Bad to the bone
It’s rare to get an opportunity to try a national cuisine that’s completely new to me. It can be enlightening and exciting, filling me with the satisfaction of a good meal and the anticipation of future good meals. But sadly, the experience can also be frustrating and disappointing—and disheartening because I’m not sure whether it was just the restaurant that was disagreeable or whether the entire country has bad taste.
Unfortunately, my recent experience at Braza Grill veered more to the latter. There were enjoyable aspects of the meal, but it will be awhile before I’m willing to give Brazilian fare another try.
Braza Grill is located in the inexplicably doomed location that used to house Lyons, Colombo’s, Bananas, Shanghai Shanghai and probably a few other restaurants I’m forgetting. Braza Grill has only been in the location for a couple months, and if it’s gone in a couple more, you might blame it on the wait staff—our principal waiter was curt, irritable and generally unfriendly. A sample conversation:
“Drinks!” the grumpy waiter grunted.
“I think I’d just like a water, please,” responded my friend Michele—rather bravely, I might add.
“OK! Four waters!” Before anyone else in my party could order a drink, the waiter abruptly stomped away.
“I haven’t had service this hostile since I was England,” said my friend Mark.
I ordered the restaurant’s specialty: the Rodizio Grill ($18.95), a wide variety of meats sliced straight from skewers onto your plate. It’s basically an all-you-can-eat meat deal with chicken, sausage, pork, beef, lamb, sirloin … it comes with an accompanying plate of rice, vegetables, polenta, potatoes and, according to the menu, fried bananas, though there were none on my plate. The Braza Mixed Grill Lunch Special is a similar deal for lunchtime—but at only $8.95, it’s a great deal for meat-eating Atkins dieters.
There’s a special waiter who walks around with a skewer of meat in one hand and a machete in the other for carving slices onto your plate. He was much nicer than our regular waiter, which was good since he was heavily armed. I struggled to keep up with the rate of the incoming meat, but my vegetarian father, tagging along for the meal, was appalled: “Are you really going to eat all that? You know, buddy, you’re stomach is only this big,” he said, brandishing his fist in my face, “and I’ve seen you shove way more than that into your face.”
“Dad, quit parenting me in front of my friends. It’s embarrassing.”
Braza Grill isn’t a great place for vegetarians like Michele and my father, both of whom ordered the beguilingly spiced vegetable lasagna ($12.95), the only vegetarian entrée. It wasn’t bad, but, as my father said, “It’s a long way from lasagna. This is more like eggplant parmesan.”
Mark ordered the Feijoada ($14.95), a black bean stew that supposedly, according to the menu, has “pork square ribs, ham hocks and sausage,” but Mark just found one large lump of fat and bone that resembled a hoof covered in beans.
“I’ve eaten all of the edible parts of this,” Mark proclaimed a few minutes later. There were a lot of fat and bones left in his bowl.
I have a friend who’s planning on traveling to Brazil this summer. After eating at Braza Grill, I gave him this piece of advice: Pack a lunch.