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Review: At Texas de Brazil in Tampa, feast on meat, then repeat

TAMPA

It was about this time last year that a swanky new chain restaurant came to town, touting a pledge that nothing on its menu had more than 475 calories, and there wasn't a pat of butter to be had in the building. It was the dawn of a new, healthy way of dining out.

Seasons 52 is still going strong. But this year, we have another new chain, and it is hard to see it as about anything other than indulgence.

Texas de Brazil opened in February across from International Plaza. It's a company that is approaching two dozen outlets, each featuring nicely dressed gauchos wielding grilled meats on swords in an fancy setting.

It is the stuff of airline magazine ads and expense accounts. And if you are in the mood to eat a lot of meat, it's just the ticket.

It is a fixed-price meal. For $43, you sit down, and they start bringing meat to you. The website suggests there are as many as 14 kinds of meat available. On our visit, we saw 10. The diner regulates the amount of meat with a red-light/green-light card on the table. The only limit is individual capacity. Know this and make decisions responsibly.

The parade of meat is impressive, and critiquing them individually a little silly, as each skewer that comes out of the kitchen is going to be different depending on how long it sat over the fire, and how hot the fire was at that spot. Most of what we got came out in the medium-rare/medium zone, though we got a couple of cuts cooked more thoroughly. All of the meats were well seasoned. Asked to pick a favorite, I'd say the flank steak. It's a very beefy cut, rare and meltingly tender. As for my least favorite? I guess I don't understand putting Parmesan on pork.

The salad area — a remarkable display of salad ingredients and prepared salads and side dishes — is so extensive that the restaurant claims to be a steakhouse that a vegetarian will love. I put that to the test, dining with a vegetarian. The array of vegetables, cheeses and breads makes it a reasonable claim. At $25, it probably isn't a place that a vegetarian would make a destination of, but certainly there is more than enough to make an interesting meal. Favorite items from the veggie board were sweet, earthy roasted baby beets and the hearts of palm salad.

A trip to the salad area did cause me one problem. I was away from the table when the gaucho with the barbecued pork ribs came to our table. And he was the one guy who never came back.

Details: 4112 W Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa; (813) 871-1400. Reservations suggested. texasdebrazil.com

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday; 4 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday; 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Price: $42.99 for full dinner, $24.99 for salad bar only. AmEx, V, MC

Decor: It is in an office park fronting Boy Scout Boulevard. The walls are floor-to-ceiling windows. The palette of the dining room is red, wood, metal and stone.

Service: A member of the team of uniformly dressed gauchos always seems to be at the table offering one of the meat options. Constantly. For the most part, though, if you have the card on the table with the red side up, they'll respect it. As soon as you change the card to green, there will likely be someone there to offer you protein.

Meat: We were offered — and accepted — smoked sausage, Parmesan-coated chicken legs, picanha (a cut of top sirloin that is the house specialty), bacon-wrapped chicken breast, Parmesan-coated pork, leg of lamb, bacon-wrapped filet mignon and flank steak. There was also barbecued pork rib, but we missed that.

Sides: Servers bring cheesy bread rolls, mashed potatoes and sweet fried bananas to the table. At the salad area, there are also meats, cheeses, sushi and side items like black beans and rice, soup and sauces to go with the meats.

Beverages: Extensive wine list and a full bar. They specialize in the Brazilian caipirinha, based on a rumlike sugarcane liquor and flavored with fruit.

Desserts: There is a tray full of options that are not included in the base price. It is unlikely you'll have room.

Dress code: The website says "smart casual." The predominant fashion statement in the room is often shorts and polos, though the atmosphere supports a night of getting dressed up.

Outdoor seating: There is a patio with both a lounge area and a dining area, and after-dinner cigars are available.

When to think of it: When entertaining clients or out-of-town family. Particularly if they are confirmed carnivores.

Review: At Texas de Brazil in Tampa, feast on meat, then repeat 04/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 4:38pm]

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