The story of the churrascaria starts in the high plains of Brazil, the Pampas, where land is rich and soil fertile. It became tradition for the ranchers there to host feasts to celebrate their bounty. Especially enjoyed were the plentiful meats from animals that grazed the land. The cowboys, or gauchos, developed an out-country method of barbecuing fresh cuts of beef, pork, chicken and lamb on skewers over open-pit fires to bring out intense flavor and aroma. This churrasco cooking style was soon adopted by restaurants across Brazil, evolving into the popular steakhouses they are today: no menus, just an array of roasted meats on skewers brought around to the tables for guests to graze upon. "Rodizio" is the name for this type of service it's like a buffet, only they keep bringing the food to you until you say, "Enough."
Texas de Brazil elegantly brings the churrascaria to Orlando. Started by a Brazilian family in Texas, the chain has been around since 1998 when they opened their first restaurant in Addison, Texas. Now there are eight restaurants around the country and in Aruba, including Orlando. Preserving the churrascaria's roots while upscaling the experience, Texas de Brazil uses rich but rustic design elements heavy wrought-iron doors push open like horse stalls, riveted metal adorns the bright walls and ceiling; copper bowls of fire sit aside gorgeous sprays of fresh flowers.
Pleasure and overindulgence are the rules here. The music is loud, the colors vibrant. The smell of garlic and wood charcoal waft through the room like a pair of lovers dancing the samba. Walking past the sprawling salad bar that rounds out the meaty main course, one is overwhelmed by the sense of abundance: Fresh items such as carrots, celery, tomatoes, spring greens and cucumbers lie next to specialties like fresh buffalo mozzarella, shrimp ceviche, green beans with walnuts, artichoke and raisin mélange, and mushrooms sautéed with wine and garlic. And there's a huge section dedicated to Latino favorites, such as succulent black beans, garlic soup, tender rice, farofa and yuca.
Back at the table, they dropped off cinnamon-sprinkled sweet fried plantains, garlic mashed potatoes and a small disc that looks like a coaster one side green, the other red. In keeping with rodizio custom, the green signals an onslaught of servers to bring oversized skewers of top sirloin, Brazilian sausage, roasted lamb, chicken wrapped in bacon, Parmesan-encrusted pork, filet mignon, pork ribs, flank steak and at least six other cuts of juicy, scrumptious morsels, including the unforgettable garlic-marinated picanha. If there were an Olympic category for cooked meats, Brazil would win with this heavenly beef rump cut. Feeling full? Turn the disc to red, and they'll give you a break, so you can head back up to bar.
The churrascaria meal fits well in the low-carb diet craze, but I wouldn't set foot in one without downing at least a half-dozen pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls). And there is enough starchy yuca in the place to carb-load an army. Actually, all food groups are tastefully represented. Dinner is $39.99 per person and worth every hard-earned penny for the excessive amount of quality cooking it buys you. So come with an appetite, and remember: Brazil is known as a country of gorgeous people who like to frolic in scantily clad fashion they must be on to something.