Gaucho Brazilian BBQ
Review @ 3605 Manchester Road SE
New location @ 100 – 5920 Macleod Trail SW
I remember one of the first times I went for Rodizio. I spent the entire day sitting in a dark, curtained off room, drinking water to expand the stomach (it doesn’t work in case you’re wondering), playing xBox to keep my mind off the impending gorge. All you can eat. Meat. Churrascaria. We rolled in at prime time, 7:30pm, and ate a few nibbles of Pao de Queso, and called on the meat. Needless to say, 4-5 lbs of meat later, we had the sweats, a stomach ache, and were barely able to roll ourselves back home. Thanks so much Fogo de Chao.
Needless to say, I’ve grown up significantly since then. But I did learn several things from that experience – primarily, Rodizio should be about the selection and the quality of the meat, period. Side dishes, salads and salad bar, and other filler are nice touches, but don’t add much to the experience. And if i have a choice, i’ll sacrifice some selection to get the quality i need.
Gaucho Brazilian BBQ is one of three Brazillian BBQ, and one of two Rodizio restaurants in the city of Calgary. Based on how busy both Bolero and Gaucho are, there is no doubt Calgarians like their meat.
Churrasco involves barbecuing meats on skewers over open heat. They are rotated slowly to ensure even cooking, and racked based on cooking time and where they are in the cooking process.
Compared to other Rodizio experiences i’ve had, the Gaucho Brazilian space is not overly formal – some people find it a bit crowded and cozy, but I like the energy of the space, as all you can eat meat shouldnt be stuffy, nor quiet. The biggest complaints are typically the heat, and the noise. I find them tolerable.
Instead of a full on salad bar, Gaucho provides a few select side dishes. Dishes like beans, hearts of palm salad, cassava fries, these are refilled quickly and efficiently. Don’t be fooled – these are intended to fill you up so you don’t eat as much of the main event. Sample (especially the hearts of palm salad, which are excellent), but i wouldn’t indulge.
The key element of Rodizio is the Passadore – the waiter who bring skewers of meat to your table and carves and serves it to you to your liking. If the meat has been cooked properly, and you have an experienced Passadore, you can order a variety of doneness on the skewer. Typically from medium rare to medium well.
While there is an infinite variety of meats that can be served, Rodizio usually confine their selection to 12-16 meats. Gaucho generally prepares a lower quantity – on the evening we went, they had 9 choices, having run out of a couple, and not offering others. I don’t mind this, as their quality is definitely kept high by managing the total number of offerings.
Costela, juicy marinated beef ribs.
Alcatra – the classic, always served cut of top sirloin. Gaucho does a tasty rendition, though like most Alcatras, it’s very light on the seasoning.
The doneness on the interior is a very nice medium. Well done should be handled by a different skewer.
On this evening, some of my favorite cuts were available. Grilled chicken hearts! Fantastic flavour, great texture, these were top notch.
A very common dessert or interlude i’ve found at many Rodizio’s is the BBQ Pineapple. This is definitely a favored dish for me, and im disappointed that Gaucho requires you to order this at an exorbitant extra charge – especially when Gaucho’s primary competitor Bolero, serves BBQ Pineapple. Now granted, BBQ Pineapple is the best part of the entire Bolero experience, and their meat fails to meet the same quality as Gaucho, but for the price, a little pineapple wouldnt be too prohibitive.
However, instead of pineapple, Gaucho does serve banana. Which is a nice consolation prize. Not quite the refreshing taste of BBQ pineapple, but satisfies the need for a bit of sweet.
Overall, there is very little to complain about with Gaucho. Slightly more affordable than Bolero, it is, in my mind, clearly heads and shoulders above both Bolero and Cravings. The quality of their meat, and the skill of their Passadores are both the best in the city. Even if my little quibbles were solved, they would just make an excellent experience better. Because, what’s really important is the quality and the selection – and they have appropriate amounts of both. Give it a try the next time you’re interested in a meat sweat experience!