Sins of the flesh
Those swashbuckling servers briskly pacing Texas de Brazil's dining room with huge sword-like skewers and vicious knives may as well just pike you with one of their weapons and get it over with. This would, it seems, be preferable to the creeping coronary carnage wrought by 14 cuts of slow roasted beef, pork, chicken, and lamb almost force-fed to you until your plumbing quakes and your Levi rivets pop.
At times, it really does feel like a quick death via skewer thrust will strike well before your arteries petrify and your heart twitches. At each place setting in this Brazilian grill house -- a sibling to the Texas de Brazil in Addison -- is a little red dot. Red means you're having a meatless moment. But flip that dot over and it becomes green: a go sign that instantly brings a furious phalanx of meat skewers glistening with impaled cuts of meat. You feel a little like Julius Caesar during an Ides of March senate session.
A few of the selections can be outstanding. Top sirloin is rich, tender, and red. Brazilian sausage, tight little rusty-pink meat torpedoes, are juicy and ripe with spark. Though gray and lacking in silky ruddiness that makes chewing them so sensual, lamb chops were still lushly moist and sweetly rich. Picanha, a cut of beef from the top butt of the loin region that is a favorite among Brazilians, is rich and sparked with a garlic veneer. Moist chicken legs dusted with breadcrumbs and herbs also were flavorful.
But the filet swaddled in bacon was miserably dry, as was the nude version of this cut. Pork loin slathered with a Parmesan crust also descended into burlap territory, but the cheese boosted its taste.
Texas de Brazil is an espeto corrido churrascaria, or continuous-service grill house, which means there is no menu. A troop of waiters prowls the dining room flinging meat, so it's advisable to quickly flip that disk to red before you're buried in animal flesh and have to be exhumed by a butcher. "When people come in, they don't know what it's about," says owner Salim Asrawi. "They have to slowly adapt to the concept."
Like Fogo de Chao in Addison and Rodizio in Arlington, Texas de Brazil was inspired by gauchos, South American cowboys who cook meat over a campfire while herding livestock on the South American plains. Texas de Brazil dubs this a "macho form of dining" in a direct-mail piece designed to rustle up corporate meetings and events. It bolsters this thought with a headline that reads like a pithy marketing phrase spilled from a Dallas men's club: "We Want to Meat You!" A skewer pierces the letters in the word "meat" to drive the point home.
Yet Texas de Brazil puts just as much vigor into its veggies. Sprawling on a black marble bar in front of the Brazilian grills is one of the freshest, most sumptuous spreads of vegetation found anywhere in Dallas. Bowls of salads -- even a strikingly lively tabbouleh -- and various vegetables indent a dense carpet of kale leaves spread over the crushed ice. Thick, tender hearts of palm; bright, juicy slices of tomato; supple artichoke stuffed with tuna salad; tasty marinated mushroom caps; and tender, brilliantly green Brussels sprouts unlike anything your mother tried to plunge down your throat create a pristine presentation.
The frenzy continues on an island anchored in front of the salad bar where a hunk of prosciutto sits behind dark cutting boards meticulously blanketed with thin slices of prosciutto and salami. There's also a pot of soup (a richly savory beef vegetable on one visit) and fejuada, firm, supple black beans lightly seasoned and scattered with bits of pork. The only blemish unearthed on this pair of black marble slabs was the bundle of crisp asparagus stalks, which, though bright green and sweating with subtle pungency, were a little tough.
Texas de Brazil's Dallas location emerged from the space that was once Chuck Norris' Lone Wolf Lounge, a restaurant and cigar bar. The half of the structure that was the stogie lounge has been converted into a 120-seat dining area with its various secluded smoking nooks and crannies reconfigured into private dining spaces. Lone Wolf's substantial humidor has been converted into a glass-enclosed wine cellar. The modestly priced wine list is an eclectic blend divided into New World wines (mostly California with single entries from Oregon and Washington), Old World wines (Italy and France), and a curious grouping dubbed warm-weather wines. With selections from Spain, Australia, Texas, and South America, this section dubiously implies wines from these locales exhibit similar styles because of similar climates, though stark differences between sturdy, rich Australian wines and lighter, fruity Chilean wines are sometimes striking.
Asrawi, a onetime partner in Cabaret Royale Restaurant & Bar, says he's primed for Texas de Brazil's expansion and is close to inking deals on locations in Fort Worth and Houston. But it's hard to imagine how Texas could possibly sustain more restaurants of this ilk without clearing the state of livestock. (Meat and salad bar is $33 at dinner, $19.95 at lunch. Salad bar alone is $15.95 at lunch and $17.50 at dinner).
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