A Brazilian all-you-can-eat BBQ

Published on page 13 of the Weekend section of The Star in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
January 3, 2004

Cards on the table tell the passador (above) if you want seconds. He will then carve the meat or fish at your table.Cards on the table tell the passador (above) if you want seconds. He will then carve the meat or fish at your table.

One may be inclined to think of football, and perhaps samba, when one thinks of Brazil, but what about good food?

If you’re looking to discover Brazilian cuisine and culture for yourself, head on down to Bom Brazil Churrascaria (pronounced cho-khas-ca-khria, which with the rest of the restaurant’s name means “Good Brazilian Barbecue”), nestled in the cluster of elegant eateries and trendy taverns that is Changkat Bukit Bintang.

Step in and you will notice the distinctly informal ambience of the restaurant, from its tables – gaily decorated in the colours of the Brazilian flag – to the soccer paraphernalia that adorns its walls (soccer is, after all, an institution in Brazil), to the curious dolls and figurines on display, each with their own story.

Adding to this charming informality is the fact that there is no menu, since the restaurant offers an all-you-can-eat buffet of barbecued meats that would make the most carnivorous of individuals ecstatic.

Not big on meat? Not to worry as Bom Brazil offers a selection of salads and pasta in the buffet, including the delightful Brazilian dish of rice topped with tapioca shavings (or feijoada) and red beans in a light sauce.

However, the restaurant’s true specialty is the barbecue, and sampling Bom Brazil’s tender cuts of beef and other meats is an absolute must.

The style of serving is truly unique as servers trot out an array of skewered meats, prepared to perfection on the restaurant’s churrasqueira, a special infrared grill which keeps the meats moist and juicy while ensuring that they do not get burnt to a crisp.

You can choose to say yea or nay to having more meat served to you by simply flipping the card with which each diner is provided: the red side of the card with the words “NÃO, OBRIGADO” means “No, thank you” (in Portuguese), while the green side says “SIM, POR FAVOR” or “Yes, please” if you’re in need of more sustenance.

We began with succulent cuts of striploin shish kebabs, sirloin and tenderloin, piling on the tender meats with reckless abandon as we savoured their lovely dark pink colour and rich flavour.

The cuts were excellently complemented by the piquant garlic and pimata (Brazilian cili padi) sauce, which added enough of a “kick” without singeing the tastebuds of those like myself who are not too keen on the super-spicy.

The even less adventurous can try a variety of other sauces – mint, barbecue, and a sweet-tart vinaigrette – which are provided at the table along with the garlic and pimata sauce.

Bom Brazil’s managing director, the proud Brazilian Siri Guimaraes, informed me that no marinade is used on the beef at all, except stone salt, giving the meat a lightly seasoned flavour without that overly-robust aroma that beef sometimes has.

Next to be brought round to our table were tender whole chicken hearts and livers, delicately appetising in a lemon and garlic marinade – a great light bite before we gorged on more beef.

We washed down our meats with caipirinhas (kai-pi-rin-nyas), refreshing Brazilian cocktails with a deceptively mild lemony tang and barely a hint of its main ingredient – cachasa.

The cocktail, made of lemon juice, white sugar and a double shot of cachasa – a type of spirit made from sugarcane – is not for the easily inebriated at a whopping 40% alcohol content. However, it is a perfect foil for the heaviness of the rest of the meal and marvellous on a hot Malaysian night. Just be careful to have a designated driver if you’re planning to indulge in a caipirinha as the cocktails go straight to your head!

Also try the caiprifrutas, which replaces the lemon juice with your choice of pineapple, kiwi, orange or strawberry juice for a sweet alternative to the sharper taste of the caipirinha.

The décor pays tribute to Brazil and its football.The décor pays tribute to Brazil and its football.

Moving on, we tried the absolutely brilliant barbecued chicken, marinated in a secret Brazilian concoction which consists of orange juice and honey, among other ingredients, resulting in a unique, honey flavour that simply demands a second (and third, and fourth) sampling.

The barbecued dory fish fillet with a garlic sauce is great for seafood fans, although the fish is a trifle bland. For a guilt-free, non-meat option, snack on lightly barbecued pineapple slices, sprinkled with fragrant cinnamon powder.

Before we decided to turn our cards red side up for the night, we had a go at the buttery garlic beef, which was something different as the garlic gives the beef an interesting aroma that you really have to try for yourself.

In line with the excesses of the night, I dug into Bom Brazil’s Sweet Chocolate dessert, a chewy, toffee-like mound of chocolate powder and condensed milk, covered in chocolate sprinkles, which is likely to send chocoholics into cardiac arrest.

Also available on the dessert menu is tiramisu, Brazilian pudding (which is similar to cream caramel), ice cream and Sweet Pumpkin (a dish made of pumpkin and coconut).

While we nursed our caipirinhas and bloated stomachs, Guimaraes entertained the guests with a performance on the berimbau, a fascinating hunting bow-like traditional North Brazilian instrument played with a fiddle. Its sound quality is manipulated using a stone to place pressure on the bowstring, through which sound travels before being amplified by a hollow gourd attached to the bottom of the bow.

Guimaraes added that he usually plays the berimbau in full costume, accompanied on a Brazilian drum by his brother Raymond, who also oversees the preparation of the barbecue. The multi-talented brothers perform for private parties on the second level of the restaurant, which may be booked for a minimum of 20 people. A special demonstration of the samba may also be arranged for a truly Brazilian experience.

In fact, Bom Brazil Churrascaria is one of the few places in town where you can transport yourself to South America for a night and be back in Kuala Lumpur before the sun comes up. All this for RM65 nett (all-you-can-eat, excluding drinks and dessert).

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