I’d never heard of the meat sweats until a friend mentioned how her family would suffer from them every time they went to her Mother’s for Sunday lunch and by all accounts, was pretty much served half a cow per person (with all the trimmings and then followed by pudding of half a cheesecake topped with cream). The notion of people eating so much meat to the point that they break out in a sweat was alien to me, not only because I eat a lot of vegetables in my meals anyway, but also because I only thought that people sweated mainly from eating hot and spicy food. Since then, I’ve heard it everywhere and perhaps more often than is appropriate for somebody my age, I look for every opportunity to comment on how people are suffering from the meat sweats. So, upon discovering that a Brazilian Churrascaria restaurant had opened in Birmingham and I was keen to try, even though the likelihood of getting the meat sweats was quite high..
Amazon Brazil has only been open in Birmingham for about a month and is situated at the top end of Broad St, near the Five Ways roundabout. Truth be told, I rarely venture this side of town unless I’m catching a concert at Symphony Hall as most of the restaurants are from large chains with no real soul in their cooking and the service may not be the best as a result. As for the bars and clubs, I’m old enough to start complaining that it’s “not music, just noise” (Thank You Mr Peter Kay for that genius line). Therefore it was quite something to actually get me to go, even with the last-minute panic of wondering what I’d let myself in for given Broad St isn’t really known for its culinary excellence.
I got there early on a Sunday evening and the place wasn’t particularly busy (not that I expected it to be given the day and time). However, there were a few tables in so it wasn’t like we were the only people in the restaurant, which was a good thing as it’s quite a large room. At the table, we looked over the drinks menu and there are predictably a lot of South American wines to choose from but as far as I was concerned, the only drink I wanted was a Caipirinha. No other drink shouts “BRASIL!” at me more so than a decent Caipirinha. Drinks were a bit slow getting to us but I could forgive them given there was only one server and she was busy trying to look after 4 tables at opposite ends of the (aforementioned) large room. However, the Caipirinha she made was delicious – Not full of crushed ice as you so often get in bars these days and when she informed me that she put in extra Cachaça, I was not going to complain. K’s Kir Royale was equally nice and at £6, you can’t really complain too much about it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a churrascaria, it’s quite simple: Different types of meat of grilled on a rotisserie (churrasco) on long skewers, which are then brought to your table and offered to be carved tableside by the passadores. You have 2 discs on your table – 1 green and 1 red, green means that you are happy to be approached by the server and red means that you’re OK for the moment and don’t need/want to be approached by the server (or you’ve hit The Wall with the meat sweats and can take no more). There is also a buffet of hot and cold dishes to go with the meats; the hot buffet features classic Brazilian dishes like Feijoada and Moqueca, served with rice and peas and fried cassava. The cold buffet is mainly salad items and things like pasta salad. Armed with my 2 discs and a strong drink, I headed over to the buffet.
I was especially keen to try the Feijoada because it’s not something you can easily find in restaurants – Not even Las Iguanas have it on their menu. When you consider that traditionally, it used the parts of the animal that some people in this Country may pull a face at eating (pigs ears, feet and tail), you can perhaps understand why Las Iguanas don’t have it on their menu, but such things have never put me off personally – Even though my dining companion eyed me somewhat suspiciously at first. The Feijoada here is smokier than previous versions I’ve tried, but still very tasty. You can taste how the dish simmered for several hours resulting in all the ingredients giving out all their flavourings and combine together. The ox tail in the feijoada was so tender that it broke apart as soon as I put a fork to it and the beans were soft but hadn’t gone mushy. It’s quite a heavy dish so delicious as it was, I was mindful not to eat too much of it. I didn’t get round to trying the Moqueca as I hoped, though – Perhaps next time. That said, we suffered a bit from the time of our visit as the dishes had obviously been on the buffet for a while and needed refreshing but I did notice that a lot of the dishes were refreshed towards the end of our time there so that was good to see, rather than the same dishes from the lunch service still being served for dinner.
