Day 78: Brazil
My first taste of Brazilian culture came from watching the movie Only the Strong when I was a kid. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a movie about a former Green Beret who comes back home to Miami and somehow starts teaching Capoeira, the Brazilian dance/martial art, at a high school that’s overrun with violence and drugs. Of course, it starts to help the students handle their emotions, build up self confidence and stop shooting people. But it also manages to become the only thing in the world that has ever infuriated parents and teachers as well as the local drug lord. I don’t totally remember the end, but I think the good guy won and Capoeira was involved. But as you can probably guess, it didn’t particularly inspire me to get too interested in Brazilian culture. But then I heard about churrascarias and that changed everything.
A churrascaria is basically a rotisserie style Brazilian meat restaurant. That’s great as it is, but when you make it a rodizio as well, that means that you pay a set price to eat as much as you possibly can, while men walk around carrying swords skewered with meat. For carnivores, it’s possibly the greatest thing in the world, and at Brasa Brasil Grill in Culver City (which is dangerously close to my home), you get a pretty good version for the amazingly low price of around fifteen bucks a person. Once seated, Mr. Meatball tries to order a Brazilian beer, but is told they don’t serve alcohol. However, luck is on our side tonight as our new friend Abba (who cooked the spectacular meal for Bahrain Day) arrives with a bottle of wine. “I come here all the time,” she says. “All the places in this strip mall let you bring your own wine.” We head up to the fairly extensive salad bar (which even has a hot food section), where I load up on cheese rolls, rice, pork beans, beets, soup, pasta salad and my one true addiction: hearts of palm. Hearts of palm, a vegetable extracted from a palm tree, has been best described by our old friend and early Man Bites World eater, Ultimate Manilow, who called them “artichoke heart string cheese”. The version here is made worse by a not-so-great vinaigrette, but I still manage to shovel down an unhealthy amount of them.
Still working our way through the respectable salad bar and airy, fluffy cheese rolls, we are offered our first meat: small, crispy, juicy pork sausages. And the hits just keep on coming. Sirloin, tri-tip, chicken, pork loin, bacon wrapped chicken…I’m in a very good place right now. Most of the food is very well spiced, but since the restaurant isn’t very full tonight, you have to assume some of the meat has been kept warm— meaning you have to keep an eye out for over cooked beef. But I’ve been asking for the rarest of the rare and have been getting some pretty nice, bloody slices of dead cow meat which go really well with Abba’s robust red wine. Mr. Meatball, staying true to his name, has been doing championship-caliber work here today, devouring an impressive quantity and array of meats. GirlfriendBites is sticking to salad bar and chicken, and luckily the fowl is cooked perfectly, with a crispy, golden and crackling skin. Some cuts come out a lot better than others, a few of the salad bar options should be avoided (hello fish), but at fifteen bucks a person, how can you possibly complain?
As I take pictures, the meat skewering server says “Oh, if you want to take pictures, I will bring you a better piece of meat.” We sort of forget about it, keep eating and then get really, really full. But just then, the server returns with a huge and daunting hunk of sizzling cow. “Now you take a picture,” he says. I do, then Abba, Mr. Meatball and I decide that we have no option but to try some of this beautiful meat. He cuts a slice, I take it with table-side tongs and set it on my plate, then watch as the blood pools in the center of this gorgeous, red bovine with its blackened, herb crust. Now that’s how you finish off a meal.
We sip assorted espresso based beverages, giving ourselves a moment to digest as our friend Bex pops by, who had been trying to make it for dinner, but got stuck at work. “I brought ice cream from Scoops for dessert!” she says, as we all laugh, then hold our stomachs in pain. In the end, GFB and I take it home, knowing it’ll be a few hours (or days) before we’ve got room for it— since there is, I’m quite certain, an entire animal inside of my stomach. I also think the animal may have come back to life and is now eating all my hearts of palm.
Brasa Brasil Grill
10022 Venice Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
Food Breakdown: 4 all-you-can-eat, 1 bottle of wine (brought by Abba), 3 caffeinated beverages
Distance From My House: 0.8 miles