The layout of Rio Rodizio is telling: with a candlelit dining area in one section and a long bar lined with flat screens in another, it's as much a place to take a date for a romantic meal as it is a spot to grab a drink after work. In the dining room, gaucho chefs carve cuts of lamb, beef, and pork right at the table, forcing diners to clear plate space next to seared fish, homemade pastas, and sushi rolls drizzled in flavorful sauce. Like a home that's been decorated by robbing a furniture store in the dark, the cocktail menu is a fusion of tastes, its Asian and Brazilian proclivities represented by sangrias, tropical juices, and sake.
Just as the surrounding Theater District transports audiences to faraway places, Brazil Grill's dining room immerses guests in the rich culinary traditions of Brazil. Though it boasts a substantial selection of entrees, the eatery's specialty is radizio, a traditional Brazilian dining style where passadores, or meat servers, present diners with an endless rotation of skewered morsels. Patrons can nosh to their hearts' content on beef, pork, lamb, duck, and the other meats that continually appear tableside during the course of the night. To complement the authentic dishes, servers can also recommend options from the restaurant's selection of wines culled from Chile, Italy, and New Zealand. Most nights, guests eat as they absorb the sounds of live Brazilian music, the play-by-play of Brazilian League soccer matches, or napkins practicing their Portuguese accents.
Brazil Brazil Restaurant spirits diners away from the helter-skelter streets of New York City into a space rife with french doors, exposed brick, and blond hardwood. Its back patio—a white-trellised three-seasons room and kind of solarium—surrounds guests with lush flora and wrought-iron furniture that exudes the feeling of the tropics, with the scents of grilling seafood wafting over the secluded tables.
This spot is one of the best places to relax in the city, with the New York Times even lauding the patio as a “romantic retreat” and “an ideal place to escape the city’s rapid pace.” Chefs plate flavorful Brazilian dishes such as wine-marinated shrimp or pan-seared red snapper in mango sauce with sides of yucca and fried bananas. Late in the evenings, a Brazilian band starts serenading guests lounging in the bar’s cushy sofa chairs, creating a festive atmosphere. Located next to a host of Broadway theaters, the bistro is a great pre-show spot for on-the-go eaters.
Wielding knives and sword-like skewers, the servers at Texas de Brazil seem prepared for impromptu duels. However, they only brandish the blades to replenish dinner plates, slicing meat from their spears at the behest of each table. The cuts of steak, lamb, and brazilian sausage are all slow roasted over an open flame in traditional churrascaria fashion—a technique that stems from the campfire meals of Brazilian gauchos, and one that fed the family behind Texas de Brazil during their life in Porto Alegre. In an effort to bring the South American style to the States, they established their first restaurant in Texas, thereby merging down-home charm with Brazilian spice.
Today, Texas de Brazil has expanded to several award-winning locations across the country. Despite the lofty ceilings and chandeliers that characterize their venues, the staff remains rooted in ranchers' habits. They conscientiously grill and season their meat, bake brazilian cheese bread in-house, and pass classic cocktails and loaner saddles over the bar for cowboys who consider chairs unnatural. To complement savory bites, guests can browse more than 50 gourmet sides at the salad bar—a compendium of soups, vegetables, and appetizers such as imported cheeses. They can also ask the resident wine specialist for recommendations on suitable pairings from the cellar.
New York City is a long way from the Rio Grande do Sul region of Brazil, and the wait staff at Churrascaria Tribeca certainly don’t live the rough-and-tumble lives of gauchos—Brazilian ranchers who gathered around wood-burning fires after hard days’ work to slow cook prime meats. But don’t let these discrepancies fool you. Hunks of bare prime meat are still slow cooked above wood fires at this Brazilian steak house, a faithful nod to the gauchos of days past. And the waiters still carry knives in their belts, which they unsheathe at diners’ requests—via the flip of a colored coaster—to shave off perfectly tender cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. Every day, amid a parade of skewered meats, waiters march out a specialty dish, such as a roasted suckling pig towed by cart from table to table. To enjoy this spectacular parade of slow-cooked meats, it’s best to have a ravenous appetite—which is trickier than it may first seem. Each meal begins with unlimited visits to the banquet-style buffet and salad bar, where a veritable garden’s worth of vegetables, salads, and seasonal casseroles await. During meals, waiters continuously replenish sides such as fried plantains, mashed potatoes, and cheese bread, and every meal ends with the appearance of a dessert cart full of sweet and decadent treats made in-house.
There’s no questioning Berimbau chef Carlos Inacio’s intimate connection to the cuisine of Brazil when you scan his menu, a focused collection of dishes rich with traditional ingredients such as calabresa sausage, yucca, and seafood. He hails from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, an area known for its “stellar cuisine,” according to New York magazine, which also lauded Berimbau as a “pioneer” among NYC Brazilian restaurants. Berimbau is far from a common rodízio steakhouse, although there’s no lack of pork or steak on the menu. But instead of all-you-can-eat feasts, patrons select elegant presentations of distinctive dishes, such as fraldinha, grilled skirt steak served with yucca purée, sautéed collard greens, and creamy hearts-of-palm sauce. Chef Carlos continues to position his homeland’s food in a fresh, colorful context through dishes such as risotto with asparagus, sautéed shrimp, and cilantro butter. Berimbau’s wine list has been curated with pairing in mind, and the white, sparkling, and red wines—categorized as either Old World or New World—add grace notes that perfectly emphasize the potpourri of Brazilian flavors. But the beverages of choice here are the caipirinhas—Brazilian cocktails that can be mixed with passionfruit, strawberry, coconut, mango, or lime.