This month, the Chowhounds invaded the Red Violin (95 Danforth) for a Brazilian BBQ feast. Having lived in Brazil for awhile, it was like home sweet home for me.
Upon arriving (early even!) I noticed that Kathleen was already comfortably ensconced at the table with a glass of Guarana. That got the meal off on the right foot. I love me some Guarana. It's a sweet soft drink, similar to ginger ale but without the pungency. They even had the good kind - Antartica.
The meal started with appetizers laid out buffet style in the middle of the room. An assortment of meats and cheese, salads, and some seafood, plus a particularly delightful rendition of a Brazilian favourite called Pao de Queijo - small cheese buns. I had way too many Pao, and quite a lot of the excellent smoked salmon that was on the buffet. The kitchen had a bit of trouble keeping up with the demand on the shrimp, but otherwise the appetizers were nicely done and elegantly presented.
Side dishes for dinner were served family style. The Brazilian staple rice and beans were first up, followed by a plate of garlicy vegetables. They were almost a bit too garlicy, as the garlic was fresh and pungeant. Unlike many garlic vegetable, they weren't dripping butter or oil, which I appreciated. Also included in the sides was farofa (a dish of crumbs fried with bacon), deep fried plantains and a salsa like side.
There was a bit of confusion with plates in the transition from appetizers to mains that took some sorting to deal with. One of the hounds even had to get up and change her own plate, but that was the only major service gaffe I noticed.
Once we'd had a taste of the sides, the main meat service began. Red Violin is a Rodizio style restaurant, which means the waiters bring out the meat on spits and offer it to the diners. The selection at Red Violin was impressive. I can recall them bringing around:
Pork sausages - juicy and delicious and wonderfully spiced
Turkey wrapped in bacon - a bit pedestrian, relying mostly on the bacon for flavour
Chicken legs - excellently developed skin and nice juicy chicken
Garlic beef - more of that fresh, pungeant garlic
Beef ribs - amazing, tender, perfectly seasoned, a real highlight of an excellent meal
Roast tenderloin - another highlight, delightfully spiced and with a choice of doneness to keep everyone happy
Chicken hearts - my favourite in Brazil, a bit chewy in this incarnation, but still pretty good
Leg of lamb - I didn't try this, but it sure looked good
Pork medallions - I didn't try this either, as it looked dry, apparently some of it was, and some of it was quite juicy, so it just depended if you got a bit lucky
I might have missed some of the variety off that list. It was an impressive array.
After the meat courses, they brought around whole pineapples coated with a cinnamon mix and roasted. Slices of dripping pineapple were, I think, everyone's favourite item of the night. I'm pretty sure they used up at least 4 pineapples on our table alone.
Desserts were offered, cheesecake, carrot cake and chocolate cake, but we turned them down in favour of MORE pineapple.
The bill for the evening was only a bit pricy, factoring in the drink prices. $3 for an imported soda wasn't too bad, but $8 for a caipirinha seemed rather a bit much for such a simple drink. The actual meal was $30 a person, plus $10 for the live band they had after dinner. Overall, though, an excellent value.
Since Chowhounds are often concerned with authenticity as well as deliciousness, I'll add that this was an entirely authentic experience. I went to many similar restaurants during my time in Brazil, and the Red Violin is entirely in keeping with the culinary tradition. A truly excellent example of the tradition, even. There were moments in the meal that I almost cried, it made me so "homesick" for my adopted country.
Red Violin Brazilian Steakhouse
95 Danforth Ave.
Toronto, ON M4K 1N2
Phone: (416) 465-0969
Hours: Tue-Sun: 5pm-12am; Sun: 12pm-3pm