Saturday, February 28, 2009

Boi Na Braza, our super awesome meat extravaganza:

David and I were very happy to be invited along with my coworkers, Sarah, Johanna, Jeff and Tim, on a carnivorous quest to Boi Na Braza Friday afternoon after work.

Your Nomerati and (left to right) Sarah, Johanna, Jeff and Tim

We tried to prepare ourselves. Made our reservation. Wore stretchy pants. Ate crackers for lunch.

It wasn’t enough.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Rodizio Steakhouse model, let me explain the meat monster we are dealing with. At Boi Na Braza, it’s a fixed price menu for all the meat you can eat. 15 different kinds of meat, actually.

I’m not talking about salisbury steak swimming in gravy above a pathetic sterno can—oh no—I’m talking about top and bottom sirloin, filet mignon, beef ribs, chicken, pork ribs, rump roast, lamb chops, pork loin and lamb leg. All roasted over coals and brought to your table still sizzling.

The price? Around 47.00 a person. Pricey, yes, but considering the fact that you could sit there and eat around $40.00 of filet mignon (as Tim and Jeff tried to do), I don’t think it’s unreasonable. The cost includes all the meaty goodness, and the salad bar, which has way more than just salad. You can get the salad bar only for $29.00.

David and I had been to one other Rodizio Steakhouse before, the now deposed Amor De Brazil, so we knew what to expect.

Upon seating, the run down is given about the colorful coasters that adorn your table. Red on one side, reading “No, Thanks” and green on the other, stating “Yes, Please”. These are your signals to the servers, or Gauchos, walking past, if you want them to continue slicing meat off on your plate.

The coasters are a good idea for two reasons: one—it makes it easy for the servers carrying large hunks of sizzling meat around to see if you want any and come to you. Two—it’s difficult to say “yes please” when your mouth is already full of meat. [David interjects: “that’s what she said.” I guess that’s what I get for letting him edit my posts.]

We were there as soon as they opened, which meant after I checked with our host that it was OK I got to take pictures of the artfully arranged salad bar. We also had some yummy appetizers at the table, including a type of Brazilian cheese bread, beef pasta of some sort, fried yucca, fried polenta, and maduras.

Bacon is always a good place to start

here fishy fishy fishy

Mashed potatoes

stewed mushrooms

Broccoli with cheese sauce

Hearts of palm

ZOMG cheese!

This is butter, not cheeseballs. We figured it out after David tried one.

Edible turnip flowers!

I came back to the table, took a deep breath, and flipped over my coaster. The first meat to appear was bacon wrapped chicken breast. I took one and began to try it. I had only gotten halfway through the chicken when the top sirloin appeared. Yup, I wanted that too. I switched gears and went for the beef.

That’s when the bacon wrapped filet mignon showed up. Yes, please. And then the beef ribs. And then the bottom sirloin. And then regular filet mignon. And the lamb leg. My head was starting to spin as the carousel of meat continued.

There was not much talking at our table, other than various grunts and “yes pleases” and specifying to the Gaucho what level of doneness we wanted our meats. Sarah chose medium well, I chose medium or medium rare, David and Jeff went with rare.

As we struggled to keep up with the varieties of meat being presented to us, I quickly fell behind and began mixing my cuts up. Was this top or bottom sirloin? I didn’t know. And it was all very good so I didn’t care. I had long since abandoned my chicken breast in bacon. I really liked the rump roast, which is the house specialty. Tim and Jeff were partial to the filet, and David agreed with me that the rump roast was his favorite. He also liked the lamb. Sarah and Johanna liked the filet and the top sirloin.

Tim and Jeff continued to pile on the filet while speculating how many ounces they’d put away. Johanna, Sarah and I leaned back in our chairs and squirmed to make more room. My tummy finally cried uncle at the massive amounts of delicious, rotisserie cooked beef I had been devouring and I was forced to flip over my coaster to red.

I got up and walked around the restaurant, rubbing my belly. I’m sure it’s a common sight at Boi Na Braza. I had noticed where the Gauchos were coming from and went over to take pictures of them coming out the kitchen with their various dishes.

I was trying to be sneaky and take pictures of the grill, which I could only see about two feet of, when I heard a voice behind me say

“Hey, you can’t do that.”

Do what? I felt like a kid who had been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. I turned around the see the smiling face of the Manager, Mr. N.

“Come with me” he said, motioning me to follow him back to the kitchen.

Yikes, it was hot. I asked him the temperature next to the grill, he checked the hood at said it was at 150 degrees.

He then asked me if I would like to come back in about ½ an hour, when more meat would be cooking away. I absolutely would.

I happily trotted back to the table, telling David that I was going to get some awesome pictures of the cooking meat menagerie in the kitchen. I then changed my shoes from my stilettos to the tennis shoes in my bag in preparation of another trip to the kitchen and watched Tim and Jeff, who somehow were still eating meat.

Johanna and Sarah were looking a little dazed and discussing dessert.

I talked with David a little until it was time to go back to the Kitchen. The grill area of the kitchen is simple and clean, not a lot of clutter other than the meat itself, on stainless steel. A large meat freezer sits farther off, as well as a more involved prep area for the salad bar.

As I took pictures, I asked a lot of questions. How much meat do they go through in a night? My answer –on Valentine’s Day, a busy night, they went through about 800 lbs of meat.

