I'm not afraid to admit it - I love meat. In fact, I consider myself a meatatarian. So when Samba closed its doors due to a building makeover, it made me sad. Okay, I know there are those who couldn't stand the place. I can't deny that on a bad day, Samba plain sucked. Overcooked and salty meats... who likes that? And at a hefty pricetag of close to $40.00 a person, I can definitely see people steering clear of the joint. Yet, on a good day (when the meats are fresh out-of-the-grill), one would experience juicy, flavourful, medium-rare cuts of meat. For that, I always went when it just opened for lunch and dinner and got all the meats on the first go-around. Most times after that, the same cut (which was not fully consumed) would be placed back on the grill (which would lead to overcooking and saturation of flavours). Okay, enough of my babbling...
So when Mijune suggested I join her and Cassandra at Rio Brazilian Steak House for some rodizio action (not what you think!), it didn't take me more than a millisecond to say yes. In actuality, Cassandra was invited to try the place out and we just tagged along to help her with the copious amount of all-you-can-eat meat (again, it is not what you think!). Before the meat-fest, we made our way to the Salad and Hot Food Bar. What? Salad??? Yah, I didn't really eat much of that. It would only serve to fill the portion of my stomach reserved for meat. Wait, that's all my stomach! I did sample their hot food though. It consisted of 4 chaffing trays with Mussels and Shrimp, Meatloaf, Palm Oil Poached Cod, Seafood Risotto and Plain Rice. By virtue of sitting in a warming tray, the mussels and shrimp were overcooked and dry. The same could be said about the meatloaf. I'm not sure if it was the intention or not, but there was little in the way of filler (such as egg and breadcrumbs). Hence, it was mostly lean, dry meat which was both crumbly and hard.
On the other hand, I did enjoy the oil poached cod. It was moist and flaky. However, the seafood risotto did its best impression of wallpaper paste. I give them kudos for trying to serve risotto, but I think it was ill-conceived since it was not going to get any better by sitting in a warming tray.
Already sitting at our table were some "appetizers" which included Fried Banana, Chips and Parmesan & Tapioca Biscuits. The best of the bunch was the fried banana as it was done nicely with a crunchy breading. The fresh chips were somewhat soft and not all that crispy while the biscuits were quite salty. As with any Brazilian radizio, the requisite green/red cards were placed at each setting. Green means keep bringing me meat and red implies "stop, I'm in a meat coma". On that note, onto the meats (all 21 varieties in fact!). We started with the Beef Ribs where our server sliced off a generous portion of the cap. The meat was fantastic. It was moist, rich and super tender. Mijune offered to share her rack, er.. I mean her portion since she wanted to save space for the rest of the meats.
After that, the meats came at us fast and furiously. The Cubed Beef was dry and chewy, yet well-seasoned. The Bacon-Wrapped Chicken was beyond well-seasoned being salty. However, the chicken itself was moist while the bacon was crisp. The house-made Sausages were grilled up nicely with a beautiful exterior. Inside, the meat was moist, tender and quite greasy (hence being moist!). The meat was well-seasoned with fennel and caraway seeds. Although the Sirloin arrived a wonderful medium-rare, the meat itself was chewy and hard to eat. Arriving on a wooden cutting board (much like the beef ribs), the Pork Side Ribs were were fatty and moist. They appeared to be parboiled prior to BBQing which resulted in a tender, yet not-so-smoky flavour. Once again, they were a bit too aggressive with the salt.
Smokiness was not a problem with our next item, which were the Smoked Sausages. These were not made in-house and resembled a typical smokie. Nothing particularly wrong with that though since there was a nice snap while the meat was fatty and moist. Back to the chewy meats, we had the Pork. By appearance alone, we already knew it would not be tender since it looked dry and overcooked. And yes, it was salty as well. Continuing the ride on the salty train, we had the Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin. It was tender as its namesake implied, yet it was cooked too long and salty due to both the seasoning and bacon. On the other hand, the Chicken Drumsticks were not that salty and were quite tender.
From the beef ribs up to this point, there wasn't much to rave about until the Roast Pork majestically arrived. The cracklings were on point. They were crispy, airy and surprisingly light - really well-executed. The pork itself could've been more moist, but was not bad considering the previous meats. Due to its size, the roast pork was not salty and in fact, exhibited a rich roasted flavour. And then we went back to salty, dry meats with the Buffalo. Due to the natural leanness of the meat, we were expecting it to be somewhat chewy. It didn't help matters that it was overcooked though.
Even the Chicken Hearts were overdone, but at the very least, they were still somewhat tender due to its inherent texture. However, the Lamb was practically rare. It was a fatty cut where combined with the doneness of the meat, it was not tender at all. At least it wasn't too salty since it wasn't overcooked. Yet, the Parmesan Pork was super salty due to seasoning and the cheese. And since pork needs to be cooked all-the-way-through, it was dry.
As if on cue, the Roast Boar arrived to give us an intermission of sorts from the dry, chewy meats. The meat was moist and fork tender exhibiting a roasted essence. Okay, intermission over, onto the Picanha Tips (or tri-tip) which were *sigh* dry and chewy. Yes, salty too. *sigh* And the Skirt Steak, overcooked and salty (am I a skipping CD or something?). Flank Steak, chewy - yes, salty - yes... Unidentified piece of meat - I'll let you have one guess... If you said dry, chewy and salty, it proves you've been reading this whole article... Going in a different direction, we had some Salmon instead of red meat. As evidenced in the picture, it was cooked too fast and at too high of heat which lead to the protein "leaking" from the flesh. Not a huge deal because it *is* BBQ after all. The meat was a bit dry, but not horrible either.
Moving onto the sweets portion of the meal, we tried the "Grilled" Pineapple dusted with cinnamon. I put grilled in quotations because nothing about the pineapple screamed out grilled. The explanation we got was that customers didn't like charred pineapple and the cinnamon was there to add colour. Um okay... Alright, now a real dessert... The Papaya Smoothie was really refreshing and our favourite dessert of the meal. The "custard" was smooth and only semi-sweet. I normally do not like papaya, but I liked this. Next up was the Pudim de Leite Condensado or the Brazilian version of Creme Caramel. I noticed some air bubbles which meant it was cooked at too high of a heat, yet at the same time, I didn't mind it. The custard was rich and smooth and only somewhat sweet. Lastly, we had a Brazilian Chocolate Mousse type cake. It was not really chocolaty enough for our tastes and it was pretty sweet.
Okay. To put it bluntly, the majority of the meats we had were poor quality, dry, chewy and salty. Even though there were some gems, such as the beef ribs, pork ribs, roast pork and boar, they couldn't make up for the the rest of the meats. I give them kudos in trying to bring Brazilian rodizio back to Vancouver. I also applaud them for offering up a mind-boggling 21 choices of meats. Furthermore, their pricing at $15.95 for lunch (add $1.00 for weekends) and $29.95 (add $2.00 for weekends) can be considered reasonable for the amount of food offered. However, they really must focus on the quality of the food rather than merely quantity. They could easily eliminate half of the meats and people would not even notice. Lastly, they need to ease up on the salt.
*Note: This was an invited dinner where all food was comped*
- Lots of meats
- Reasonable pricing considering everything
- Comfortable dining space
- Majority of the meats are poor quality and chewy
- Overuse of salt