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.
In accordance with the customs of rodizio dining, this restaurant’s meat cutters carve up prime beef tableside and then pass it out on skewers. They also cart around a whole roasted pig, slicing off succulent morsels for diners to devour throughout the prix-fixe meal, which includes a first course at a buffet of Brazilian delicacies.
Vintage bicycle-themed artwork and patches of exposed brick add a certain cozy charm to Zebú Grill’s dining room, where the chefs serve everything from housemade Brazilian sausage to flan. Tropical ingredients accent most of the food and drinks—shrimp braises in coconut milk, wild salmon wears a coat of açaí sauce, and caipirinha cocktails made from Leblon cachaça muddle fresh lime and sugar.
Two of the eatery’s signature dishes include a churrasco platter with steak, chicken, sausage, rice, and beans, and Brazil’s national dish, feijoada: a black-bean stew with sausage, pork, and beef. For less-meaty dishes, the chefs also hollow out acorn squash, carve a hungry face into its surface, and fill it with seasonal veggies.
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.
In Carioca Grill's open kitchen, skewers of sirloin, sausage, and short ribs roast in the fiery churrasco. Steam rises from a nearby buffet, forming stratus clouds above hot dishes including fried yucca and shrimp stew. At the back of the dining area, a cashier weighs fare by the pound after taking off its shoes. Though the restaurant has a minimalist, casual vibe, its food brims with complex flavors and tropical ingredients prevalent in Brazilian cooking.
The chefs’ mission at Favela Grill is more challenging than it may seem: take simple ingredients and transform them into the flavorful bites that characterize Brazilian cuisine. To attain this goal, they have spent years playing with combinations that achieve surprising harmony, such as grilled, marinated salmon with a passionfruit reduction and shrimp sautéed in palm oil and flavored with coconut milk. But according to Time Out New York, “it’s the beef that lures the crowd,” be it served carpaccio style with capers and shredded parmesan or in the Costela Bam-Bam, a signature entree comprising slow-roasted Prime beef ribs served over cassava. In the kitchen, top sirloin, skirt steak, and sausages rotate on spits before being served churrasco style in the romantically lit dining room. While surrounded by colorful paintings, exposed-brick walls, and three-dimensional artwork, diners pair their seafood stews and grilled chicken with Brazil’s national cocktail—the caipirinha—or wines from France, Italy, California, Argentina, Chile, and, of course, Brazil. On Fridays and Saturdays, the sound of live Latin-style guitar permeates the room for a bit of authentic flair.