I found out that my guide had been working in Rodizios since he was 18 years old, first in Brazil, where he was from, then later in Texas, and now here in Cincinnati.

I tried to stay out of the way of the Gauchos considering their long, sharp knives and skewers, but it wasn’t necessary. Everyone was very considerate and let me take all the pictures that I wanted to.

I learned that after the cuts of meat are sliced off to diners, they are taken back to the kitchen, brushed with salt and placed back on the grill to create the maximum amount of roasty deliciousness. I saw all the different meats and cuts rotating slowly around on their stainless steel skewers like a little meat ballet.

After thanking everyone, at taking some more pictures of very patient Gauchos and their offerings, I headed back to the table to show my pictures of the kitchen.

The dessert cart was rolling around, and Johanna decided to finish with cheesecake. Sarah chose the chocolate mousse, which looked and smelled divine. They offered to share, but at this point my stomach was just starting to trust me again after all I had put it through so I stuck with coffee. David got the espresso, which he said was very good.

Tim and Jeff asked for more filet. After finishing that, everyone finally admitted defeat and we asked for our check.

We didn’t indulge in any alcoholic beverages, but Boi Na Braza serves teeny bottles of diet coke for 2.50 each, and we went through ten of those. The desserts were additional, as were the coffees. We were all expecting the hefty bill, so we only felt a little guilty. I thought it was well worth it. It was a great experience, and I appreciated learning more about Rodizio style steakhouses and peeking in the kitchen.

All the staff were very considerate and welcoming, and I’d definitely recommend Boi Na Braza to another person for a special occasion. I also recommend not eating lunch if you are planning on going, and pacing yourself once you get there. Enjoy!

Boi Na Braza on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bonefish and the many expressions of David:

On our visits to HPWS and Hitching Post, the smell of the Bonefish oak grill sings like a siren, luring us in. We’ve been to Bonefish 3 or 4 times, once to their location in Mason, and we’ve always had pleasant experiences. Personally, we prefer the Hyde Park location—the staff is nicer and they aren’t so far away.

On our first ever visit to the Bonefish, we went to Hyde Park. Our server inquired if we had ever been there before, and we confessed we had not. He took great time and care recommending appetizers and entrees to us, and brought me a super strong lemon martini. At that point, I didn’t want any fish, so I got the strip steak. ($16.90) It was well cooked and I liked it. Their seasonal vegetable at that time was shredded squash, which I really enjoyed. Their potatoes au gratin are incredible.

The bang bang shrimp ($8.30) are their signature appetizer, and those were delicious enough that I ordered them again on our second visit, despite the fact that they come with chopsticks and when I try to use them I look like an idiot.

Our server even brought us a piece of yummy key lime pie as a surprise, which endeared him—and Bonefish—further to me. You can quickly win me over with free pie.

This would be David's "We haven't even gotten any food yet, put that away and don't take pictures of me" face.

Crunchy Bread and oil with herbs

On our third, most recent visit, we decided to get all appetizers. I decided to try the Mango Oceantrust martini,($7.90) which is delicious. Bonefish donates $1.00 from every Martini to Oceantrust, which is nice, because I’m saving sea turtles and marine life with every Martini I order. As if I needed any incentive.

We also got a liter of sparkling water ($5.00), which was brought out to us in a marble chiller with two glasses and lime. Throughout the night, servers stopped by to refill our water glasses for us, which I thought was very considerate.

David Spacing out. He does this a lot.

I’d like to reiterate the superior service we experience at Bonefish. As a final example, I asked our server if the White Sangria ($5.00) was good. He thought for a moment and confessed to me that he thought that he didn’t like it very much. I decided not to get it and stuck with sparkling water. I know that servers are told to push the drinks, so I appreciate an honest opinion. I really respected that I received it. I like it even more than free pie. Kudos, Bonefish staff!

After much menu perusal, our appetizers were as follows, the Crab Cakes with red remoulade ($10.50), Calamari with peppers and spicy asian sauce ($7.40), Mussels Josephine ($8.90) and bacon wrapped scallops with chutney and mango salsa ($9.90). David also got a small house salad. ($4.90)

I made David wait while I took pictures of everything.

The Calamari was very good—not rubbery or overbreaded— and served with various fried veggies. They came with a nice sauce that we both really liked. It was sweet and a little tangy.

The bacon wrapped scallops were excellent and crispy, and we each had two. The chutney they were served with complemented them very well, the salsa worked with it too-- it had mango and onion and a little cilantro in it, among other things.

I really liked the crab cakes. I thought they were fresher than Teller's, though David wasn’t so sure. They were full of crab meat and delicious. The crab cakes and the scallops were my favorites.

I do not really like mussels, but David had me try one and I found it to be pretty weird. David said that they were delicious, and really liked the stewed tomatoes that came with them.

This is David's "Done with the pictures now I'm hungry and want to eat my food" expression.

He ate all the mussels. At this point we were both ready for a nap, so we got the check and headed home. Since I restrained myself from more Oceantrust Martinis, our bill was about 60.00, which I don’t think was too bad for everything we ordered.

Bonefish has paper tablecloths, which means I get to doodle a happy nessie

Bonefish Grill on Urbanspoon