisine has evolved into a national institution in Brazil and a source of patriotic pride.
So it’s been a mystery as to why the churrasco experience has failed to be tried and tested in Hong Kong. We love grills. We love meat. And we love new experiences. But, save for The Venue over in Discovery Bay, we’ve been bereft of the churrascaria. Well, no more. Braza, the brainchild of the constantly evolving Dining Concepts group, has landed in Lan Kwai Fong, bringing with it tons of meat and a convivial dining experience suitable for a good group of people seeking a hearty meal.
It seems like the space that Braza occupies in the Grand Progress Building has always been destined for South American fare as Peruvian hotspot Mayta, also a Dining Concepts venture, stood here until the churrascaria opening. And Braza, which sports a Brazilian carnival-inspired mural and simple surrounds against spacious tables and wooden floorboards in its simple interiors, promises to be a more gut-busting affair, with the food coming ‘rodizio-style’ – where, along with a salad and a special buffet table, the meat and seafood are served from sword-like skewers right at your table. For just $388. All-you-can-eat. Bargain.
So, we loosen our belts and order our food. On the tables there are coaster-like signs which have a green side and a red one. These are traditional churrascaria signs that, when green, tell the waiters to keep the grub coming but, when you change to red, tells them you’re getting full and they need to give you a break. We keep this in mind for when the meat sweats break out. We first take a gander at the buffet line. Apart from the usual leafy greens and grilled veggies, there’s an interesting-looking seared tuna, a potato salad and a rodizio lineup of garlic rice and feijoada, a stew of beans and meats. We take some feijoada, which is full of flavour and contains plenty of pork, to keep the experience authentic but we’re really here for the skewers.
Keeping our coaster on the green side invites a lot of appetisers to our table. From the pão de queijo – Brazilian cheese rolls – to the fried bananas and the melted cheese in a pot, we feel overwhelmed by the amount of food that arrives, leaving almost no room on the table. It’s all delicious – especially the gooey cheese roll and the crispy fried banana – but we’re afraid these fillers will just get in the way of our meat consumption and we dare not take more than a few bites.
Finally, though, the meats start to come. And the first is the signature picanha (pictured above, top). The Brazilians have a saying that ‘a good picanha is like a beautiful woman’ – a good piece of meat with some fat on the side. Objectifying the human body aside, it’s exactly how we would describe this perfect cut of beef. The meat, from the rump of a cow, is pink and tender with an aromatic piece of fat attached. It’s all juicy down to the last bite. Next up, our waiters bring the skewered rib eye and slice off a piece for us to try. This cut is less impressive but still retains all the flavours from both animal and grill. The lamb rump that follows is also fragrant, rich, tender and pink.
The beef ribs that come next, though, don’t live up to the previous offerings. These are some of the richest pieces of beef we’ve ever had – too rich – and we’re glad we get some black beans and rice to break down the fat. We aren’t impressed by the chicken wings either, which are dry and lack any significant flavours. Thankfully, we’re won over again by the flank steak. This cut can be tough and flavourless in the wrong hands, but it’s superbly done at Braza as its melt-in-your-mouth texture only enriches its meaty taste.
We’re officially meated out at this point and order a pudim ($68) for dessert to freshen our palates. The condensed milk flan works wonders with the sweet dulce de leche but the quinoa mixed with ice cream on the side seems arbitrary – like someone decided to add the grain to give the dish a South American touch without thinking about how it actually works with the rest of the ingredients.
There are highs and there are lows throughout the meal at Braza. The steaks, as they should be at a churrascaria, are certainly the outstanding highs. However, other items, like the chicken, come in as disappointing lows. Having said this, the entire experience is a winner here. You do feel plenty of excitement when waiting for your next cut. You do enjoy the spacious, modern environs. And you do enjoy the friendly service. So, bar a few cuts of superb beef, Braza’s not reaching any culinary rodizio heights that you can find in, say, Rio. But who cares? This is still a great night out with good food and cheer. And isn’t that what eating out in Brazil should be all about anyway?
|Venue name:||Braza Churrascaria||Contact:|
3/F, Grand Progress Building
15-16 Lan Kwai Fong, Central