Delicious meat sweats

Gaucho serves up a carnivore’s dream

All it took was one simple meal for Brazil to be added to my list of places I must travel in order to sample more of their regional cuisine.

Before going to Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue located in a not-so-great location south of Spiller Road east of Macleod Trail I can’t recall eating anything specifically touted as Brazilian. All I knew heading into this meal was what I had heard: Gaucho is “an all-you-can-eat place with endless meat” and it had barbecue in its name. Based on the description I figured it would be a winner but then again I’ve been fooled by monikers before.

At Gaucho there are only two options: the all-encompassing rodizio ($35 for supper $28 for lunch) or the smaller build-your-own combos ($13 to $20). We agreed the rodizio option was the only way to go.

For starters we share two appetizers: the mandioca frita ($8) and pastel frito ($5). The mandioca better known as cassava a root vegetable popular in Africa and South America is fried crisp on the outside yet retains its wonderful fibrous texture. We are also treated to some polenta that wasn’t mentioned on the menu. Like the cassava it too was topped with sea salt and parmesan cheese.

The pastel frito consists of light pastry dough accented by a splash of cachaça — a Brazilian alcohol made from sugar cane — and is filled with a choice of vegetables beef chicken or bananas. We are told that beef is the only option available the day of our visit which is fine. Reminiscent of Jamaican patties the three delicious pastel fritos disappear quickly and we settle in for a dining experience to remember.

The rodizio concept is incredibly simple: on the table there’s a little cardboard cow — one side is green one side is red — and while the green side faces up the passador will bring meat to your table. Lots of it. The meat is cooked on custom two-pronged skewers that are carried right to your table. A base plate to catch drippings is laid down and the chef cuts you as little or as much meat as you’d like using what would best be described as a sword.

Soon enough our side dishes and some oversized plates arrive as we wait for our passador. The family-style side dishes include potato salad a green salad feijoada (traditional Brazilian black beans and pork) white rice and tomatoes in a vinaigrette dressing. They are all good but the real star of the show at Gaucho is the meat.

Over the next hour we are treated to barbecued mild Italian sausage chicken wings pork loin rump roast bacon-wrapped chicken bacon-wrapped beef lamb top sirloin garlic steak and lastly some generously sized beef ribs which explains the oversized plates. Every single cut is superb and the rump roast and bacon-wrapped chicken are both standouts.

After conceding defeat and flipping our cow to red we are brought some barbecued bananas with powdered chocolate and cinnamon. They are fantastic and mushy and I encourage you to try it even if you think it sounds unappealing.

Gaucho is definitely not vegetarian-friendly but for those who like to indulge in a carnivorous lifestyle Gaucho is top-notch. Does anyone know when Carnival is?