A few weeks ago, my mom and dad took Rob and me out to dinner for our 5th anniversary. Five years! It seems like only yesterday that we were having our first celebration together. Anywho, for such a fun occasion, my mom and dad researched one of the top ten restaurants in Jacksonville – a Brazilian steakhouse.
We walked into the restaurant first noticing the intoxicating meat smell, and the busy speediness of gaucho-dressed men delivering meat galore. Drinks were flowing, people were joyous, and keeping to traditional Brazilian style, the plethora of meat (lamb, steak, pork, chicken!) was brought to diners on giant saber-like sticks. I was filled with new-experience excitement, Rob’s carnivorous eyes were about to pop out of his head, and my parents’ giddiness was palpable.
Our hostess sat us at the best seat in the house: in the back of the massive room next to the wine cellar, with a clear view of all the restaurant action. It was explained that the buffet was for appetizers and side dishes, and at any time we could help ourselves to the feast. But, of course, not before opening the bottle of champagne for such a celebratory occasion.
The man explaining the buffet tag-teamed the next act of their choreographed dance, and three well-dressed men scurried to the table, one bringing the standing ice bucket, one with a black towel French-ly draped over his arm, and another who, I guess, just came to watch. Really, it all happened so fast – the “pop” of the cork and it landing in front of me happened almost simultaneously. It was weird, and as I picked up the cork to express my confusion, only then to see my mom rubbing her head. In a Brazilian whir, the towel man held his thumb over the bottle top (not the towel mind you), and the standing man rushed to her side. Rounds of “I’m sorrys” and “Are you oks?” flourished, and as being the only blond at the table, I was the last to figure out the obvious – the cork popped early, flew by me, bounced off the wine cellar glass, smacking my mom upside the head.
Needless to say, the corkage fee was waived, and uber excellent service was to come.
The appetizers were a feast in themselves. Cheeses, meats (ironically), veggies of all colors, bread, olives, you name it. As only one can naturally do with big eyes and a hungry stomach, we all loaded plates (full plates – none of those dainty appetizer plate things), and rushed back to the table. The sense of urgency was profound in this place! So much action, so much food, how was one to contain oneself?
Forks in hand, the four of us dove into our meal-in-themselves appetizers, only looking up to longingly ogle a gaucho walking by with a stick o’ meat. Then that gaze fell on each other with a pining urgency – the silent understanding of the dire need to finish the veggies on the plate ASAP.
Finally (but probably eaten in record time), the veggies were done. But next were the sides! My dad somehow developed cat-like moves and in 3.2 seconds made it to the buffet table and back with a lovely helping of creamy mashed potatoes. Rob took this as the baton handoff for getting his sides and got up to tackle the buffet, but didn’t seem to be as fast. Not being able to contain ourselves any longer, my mom, dad, and I flipped our meat tokens to green and like moths to a flame, gauchos were at our service.
Our first cut happened to be the house specialty, a top sirloin perfectly cooked, juicy, and medium rare. With a smile (and I swear a glitter in his eye), the Brazilian man (who could have been from Hoboken for all I know) elegantly sliced off a piece of meat. Then in true gaucho-patron collaboration, we took the tiny silver tongs sitting with our utensils and grabbed the falling meat. It truly made the most barbaric idea of eating meat off a stick into one of the most fun and classy restaurant experiences.
As my mom, dad, and I glutinously moan over the meat, we realize that probably the biggest carnivore among us is still missing – poor Rob! Here we are devouring the Brazilian meat and Rob is stuck at the potatoes.
Upon Rob’s return it didn’t take long for him to catch up. All of us completely had our fill and one by one turned our green meat tokens to the stopping red side. Except, that is, when the ribs went by. Then my dad and Rob had to try. Then it was red. Oh, but then the filet came ‘round again. Ok, one more. Now red. Wait, wait, wait – was that the house special again? Sir?
This carried on for a bit and actually got to the point where the gauchos knew that our red tokens did not mean stop. They really meant, I’m-totally-stuffed-but-if-you-walk-by-me-with-a-stick-o’-meat-I-have-the-inabilty-to-decline-so-pile-it-on-boys!
The bustle of the restaurant kept on, but like most good things, our indulgence came to an end. Rob wiping his brow was also a clear stopping sign. Meat sweats are a real thing, you know.
Not really realizing until the very end of the night, the restaurant manager had kept a close eye on our table – he was probably watching for anymore rogue corks, or flying meats, or God-forbid a sword fight. We received many, many thanks for dining there, and we in turn gave our gratitude. What a night!
I’ve been saying for years now that if someone made a television show about my family, people would be binge-watching us. Our Brazilian night was no exception, and no joke!
As this is my food blog, I could try and recreate the perfectly marinated meat, or try to reenact the night for the sole purpose of a recipe, but I won’t. Some stories are best just leaving a taste of laughter – you’ll have to go and taste the meat on your own!