Now for the main event – The meat. Not long after I seated with my plate of feijoada, I was approached by a passadore with the first skewer of meat; Sirloin steak. It wasn’t the massive slab of meat that I was expecting, but rather a thick steak cut into smaller portions then cooked on the churrasco. However, it was still very juicy and tender despite being more medium-well done than the rare to medium-rare that I like my steak to be cooked. Thereon in, I tried pretty much all the meats on offer. In general, the beef dishes were the most successfully cooked – All the different types I tried were still tender and moist. The pork ribs had a nice garlic and chilli marinade which, combined with the smokey flavours from the churrasco, were a particular highlight, as was the pork tenderloin which was succulent and juicy.
The chicken hearts were another highlight for me and given I was so enthusiastic about them when the passadore offered them to me, he came back round pretty much straight away offering me the last few whilst they were still fresh. Needless to say, I gobbled them all up.
There were however, some less successful elements to the meal; The sausage, whilst being really garlicky, was unfortunately far too salty for my palate. Also, some of the meats had a bit too much salt sprinkled on them as was the case with the chicken thighs. The leg of lamb was sadly very dry and well done (even the rosemary stuffing couldn’t save it). That said, I think that if I had gone another time when the leg of lamb hadn’t been so obviously on the churrasco for a long period of time, I wouldn’t have had this problem.
Redemption came in form of the pineapple though. The last time I had a spit roasted pineapple was at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and (much to my surprise) I absolutely loved it, so I had an idea of what to expect from here. Traditionally, it’s served at the end of the meal, but I quite like it as a palate-cleanser so was going for it in between meats, too. The pineapple is sprinkled with ground cinnamon and sugar when it comes off the churrasco to be served to the table. The sweetness of the pineapple is accentuated by being cooked, but it was still very juicy. I reckon I could have polished off an entire pineapple to myself, given the opportunity, but I was getting a bit full so had to turn the disc to red before the dreaded meat sweats set in.
Service itself was fine – It took a while to get going, but once they did it was friendly and efficient. You could see how they were eyeing the plates and reporting back to the guy in charge of the churrasco on anything left on the plate. The drinks were good (extra cachaça is always good!) and from chatting to the staff there, they were all saying that I needed to go again “when it’s busy” so I could see the churrasco in full effect. By the time we left, the restaurant was beginning to fill up which was encouraging to see.
To sum up, the food here was OK – there were some good parts as well as some bad parts. Whilst some meats were still juicy and flavoursome, some were dry and overseasoned. I’ve already mentioned that I think that the food quality suffered from the time and day we went, but I could easily see how if I’d gone a couple of hours earlier or later, I don’t think there would be as many low points. That said, this isn’t fine dining and this is the kind of place where a group of people out for the night, who aren’t too fussed about receiving the highest quality of food and if there were any issues with seasoning, would rectify it by having another beer or cocktail. I’d happily come back here with (say) people from work on a night out for a few drinks, with some food which isn’t too high end or fancy. From chatting to the staff there, they all commented that they do get busy on Friday and Saturday nights and I can see how. It may not have been the perfect meal for me on this occasion, but I’m willing to give them another try – Perhaps not early evening on a Sunday next time. Besides, I still want to see people suffering from the meat sweats – And more of that spit-roasted pineapple.
You can view the full set of pictures at my Flickr
EDIT: I have since returned to Brazil Amazon on a Friday night with a group of friends and it was as I suspected, far better. All the meat was cooked really well – In some cases perhaps a bit too rare for some people but *every* meat was good and there wasn’t any incidents of meat being over-seasoned or too dry. The hot buffet dishes were delicious – Special mention to the Moqueca and the feijoada again. Everyone had a really good time and were near to bursting by the end of the meal. There were a few large parties in there and it looked like everyone had a good time – as did everyone in my party. So as I suspected when I originally wrote my post, going at the right time (perhaps with a group of people) and the food quality is *much* better. I think a few of us will be back