When night falls over southern Brazil, groups of gauchos gather around flickering fire pits and celebrate the end of another day by slowly grilling meat over the open flames. Novilhos Brazilian Steakhouse aims to capture the spirit of these traditional meals by hosting all-you-can-eat churrasco feasts that Zagat scored as "very good to excellent."
The chefs roast up more than a dozen cuts of meat, including filet mignon, bacon-wrapped chicken, lamb chops, and pork sausages. Servers dressed as gauchos parade these freshly grilled skewers throughout the dining room, stopping at diners' seats and offering to carve them slices tableside. In between these protein-laden servings, guests can visit the salad bar and load their plates up with more than 60 different side dishes, such as fresh-cut vegetables and imported cheeses.
Tempero do Brasil transports diners' taste buds to the northeastern state of Bahia and beyond with a menu of authentic Brazilian fare. Feijoada, a savory black bean stew and the national dish of the Portuguese-speaking republic ($17), swims with ham hocks, sausages, and beef and arrives with an entourage of rice, sautéed collard greens, and orange slices. In the traditional moqueca de camaräo ($18) expertly trained prawns and vegetables perform a smoldering samba amid coconut milk, lime juice, and palm oil and the festa ($15) loads sautéed mushrooms and parmesan cheese into a baked-squash boat and sends it sailing into tomato-sauce seas. Seal the meal with a dose of caramel-flan dessert ($5) trained in the art of capoeira. Tempero do Brasil showcases live Brazilian music Saturday nights, filling the air with the distinctly South American sounds of the bossa nova and the glockenspiel.
"Fumaça" means "smoke" in Portuguese, and it's an apt name for this steakhouse. The obvious connection is that the cooks roast their meats in a mesquite charcoal grill, which releases aromatic smoke as it intensifies the flavor of the cuts. But there's another reason why smoke is especially relevant: it travels, far and freely. Fumaça's menu does the same, gathering dishes from Colombia, Peru, Puerto Rico, and of course, Brazil.
Inside the restaurant's sleekly modern confines, Peruvian halibut ceviche can be ordered alongside pork belly rubbed with Caribbean spices, or a Puerto Rican octopus cocktail salad. The ingredients defy international boundaries even further—many of them are local, such as the grass-fed and organic meat, whereas others come from as far away as the Amazon. But while the protein might be from the northwest, there's no denying that the rodizio dinners are a Brazilian invention. Guests sample different cuts of beef, poultry, lamb, and pork during the extravagant all-you-can-eat meal. There's also a long list of wines and cocktails, including specialty drinks made from tropical fruits including guava, passion fruit, and grapes that were wearing sunglasses.
It's nice watching someone else make dinner for a change?especially when the meal prep becomes a full-on show. At Tokyo Steakhouse, chefs bring their culinary skills tableside to entertain diners with flaming onion volcanoes and knife juggling. They can hand-wrap cucumber, green onion, and masago into spicy-tuna sushi rolls, and grill steak, chicken, and fresh vegetables for teppanyaki dishes. Accompany your meal with a specialty cocktail such as the Banzai, which is a mixture of tropical fruit juices, rum, and a splash of almond, and finish the meal on a sweet note with mochi ice cream.
Chef John Howie has always had the Bellevue dining culture in his blood. According to Seattle magazine, he started bussing tables at a local restaurant at age 15 and hasn't looked back since, building up a culinary empire with four venerated Washington restaurants bearing his creations.
At John Howie Steak, Chef Howie works with executive chef Mark Hipkiss, grilling USDA Prime steaks aged up to 42 days, American Wagyu steaks from Snake River Farms in Boise, Idaho, Pure Blood Wagyu beef from Victoria, Australia, and Japanese A5 Wagyu beef from the Kagoshima and Miyazaki Perfectures. The meats sizzle over an open-flame mesquite, charcoal grill, holding onto a mineral-smoke flavor far superior to other restaurants' Twinkie-smoke-flavored steaks. The imported cuts mingle with local organic produce and dairy as well as wild mushrooms and truffles culled from throughout the Pacific Northwest. John Howie Steak's robust wine menu complements the meaty textures and full, smoky flavors with more than 600 selections from California and Washington, as well as far off lands such as Spain, France, and New Zealand.
21 Central Steakhouse's extensive menu centers largely on its specialties: USDA prime corn-fed beef and fresh-caught seafood. The posh steakhouse's steaks are all seared in a 1,800-degree broiler, creating a deeply flavored external char that houses the juicy, broiled-to-order interior—similar to the one that houses Wile E. Coyote after an ACME bomb malfunction. After starting with a plate of baked goat cheese ($9.95) over tomatoes Provençal with chive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, boost your vitamin B12 intake with a 10-ounce center-cut filet mignon ($42.95) or a 20-ounce porterhouse ($46.95) and add a side of creamed spinach ($8) for color. You can also enhance your steak by dousing it with a coat of 21's brandy chanterelle sauce ($5), caramelized balsamic onions ($4), and more.