Wrapped in the aromatic embrace of Zona Sul Churrascaria’s smoldering barbecue pit, up to four friends gather over unending portions of Brazilian meats, rice, and vegetables. Diners pile thick slices of meat onto their plates as they gaze in wonder at the crackling sirloin steaks and pork sausages skewered on spits over the flames. Beef ribs line up in rows as foursomes hammer out xylophonic bossa nova songs with their forks, and chicken thighs strut to samba beats on palate dance floors. A bountiful salad bar complements the orchestra of sizzling proteins with rice, green vegetables, and whole onions painted to resemble soccer balls.
Yolande Lacan grew up surrounded by great French cuisine. Her father, Noel, was a gourmet French chef. As a child, her family lived in an inn that featured a handful of restaurants—one that specialized in old-world French food and another that served sweet and savory crepes. When Lacan found that New Haven lacked an inviting corner bistro with good onion soup, escargot, and steak tartare, she took it upon herself in the fall of 2012 to open Yolande's Bistro and Creperie, which incorporates all of these staples of French cuisine.
Lacan and her cook Stephanie aim to create traditional French cuisine that is “not too fancy or intimidating,” such as frog legs Provençale and duck leg confit. In addition, Lacan folds imported cheeses and salmon into gluten-free buckwheat and oat-flour crepes, and chops champagne bottles open with a saber. Dinner and brunch feature plates that are a touch fancier than the average cafe, while lunch features casual French-inspired fare such as cracked-pepper burgers and bistro beef sandwiches.
In parts of Brazil, families and friends come together during a centuries-old tradition called churrasco. At these festive barbecue-style gatherings, hosts cook enormous amounts of food, and guests eat until they're stuffed. Inspired by that tradition, Elaine Lima opened Brazil Grill with a similar vision in mind. Here, the grill runs all day, rolling out an assortment of juicy meats that includes pork loin, ribs, lamb, and top sirloin presented in a colorful buffet alongside vegetables and other Brazilian-style sides. It's a simple setup that makes guests feel as at home as they would at their own friend's barbecue.
Brazilian native Ivan Utrera came to the United States with a stack of family recipes and an idea for serving bottomless portions of rotisserie-grilled meats. That style of eating, similar to that in a churrascaria, has been popular in Brazil for many years. Rodizio Grill has since expanded to several locations, where servers armed with giant skewers of marinated pork loin and beef saturated in garlic travel around the dining room, carving off the meat tableside. The chefs also slow-cook on the grill and expertly season Brazilian sausages, lamb, chicken hearts, and pineapples. Much like a list of terrible babysitters, the selection of adventurous meats often includes rattlesnake, bison, and wild boar.
The chefs at O'Hana Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar expertly roll dozens of sushi specialties and sizzle meat-centric Japanese entrees atop a hibachi grill. Snag a seat at the bar to watch chefs chop, slice, and wrap the popular Snow Crab Heaven roll, a blend of cream cheese, snow crab, and avocado topped with spicy mayo ($11.95), and other specialty rolls on the menu. Bite into the Hottie Susan’s molten core of spicy tuna, cucumber, and salmon ($12.95), or let daring chopsticks challenge the Dragon ($9.95), a California roll packed with eel and a deep-seated grudge against questing knights. Alternately, chefs can flip fiery portions of steak, chicken, shrimp, or scallops on a traditional Japanese grill to yield four types of hibachi dinners ($12.99–$17.99 each) flanked by onion soup, a house salad, grilled vegetables, and rice. Kid-friendly options, including pint-sized portions of teriyaki chicken ($8.99) and steak ($9.99), keep young mouths busy so they don’t shout out parents’ computer passwords in the middle of dinner.
The menus at Sakimura's two locations change regularly in order to incorporate the freshest seasonal ingredients and the chefs’ newest culinary muses. The Simsbury location is known to intermingle traditional Japanese flavors with contemporary flourishes, with specials taking forms such as foie gras with sweet miso sauce. Both locales’ sushi chefs also invent their own creative rolls, such as a deep-fried Godzilla roll and an Out of Control roll filled with shrimp tempura and topped with seared pepper tuna.
Diners seeking a hot dinner can gather around hibachi grills and watch as chefs sear their choice of shrimp, chicken, scallops, filet mignon, or any number of other gourmet ingredients. The hibachi rooms' smokeless grills and modern yet warm decor combine to create a pleasant dining experience.