I’m not sure if it’s because of my wanderlust for Rio de Janeiro or simply because I love the idea of an endless rotation of richly seasoned meats being sliced onto a plate in front of me while still sizzling hot off the grill but I’ve been wanting to try Rodizio Grill in downtown Stamford since I first moved to Connecticut. Rodizio Grill is a restaurant chain which considers itself “the first authentic Brazilian Steakhouse or churrascaria in the United States” and was established by Ivan Utrera, a native Brazilian born in Sao Paulo. The downtown Stamford location opened in 2012 and Mr. Forever and I finally made it there for date night a few weekends ago.
The instant we arrived, I noticed that the Stamford Rodizio Grill crowd was completely different than anywhere else I’ve been to dinner in Stamford so far. A trendy young couple gazed at each other over drinks while a large family with adorable kids laughed at the next table and I’m fairly sure I noticed a few Downtown Stamford power players enjoying a moment out of the local spotlight. The diners were diverse and the restaurant somehow managed to feel upscale and laid-back at the same time. As we settled into a corner booth, I immediately felt at home, if not quite in Brazil, but the fact that our main server, Camila, was a Brazilian native lent some authenticity to the experience. Her drink recommendations were perfect- the passionfruit martini for me and, of course, Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha (which Rodizio Grill offers in a variety of flavors) for him. I tried both and have no complaints. She also explained that “rodizio” means rotation in Portuguese and is a common dining style in Brazil.
The red and green wooden toggle on our table served as our signal to the restaurant’s “gauchos” (cowboys) as to when they should come by with their offerings and when we were taking a break from the endless stream of meats and grilled fruits or vegetables. Almost as soon as we flipped to green, a (handsome) gaucho appeared table side wielding a sword (well, it looked like a sword!) and offered us slices of glazed pineapple from his skewer. He was followed in short order by fellow gauchos, each wielding a different variety of freshly roasted meat. It was all coming so quickly that we had to pause (toggle on its side) almost right away just to focus on what was already on our plates. We soon got the hang of it and as the night went on we were able to manage the options continuing to come by at a steady clip. We were taking full advantage of The Full Rodizio- described on the website as “a succulent variety of rotisserie grilled meats, glazed pineapple, a gourmet salad bar, authentic Brazilian appetizers, and an experience like nowhere else.” At $29.99 a person for dinner (and significantly less for lunch and brunch), it’s a pretty great value for unlimited appetizers, salads & rotisserie grilled meats!
Mr. Forever also took advantage of the unlimited salad bar that’s included in The Full Rodizio to fill up on sides and had good things to say about the pasta. I preferred to enjoy my meat with the appetizers (included with the salad bar) as my sides. The polenta fries were my favorite (Camila says they taste just like the polenta she has at home!) but I can’t deny that I made quick work of the Brazilian cheese bread and the cinnamon-glazed banana fritas (which Mr. Forever kept trying to hog because he liked them so much) as well. What can I say? They were addictive!
When you find at yourself at Rodizio Grill (don’t you sort of want to be there right this very second?), you may feel overwhelmed by all the options circling around you. Here are the grilled items I recommend keeping your eyes peeled for (and don’t be afraid to ask when they’re coming out!):
1) The Fraldinha (Beef Tender). I enjoyed all of the beef options but this cut was the most memorable. I shamelessly asked for second helpings when it came back around!
2) Abacaxi (Glazed and Grilled Pineapple). Warm. Sweet. Pineapple. Need I say more?
3) Alcatra con Parmesan (Sirloin with Parmesan Cheese). This one looked a little scary at first (think furry meat) but if you like beef and you like cheese, you’ll find this different and just interesting enough to draw you in for another helping.
4) Cordeiro (Boneless Leg of Lamb). The only thing that would have made this leg of lamb any better would have been a side of Colmans classic mint sauce but that’s not very Brazilian now is it?
Mr. Forever was a fan of the Assado (Marinated Brazilian Brisket) which was a bit like a stew, served with potatoes, carrots, celery and onions. Personally I felt the Eastern European influence that permeates parts of the Brazilian culture (hence the gauchos) a bit too much in this dish (I wanted a little more fire, kick, salt) but I’d say it’s worth a try on the first pass. He also recommends the Peru Com Bacon (turkey breast wrapped in bacon) if that’s your thing.
When Camila brought over the dessert platter, we had to decide which of the decadent-looking options we wanted to share. By that point we were so stuffed from dinner that we only managed a few bites before we had to call it a night lest gluttony get the best of us. I suppose next time I could opt for the lighter (and cheaper) option of just having the unlimited salad bar and perhaps the daily fish selection, but I’m not the kind of girl who believes in going to a steakhouse unless I’m looking for some beef. Or sweet and spicy chicken. Or sausage. Or any of the other tempting options at Rodizio Grill. We decided to split the Rabanada (a cinnamon pastry, similar to fried dough) and the Brigadeiro Royal Banana Sundae (a three layer chocolate cake buried under a mound of sundae toppings- this is definitely a two person dessert!) and the waitstaff was sweet enough to bring me out a slice of the Pudim de Leite (caramel flan) with a lit candle in it for a belated Brazilian birthday serenade. Needless to say, they pretty much rolled us out of the restaurant afterwards. While the desserts were yummy, there’s no doubt that the grilled options are the star of the show, so I think next time I might just focus on the churrasco and save some banana fritas and a few slices of grilled pineapple as my sweet ending.
The one minor drawback to the “date” portion of the night was that Mr. Forever was seated facing the recently redone bar area. I occasionally caught him glancing lustfully at the flat screens suspended over the spacious bar, likely picturing himself settled into one of the seats and cracking open an ice cold bottle of Xingu, a Brazilian beer that Rodizio Grill carries. Given the happy hour specials Rodizio Grill offers from Tuesday to Friday (hint: free appetizers!), I can’t say that I’d blame him if he ends up going back with his boys to enjoy a game or two without me! In all fairness, as we later took a quick walk around the restaurant (which can seat an impressive number of people in its main dining area) and peeked into the open kitchen and the private dining room that can be reserved without any additional charge (and also comes equipped with a flat screen TV and separate sound system), he completely lost my attention as I began to fantasize about all the events I could host there (the working girl’s version of Sunday dinner for the family! A birthday party! A young attorneys networking night! A Scandal watch party!). We just couldn’t help ourselves. While it’s a great place for a couple to share a lovely evening together (and it was lovely) or for a large family to have a fuss-free meal, Rodizio Grill in Stamford offers so many different dining and socializing possibilities that you too will have barely finished your first meal there before you start thinking about your next.
Have you ever dined at Rodizio Grill? Would you like to? If so, then stay tuned, there’s a fun surprise in store for you next week!