We were a party of 8 with completely unnecessary reservations for lunch on Wednesday - they never got more than 1/4 full while we were there. This group of co-workers was a mix of rodizio old hands (including a genuine Brazilian, a faux Brazilian (me), and a Brazilian wannabe), people who'd tried it once when I dragged them to the one in Niagara Falls, and several newbies to the concept.
Service was friendly, but scattered. Soda refills were offered nearly constantly, but water refills were impossible to obtain, even when promised. The explanation of how rodizio style dining works was difficult to follow - and I already know how it works.
The buffet consisted largely of dull looking salads covered in gloopy sauces, plus some very odd choices of hot dishes. Grey, sickly looking pasta primavera is probably there to appease the occasional vegetarian who wanders in, as would be the nasty, mushy looking mixed veg, but the overcooked looking Beef Madeira with a dried out skin on top was a complete mystery. In a place where fresh BBQed meat is the draw, who would eat that?
On the Brazilian end of things, rice and beans were fine, though the beans were a bit dull. Vinagarette was cut in too large chunks and made too freshly - the flavours didn't blend, and the whole thing was too thick and thin to be useable as a sauce. The farofa was surprisingly excellent, though, with great chunks of sausage in it, and a good, nutty flavour.
Desserts appeared to be courtesy the nearest Food Basics or Sav-A-Center, save for a quite nice fruit tray. The rice pudding was pretty good, but pretty much on the Kozy Shack end of things.
Appetizer plates included pao de queijo, fried bananas and fried polenta, and were fine for snacking on while I waited for my friends to show, but not outstanding. The fried bananas, in particular were covered in a too thick and leathery coating for the delicate flesh of the bananas. I did eat about a dozen of the little (and I do mean little) pao de queijo, out of nostalgia if nothing else.
Service from the cutters was frequent and smooth, and unlike many North American rodizio restaurants, you never felt like you were waiting. Exactly like many North American rodizio restaurants, however, there were promised cuts of meat that simply never appeared, even though we saw other cuts several times.
Most of the meat was quite good, but a few were decidedly undercooked. Beef ribs that were blue rare almost universally ended up on scrap plates. And while I eat my steak rare to medium rare most of the time, the sirloin wasn't even cooked enough for me, never mind many of my more conservative dining companions.
In their favour, Carnaval is generous with service, and with the quantities they cut, but food quality is really variable, and some of it not even minimally acceptable. For $15 at lunch, I'd consider going back, just because it's convenient and different from the usual stuff available in Markham, but they'd have to make some serious improvements before I'd even consider paying dinner prices.
Carnaval Brazilian Grill
160 York Blvd.
Richmond Hill, ON L4B3J6
Phone: (905) 709-4900
Cross Street: E. Beaver Creek Rd and Highway 7
Hours of Operation:
Lunch: Monday - Sunday: 11:00am - 2:00pm
Dinner: Monday - Sunday: 5:00pm - 11:00pm
Dinner: $27.99 (though I've heard it's more on Saturday nights when there's an entertainment surcharge)