A lonely fire flickers in the night, punctuating the vast expanse of Brazil’s southern plains. A spitted side of Nelore beef roasts over the flames; from that famed beast and this timeless fireside scene, Nelore Churrascaria takes its name, recipes, and spirit.
Nelore Churrascaria’s chefs draw inspiration from the gauchos of South America, piling plates high with carvings of 15 spit-roasted meats. The spirit of the southern plains remains alive and well in the dining room, where wrought-iron chandeliers and a dark hardwood floor evoke rustic elegance as a warm breeze filters in through the front doors. Veggies, fine cheeses, and pastas fill more than 40 basins at the salad bar, whose glistening glass protects the trays from grazing cattle and errant horseshoe tosses.
Using an oversized knife, a waiter neatly slices off a portion of grilled top sirloin from a skewer packed with well-roasted meat, sliding the steak onto a plate of rice, beans, and salad. Beneath colorful abstract paintings of palm trees, guests can dig in to traditional Brazilian steak-house fare. A flat-screen TV set against the back wall displays sporting contests, and plants in the beams overhead murmur about an upcoming tree rebellion.
Inside Boteco Restaurant, cooks recreate the quintessential flavors one might find inside Brazil's botecos—informal hot spots of food, nightlife, and culture that have thrived since the start of the 19th century. Among the restaurant's specialties are salted codfish croquettes, calabresa sausage sautéed with onions, and escondidinho de camarão, a medley of mashed yuca, cheese gratin, and shrimp. Diners can also sink teeth into new york strip steak or filet mignon cut into a snowflake pattern. Bartenders fill glasses with wine and muddle caipirinhas with fresh fruit.
Living up to your dad's legacy can be tough when your dad was George Steinbrenner's go-to guy. Malio Iavarone often hosted "The Boss" during his tenure as the Yankees manager, serving him steaks at the original Malio's Steakhouse on South Dale Mabry. Today, Malio's son Derek works to produce similar hype at a new, swankier location in Rivergate Tower, where the one-word difference in the venue's name—"Prime" hints at the USDA Prime beef cooked within—belies the recipes’ faithful adherence to tradition.
Each steak, from the New York strip to the filet, receives a simple yet meticulously scattered dash of salt and pepper. Couples can even go all-out with a 40-oz. prime porterhouse for two, admittedly a more filling romantic dinner than catching and swallowing each other’s blown kisses. Aside from tender cuts of beef, the menu at Malio's boasts lamb and veal chops as well as lobster tails and Chilean sea bass cooked several ways, including blackened, Theresa-style, and pan-fried.
Like the patrons who like their steaks rare, Malio’s Prime Steakhouse seems enamored with the color red. Broad red columns stand between the windows overlooking the waterfront, and framed works by Joe Testa-Secca—Art Professor Emeritus at the University of Tampa—hang over the crimson semicircular booths. The reds from a list of more than 200 wines complete the motif.
Yuki Japanese Steakhouse satisfies wanderlustful taste buds with a tantalizing spread of authentic international fare in a family-friendly dining environment. Set sail toward appetizer island with the seaweed salad ($5) or head straight for dinner bay with the beef katsu, a breaded culet fried to a crunchy crisp and served with rice and vegetables ($17.95). Fresh sushi options include the Mexican roll, curled up with fried shrimp, smelt, avocado and mayo ($5.50), and the Rainbow roll, which cleverly combines the flavors of seven different types of fish with refracted ultraviolet light ($8.50). Harrowing hungers find a three-course solution with the filet mignon and scallops-teppan dinner, served with soup, salad, veggies, and rice ($21.95).