That Food Guy
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
  Texas de Brazil - Tampa, Florida

Texas de Brazil

4112 W Boy Scout Blvd

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 871-1400 


Many countries have traditions carried over from their pioneering days. In the Western United States we have cowboys, trail drives and barbecues that incorporate many of the unique flavors, ingredients and cultures of the American Southwest. It is no different in the rest of the Americas. In Mexico there are vaqueros and charros. There are many regional names in South America but we are probably most familiar with the cowboys of the pampas. The pampas is a large, flat and fertile plain that includes southern Brazil, much of Uruguay and part of Argentina. We know those cowboys as gauchos. Each of those regions have enshrined their cattle ranch hands in legend and frequent works of fiction much as we have here created the cowboy myths.

Common to all are meals taken together either during the cattle drives or at the end of the trail. Here we have the chuck wagon and the barbecue with all the traditional Southwestern fare. In Southern Brazil they have the churrasco, Portuguese for barbecue, it is meat on a skewer and roasted over coals. A churrascaria is a house where churrasco is served. It may be served as proportioned meal on a plate or it can be served rodizio, for a fixed price, all-you-can-eat. When served rodizio-style, passadores, meat waiters, bring skewers of the freshly roasted meats to the table and slice off pieces for the diners. Common to most is a table top token that is used to signal ‘More’ or ‘No More.’

Churrascarias are not common here in the United States. There are a few chains and their presence seems to be increasing. One of those chains, Texas de Brazil, is represented in West Central Florida by their Tampa restaurant. It was our pleasure to be the guest of my wife’s Aunt Effie and Uncle Gil for lunch at Texas de Brazil. I am all for it when someone wants to treat me to lunch. Cousins Alan and Kyla were also there. It all made for a compatible party of six.

The restaurant building appears to have been purpose built. Nicely furnished and maintained, it boasts of high-ceilings that maintains a low ambient noise level; one can talk across the table in a normal voice. Center stage, against the back window wall, is the soup and salad bar. They are open daily during the dinner hours; 5 to 10 weekdays, 4 to 10 weekends. In addition, they are open Friday 11 to 2, for lunch and Saturday and Sunday, 12 to 3, for brunch (may vary with location).  They serve rodizio-style for preço fixo, a fixed price. With each meal you can select just the salad bar, a meal in itself, of the meat course which includes the salad bar. For Dinner: salad bar $24.99 and meat course $44.99. For Lunch: salad bar $19.99 and meat course $24.99. For Brunch: salad bar $19.99 and meat course $24.99. A 10% discount is offered for seniors and a 15% discount is offered for the military. Call for reservations. I would hazard a guess that they use the reservation totals to schedule the meat going into the churrasqueira.

We arrived just about the appointed hour. The hostess showed us to our seats within moments of our arrival. Our server, Camille, was there to greet us and take our beverage orders. The restaurant does feature a full service bar (where bar patrons can order downsized meals from their own menu) and a wine cellar for wine by the bottle or the glass. Then it was a short walk to the salad and soup bar.

Salad bar is a bit of a misnomer; it is much more. The salad bar itself is a free standing kiosk. Next to it is a serving counter with many tureens; rice, black beans, au gratin potatoes, and soup du jour (that day it was lobster bisque. On the salad bar there are some small bowls of lettuce. But this salad bar is not about the lettuce, it is the fifty or so other items to choose from including salami, prosciutto, shrimp, steamed asparagus, sliced tomatoes, green beans, cheeses, olives and grilled sausages. Carnivores and vegetarians alike can make a satisfying meal from the salad and soup bar.

Returning to our seats we found the side dishes had already arrived, small bowls of garlic mashed potatoes, sweet fried bananas and Brazilian cheese bread; little almost bite sized pieces of tasty bread. As a side note, it was probably there, somewhere, either on the salad bar or on the table. I am speaking of chimicchurri sauce. It is a green sauce made of parsley, garlic, olive oil and oregano. It is used as a serving sauce for meats. I was anxious to try this unfamiliar sauce but forgot about it in all of the activity. You will have to tell me how you liked the sauce on your next trip to Texas de Brazil.

Since we all were served from the same bowl, so to speak, I will tell you about my meal as a collective for the table. At the salad bar I chose the following; sausage, olives, marinated cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, potatoes au gratin, pickled hot mix carrots, shrimp, potato salad, steamed green beans and steamed asparagus, Genoa salami and some prosciutto. It would have been a fun meal all by itself. I returned to the table and sampled awaiting the arrival of the passadores. Each of my selections was excellent; taste and texture as you would expect it to be. Each place setting has a small disc resembling a coaster. One side is green meaning More Please, and the other side red for No More Thank You.

The meat, carried by the passadores, comes from the kitchen in batches. There were more than a dozen kinds, perhaps less than twenty; too many to really keep track of. There are offerings of lamb, many cuts of beef, pork and chicken. I passed on the lamb, not one of my favorite meats. I did hear that it was very good. The beef; flank steak, ribs, filet, etc., were all excellent. They are cooked to about medium rare inside. If you prefer a more well done piece of meat you have to ask for an outside cut. When the passadores come to your table, they are holding a large skewer of meat, a large sharp knife and a small dimpled metal saucer. The dimpled saucer is placed on the table and the sharp point of the skewer sits in the dimple. He then starts a slice down the length of the meat. He waits until you use your tongs to grab hold of the meat and then he completes the cut. Each place setting has a small tongs similar to a sugar cube tongs. The meats are seasoned before cooking and you will have little use for your salt and pepper shaker; all had excellent flavor, savory and juicy.

With such an over-abundance of food, I didn’t sample all of the meat offerings. As I mentioned I passed on the lamb, but of all the other selections, save one, were, to my tastes, excellent. The chicken thighs were cooked skin on. That made for a very juicy piece of meat but also a bit greasy with the chicken fat from the skin. It wasn’t bad but it was far from a favorite piece. The side dishes, the garlic mashed potatoes, bananas and bread were all excellent.

The manager was a busy fellow. He was never obtrusive, almost always in the background, but he was there making sure everything was working smoothly. Our server, Camille, did an excellent job. She kept our glasses full and responded quickly to requests. Like a good server, she was a very definite reason we had such a good meal, a good time at Texas de Brazil.

We were all engrossed in after dinner chatter as the last of our dinner plates were cleaned. Camille arrived with a large tray of dessert items. Yes, there is a whole other menu page for dessert things. There were some luscious looking items but there were no takers. We had all sated ourselves on the meat and salad bar items. There was no room left for dessert; we had gone from gourmet to gourmand.

It was a great meal that we all enjoyed. A good meal is so much more enjoyable with good company. Good company was in abundance at that table. Save for the kindness of Aunt Effie and Uncle Gil, the dining at Texas de Brazil might not have come to pass. I will always be thankful for their generosity and courtesy. And all our thanks to the staff of Texas de Brazil for their kindness and service.

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