Carnaval Brazilian Grill
160 York Blvd. (Easter Beaver Creek and HWY 7)
Today (Sunday) friends invited us to go out for lunch at Carnaval Brazilian Grill. Having read negative reviews on this board, I was unsure, but decided to go with them anyway. Let me tell you that I had a pleasant surprise and a nice experience.
The dining room is large, clean and spacious, with a bar on one side and a salad buffet on the other side.
When we sat down, we were offered a small plate with mini cheese puffs (pao de queijo), sliced deep fried bananas and polenta sticks. My recommendation is to eat the cheese puffs when they are still warm, they taste better before they get cold.
I ordered a caipiroska, a traditional Brazilian cocktail made with lime, sugar and vodka. Variations include caipirinha (lime, sugar and cachaca) and caipirissima (lime, sugar and rum). My caipiroska was quite good. Caju still makes the best one in town, but Carnaval is a close second. They also offer guarana Antarctica, a typical Brazilian soda, in addition to a wine list and other drinks and pop.
If you are not familiar on how a Brazilian grill works, basically you choose your salads from a buffet, sit at your table and waiters bring large skewers of meat and slice the meat at your table. This way of enjoying meats allows you to have a large variety of meat in a single meal. When the waiter slices the meat at the table, you can choose how well done you like your meat and how much of it you want. It is a very traditional way of having meat in Brazil. If you are not able to accept different cultures and find the entire experience "silly", please keep your opinion to yourself and go to a traditional North Americal steak house; to call our tradition "silly" is an insult to most Brazilians.
The buffet at Carnaval consisted of a small selection of breads, salads (popato, pasta, salpicao, beets, coleslaw, etc.), cold cuts and cheese, vinaigrette sauce, hot dishes (curry chicken, beef, beef with beans, rice, beans, farofa, collard greens) and dessert (fresh fruit, chocolate brownie squares, nanaimo bars, rice pudding, banana pudding). The buffet is smaller than what you would usually find in Brazil, but I believe it is adequate.
I was personally not impressed with the salads, they could be better; the salpicao was too dry and the potato salad was bland. The rice and beans, traditional Brazilian staples, were good. The farofa was excellent. Collard greens and vinaigrette sauce were good. Desserts left a lot to be desired, but they are included in the price and are certainly not the focus of the meal.
Carnaval serves 14 different cuts of meat, plus pineapple.
In Sao Paulo, most Brazilian grills (churrascaria rodizio) start the meal with pork sausage (linguica de porco). This was not the case at Carnaval and I had to ask the waiter for it. Unfortunately Carnaval does not use the traditional pork sausage; the one that was served was dry. A very poor choice.
Next I had a small slice of trip tip (maminha), which was fantastic, tender, juicy and very flavorful. Meats in Brazilian grills are seasoned by rubbing salt on the outside. This way you can truly taste the meat and not the flavor of some other seasoning.
The beef rib (costela de boi) was the highlight of the meal in my opinion. Wonderful taste and juicy, both times I had over lunch.
The pork rib (costela de porco) was very good the first time I had it. It was not melt in your mouth, but it was very flavorful. Unfortunately the second time I had it over the meal, it was dry, so I cannot say that it was excellent.
A delicacy in Brazilian grills is chicken hearts (coracao de frango). Carnaval prepared it with strong garlic flavor. In my personal opinion, it should be cooked a little bit longer; the way it was being served at Carnaval, it was a little bit chewy.
Instead of chicken wings, they were serving chicken thighs, which were very tasty. I didn't miss the chicken wings at all.
The rumpsteak (picanha) is generally served thinly sliced and it was very good, tasty as well. They also served it in larger pieces with garlic (picanha com alho), but I personally prefer it thinly sliced.
The top sirloin (alcatra) received compliments at the table as well, although I did not try it because I don't like this cut.
Pineapple is rubbed in cinnamon and sugar and rosted before being served. One pineapple was sweet, while the second one we had was acidic. A hit and miss.
I read comments from people saying that the meats were too salty. A Canadian friend at the table said that for the North American palate, probably it was a little bit too salty, but this is how it is served in Brazil. Not sure what to do in this case, should Carnaval put less salt and make it more bland to adapt to the local taste, but then loose in terms of authenticity?
Missing were the tenderloin (filet mignon) and lamb (cordeiro), but honestly, I didn't miss them much. Tenderloin is not very tasty when prepared in a skewer and is usually wrapped in bacon to add to its flavor.
Buffet only is $10. Lunch is $15. Dinner is $28, except on Saturdays when there is an additional $10 cover charge for entertainment. $2 for pop or coffee and $9 for caipiroska.
All Brazilians at the table agreed that this is the most authentic Brazilian grill experience we had in Ontario so far, compared to Red Violin (on Danforth) and Copacabana (in Niagara Falls). Another indication that this is an authentic experience is that the place was packed with Brazilians. Almost all servers and waiters are Brazilian. We only found one waiter who was not Brazilian: a friend asked if they had "pastel de queijo", and the waiter asked her what cut of meat that was. LOL
Dining room: http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e31...
Buffet 1: http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e31...
Buffet 2: http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e31...
Meat cuts: http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e31...
Caipiroska and guarana: http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e31...
Salad, sausage and farofa: http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e31...
Trip tip (maminha): http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e31...