Skewered cuts of sirloin, brazilian sausage, and pork ribs rotate slowly over a sweltering grill, their savory juices producing a rhythmic hiss as each drop hits the metal. This is churrasco, Xodó Grill's specialty. Once the traditional Brazilian barbecue has roasted to a tender finish, the staff slices off juicy morsels for customers to pair with 12 types of salads and a slate of hot dishes from the colorful buffet. Heaping plates of fried yucca, picanha, and cheese bread await the scales, which customers use to pay by the pound and Lady Justice uses to smuggle extra cuts of steak.
Brazilian Steak House | Award-Winning Churrasco | Hot-Food Buffet | Caipirinha Cocktails | Fixed-Price Menu
How it Works: During this all-you-can-eat fine-dining experience, customers are first seated at tables bedecked with white linens. Then, a server parades out a selection of 16 churrascaria meats, carving off a portion of skewered beef, lamb, pork, or chicken. A two-sided, colored coaster—green for "keep it coming," red for "I'm stuffed"—lets the staff know if you'd like seconds or thirds. Diners can also help themselves to the buffet of salad fixings and side dishes.
Inside Tip: Vegetarians can skip out on the meat and pay a reduced price for the salad and sides buffets. The extensive salad bar is filled with traditional choices as well as tabbouleh and pickled shiitake, and the hot side dishes include a "mashed potato so smooth it could pass for crème fraîche," according to OC Weekly.
Caipirinha: a Brazilian cocktail made with the sugarcane-based spirit cachaça and lime juice
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Amazon Churrascaria BBQ Buffet (1445 S. Lemon Street, Fullerton), more casual—but no less authentic—spot for Brazilian cuisine according to the Los Angeles Times.
Brazilian churrascarias—a kind of Portuguese barbeque joint—have their roots in traditional celebrations of a successful harvest. At modern churrascarias, waiters walk around with skewers or roasted meat, cutting off all-you-can-eat portions of steak, pork, and chicken directly onto your plate. Diners interested in rounding out a years' worth of protein can find endless accompaniments at the salad bar and buffet of Brazilian hot dishes or try traditional drinks such as caipirinha or guarana, a Brazilian soda.
Gol Brazilian Restaurant's cooks prepare top sirloin, bacon-wrapped pork, chicken hearts, and other meats in the traditional gaucho style—by skewering them onto metal rods and slow-roasting them over charcoal. Besides the succulent churrasco selections, a buffet of fresh, flavorful salads and hot dishes such as spaghetti carbonara and croquettes round out the menu. Patrons can sip fresh fruit juices, beer, or wine and finish meals with creamy flan and other desserts while observing the footwork of Brazilian soccer teams on the flat-screen TV.
Named after a French WWI airplane, Nieuport 17 pays homage to aviation, displaying a dense collection of flight-themed artifacts and artwork amid dark-wood panels, low lighting, and crackling fireplaces. The food, however, is just as impressive as the decor. The restaurant's tuna tartare was one of OC Weekly's 100 favorite dishes of 2013, and CBS2 named the lemon sour-cream pie one of its best summer desserts. And those are just a few of the dishes that come out of Nieuport 17's kitchen, headed by executive chef Cody Storts.
A Culinary Calling
In 2013, OC Metro magazine named Storts one of the best chefs in Orange County. The graduate of LA's Le Cordon Bleu began his journey in the front of the house, though. It was only after bartending and managing at various area restaurants that he realized the kitchen was his calling.
A self-proclaimed "kitchen ninja," Storts relishes the challenge of unusual ingredients and unexpected pairings. This approach helped him craft the menus at a number of celebrated eateries. After appearing in several guest-chef events at Nieuport 17, he eventually took the helm.
Here, he holds weekly tasting events, testing ingredients and recipes before adding them to the menu. At his side are the self-titled Culinary Militia, Storts' trusted band of chefs, pastry makers, and mixologists.
Cuts of filet mignon aged up to 35 days steam under coats of béarnaise sauce, and kurobuta pork chops glisten with drizzled necklaces of cherry butter. Skuna Bay-Vancouver Island craft-raised salmon mingles with a citrus-saffron marmalade and seared diver scallops flaunt a garlic-dijon beurre blanc. At Manhattan Steak & Seafood, chefs see the culinary world as a grand soiree, mixing and mingling plates accessorized with stunning sauces and accents—each capturing its own admirers. Their fish have flown in from around the world and their steaks have been aged more than a month, but even these can’t overshadow the fraternity of wild game: bison, elk, boar, and ostrich.
The aromas of pepper and garlic fill the restaurant's five themed rooms. The "Red Room" derives its name from richly upholstered crimson booths, which stand in contrast to stark white walls. The wine cellar is illuminated by sconces set into castle-like stone walls. Jazz musicians descend on the lounge area Wednesdays–Saturdays, prompting foot-traffic on the hardwood dance floor. Live music also adds a distingué touch to the Sunday champagne buffet brunch, which features tables of colorful pastries, carving stations brimming with meat, and unlimited champagne.