At one time, churrasco, or Brazilian barbecue, was a rare and exotic change of pace for most Utahns.
All right, it's still a change of pace for most of us. But churrasco restaurants, or churrascaria de rodzio, have flourished in Utah and elsewhere recently. If I were a trend-watcher, I'd call churrasco the new Thai partially because it's enjoying a wave of popularity, and partially because there's real quality underpinning the fashionable flourishes.
Such is the case with Braza Grill. It lacks the cavernous eating space of other churrascarias I've visited. Instead, Braza's dining room is more intimate, with a warm, natural ambience well-designed to show off this down-to-earth cuisine.
The many Brazilians working and eating there give it the feel of a family dining room. Our server and the waiters who offered us meat were uniformly friendly, attentive and businesslike.
We started with the Brazilian sampler, a great introduction to Brazilian food, especially when paired with one of Braza's frothy, fruity limeades. I especially liked the sampler's kibe, beefy meatballs firmed up with wheat, and the esfiha, bread pockets stuffed with ground beef.
But the rest of the appetizer was good, too. The coxhina is moist chicken in a soft batter, and the cheese risolis wrap the same batter around a filling somewhat reminiscent of a Christmas cheese ball.
There's a fine salad bar at Braza Grill. One side has hot dishes such as meaty rice casserole, creamy au gratin potatoes, chicken stroganoff and fried bananas, while the other has cold salads.
The ingredients and combinations make the cold side fun: I made myself a green salad of crisp-leaf lettuce, mozzarella cheese, hearts of palm, marinated mushrooms and roasted red pepper, with a raspberry dressing. There are also prepared cold salads, all of them unusual and enticing.
My husband liked the salad bar, but he was there for the churrasco: big hunks of meat sliced at your table from huge, sizzling hot slabs on enormous skewers.
On a typical night, Braza offers two types of top sirloin, beef tenderloin, lamb, pork sausage, chicken, pork loin, ham, grilled vegetables, bacon-wrapped turkey and pineapple. They'll also make chicken hearts upon request.
We didn't get around to trying everything, but everything I tried, I liked. Highlights were the chunks of tenderloin dripping with juices, the plump-to-bursting and slightly spicy sausage, and the sweet-glazed, fork-tender ham. The garlic sirloin had a sharper, deeper flavor than the rest of the meat, and the pork loin was milder and sweeter.
But no matter how much meat you devour, say "sim" whenever they come around with the pineapple. Cooking brings its sweetness vibrantly to life and gives the outside a pungently intense crust.
You'll probably stuff yourself silly and have no room for dessert. But if you do, Braza's finishes are worth it. We tried and liked the caramel ice cream, a cake of soft, sweet-dark ice cream topped with candied pecans and chocolate sauce. We also had the apple tiramisu. It's topped with cinnamon instead of cocoa powder, and apples take the place of ladyfingers. The result is bright and fresh, with the apples bringing a tangy top note to the sweet, creamy mascarpone.
That alone is worth a visit to Braza Grill. But there are plenty of other enticements, as well.Appetizers $4.99-$6.99, sandwiches $4.99, barbecue-feast lunch (includes churrasco and salad bar) $9.99, barbecue feast dinner $15.99, salad bar lunch $7.99, salad bar dinner $10.99, entrees $8.99-$19.99, desserts $3.95.
Rating: *** 1/2
Where: 5927 S. State, Murray
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Closed Sunday
Payment: Checks, credit cards
Phone: 506-7788Web: www.braza-grill.com
Stacey Kratz is a free-lance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org