Fixed feast: Station Square steakhouse brings culinary concepts from Brazil
By Sandra Fischione Donovan
Published: Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The newly opened Texas de Brazil Churrascaria in Station Square isn't just a restaurant, but a “dining experience,” its employees say.
And the first clue they might be right is the massive, eye-popping floral arrangement of birds of paradise, bells of Ireland and foxtails in hues of red, green and gold that dominates the room.
The enormous arrangement symbolizes the gargantuan churrascaria — or steakhouse — feast to come.
For a fixed price, diners are treated to waiters in traditional South American gaucho pants and boots carrying sword-length skewers of meat to each table. These meats include chicken wrapped in bacon, steaks, pork ribs, rack of lamb, top sirloin caps and filets mignon. The servers begin slicing the cuts for diners, who then grasp the slices with tongs at each place setting to put on their plates.
Diners leave discs on their tables with their green sides up — “ Sim, por favor ” (Yes, please) — if they wish more service. They turn them down to the red, or “ Nao, obrigado ,” (No, thank you) side if they are chatting or dining.
“For one price, you sample everything,” says the chain's culinary director Evandro Caregnato, 42, now of Dallas. Caregnato is a native of Caxias do Sul, a city in southern Brazil, which he says is part of gaucho country.
“Everything” includes not only the meats of Texas de Brazil but limitless trips to the international salad bar. The salad bar offers various imported cheeses and charcuterie; sushi and pan-seared ahi tuna; smoked salmon, Brazilian black beans and pork; and a variety of other seafood and salad items. Small, spherical Brazilian breads, garlic mashed potatoes and sweet fried bananas are served at the table with each meal.
For vegetarians and those who opt out of the meats, a fixed price of $24.99 enables them to partake of the salad bar and side dishes.
The glass garage-style doors around the perimeter of the red-walled restaurant open in pleasant weather to scoop in breezes off the nearby Monongahela River and dancing water fountains of Station Square.
Caregnato was working 15 years ago as a chef and restaurant owner in his native Caxias do Sul when he met an American, now one of the chain's owners.
“He loved the concept and decided bring it to the United States,” Caregnato says. That Americanizing of a Brazilian culinary concept also meant bringing Caregnato, who helped open the first Texas de Brazil in October 1998 in Addison, Texas, a Dallas suburb.
Caregnato opens each restaurant outlet and returns to each periodically to check on operations.
Texas de Brazil has more than 20 locations in 14 states, Puerto Rico, Aruba and Trinidad and Tobago. The Pittsburgh location opened May 1.
Caregnato demonstrates how the 17-foot-long stainless-steel Brazilian rotisserie works to cook multiple skewers of meat at a time.
“It is a piece of equipment you cannot control,” says Caregnato of the glowing wood charcoal embers. It's good that diners like various levels of doneness in their meats, he says, because, invariably, each cut contains some areas that are more well-done, as well as rarer areas. The chain buys American beef only from certain meat purveyors.
“It's something new and exciting for the area,” says Pittsburgh Texas de Brazil general manager Thomas Loerop, 44, a Chicago native, now of Marshall. In addition to what Loerop says is “great selections, great ambiance and great service,” Texas de Brazil has an extensive wine list, with bottles tucked away behind glass walls in the dining room.
Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Texas de Brazil Chicken Breast Wrapped in Bacon
Bacon lovers will say that everything tastes better with bacon, and the tasty chicken of Texas de Brazil is no exception. After all, bacon fat packs a lot of flavor, as does the salt that cures it, so adding bacon to mild chicken definitely amplifies the flavor of the bird.
But the bacon is just one factor contributing to the savory flavor of Texas de Brazil Chicken Breast Wrapped in Bacon. The chefs marinate the chicken chunks in an herb-filled, flavorful marinade and then roast the skewers of bacon-wrapped chicken over glowing wood embers.
The dish is ideal for an outdoor summer barbecue, but Texas de Brazil culinary director Evandro Caregnato says it can also be made indoors in a grill pan.
For the marinade:
1 ⁄ 2 cup premium red table wine
1 ⁄ 3 cup olive oil
1 ⁄ 2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh sage
A few sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the chicken:
2 pounds of boneless chicken breast, cut in 3-ounce chunks
Salt, to taste
10 to 12 slices of smoked bacon
For the marinade: Using an electric blender, blend all ingredients for a few seconds. The marinade can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
For the chicken: In a glass bowl, season the chicken with salt and pour the marinade on top of the meat. Mix and let it rest for at least 6 hours in the refrigerator, covered with plastic film.
Heat the grill to medium/high heat. Wrap each chunk of chicken with one slice of bacon (see photo 1 ).
Using tongs, place the meat on the grill, with the bacon facing down ( photo 2 ). Turn it a few times, allowing the bacon to achieve a golden color. The chicken is ready when internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Makes 4 servings.
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