A Restaurant Critic at the All You Can Eat Buffet (AKA Texas de Brazil); Wine for Jugheads by The Study in Greenwich; and the Elemental Pleasures of Texture at The Cookery
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A Restaurant Critic Takes on Texas de Brazil’s All You Can Eat Buffet (with Surprising Results)
I’m just going to put it out there: All you can eat buffets scare me, and it’s not because of food safety—it’s because I find them filled with tension. The way that I see it, an AYCE buffet is financial football, with some diners viewing the buffet as a way to get more than they pay for. In opposition, the restaurateurs are trying to profit from diners with defensive moves that preserve the slim margins to be made with food. Generally, it’s a sport that renders food quality the loser.
With this in mind, let me tell you about a recent visit to Ridge Hill’s new Texas de Brazil, a fast-growing international chain of 25+, Brazilian-themed churrasco restaurants. Here’s the shtick: For a buy-in of $46.99 per person, you have full and unlimited access to a wide circular buffet of everything you can imagine—we’re talking salads, veggies, sushi, cheeses, salumi, soup, olives, bacon. Beverages are not included in that price—though T de B doesn’t gouge, with reasonably priced ($7.50) caipirinhas and $9 wines by the glass—and you can also buy access to the only salad bar for $24.99. Kids’ dinners are $5 (ages 3 to 5) or, at most, half price (ages 6 to 12). As you enter, you are given a chip that is red on one side and green on the other—when you are ready for your parade of sword-wielding meat men, you turn your chip to green as a sexy sort of come-on that says, “Boys, bring me MEAT!”
I was prepared to hate it.
I know the buffet tactic: Restaurants are hoping to sate diners with less expensive buffet fare before the pricier meats are introduced. I get that. But it turns out there’s something I’d almost forgotten – buffets are thrilling. There I was clutching my plate, piling on bacon and (okay, not very good) prosciutto, and grilled veggies and (okay, not very good) sushi – and it was…fun. They brought me a caipirinha and it was tasty (though I had to double check; I was afraid it would be a $15 money spinner). My four-year-old daughter ate nothing, per usual, while my husband raised a disparaging eye at my half-plate of bacon. “Um…I think that’s supposed to go on salad.” So what? None of the buffet items were extraordinarily delicious, and a couple were actively bad—like the super-salty lobster bisque. They were also strangely un-Brazilian. The feijoada was rusticated at a back-side buffet, and why were Parmigiano-Reggiano, sushi, and olives on this buffet? But it was fun!
They brought those warm, chewy, Brazilian cheese balls, pão de queijo, that I love so much, and the room was attractive, if somewhat corporate, with illuminated onyx and soaring floral displays. And Texas de Brazil is one of the most child-friendly places in Westchester—fussy eaters literally can view their own food before committing, and, starting at $5, it’s hard to find a better kids’ deal that offers fresh veggies, imported cheeses, olives, pasta, breads, etc. No one blinks twice if Barbie joins you at your table.
The meats came out, but I was already stuffed with bacon (game over: I lose!), though I tried a salt-crusted picanha—a Brazilian beef cut that spans the sirloin and rump—which was tasty, if rather salty. The same could be said for bacon-wrapped chicken chunks and dry beef tenderloin, but the killer was a delicious and juicy leg of lamb, shockingly served with emerald-green mint jelly, sourced, apparently, from my grandmother’s Easter dinner circa 1967. The sad thing is that, instead of a traditional mash of Brazilian farofa– toasted manioc flour there appeared American smashed potatoes and weirdly sugary glazed bananas. Both were dense, and (dare I say it) filling.
Can I damn the place as a not very authentic American chain restaurant located in a county with a large Brazil born population? Yup. If you want a more traditional Brazilian churrascaria experience, drop into Copacabana Steakhouse in Port Chester. That said, Texas de Brazil was a surprisingly pleasant experience—and as family friendly, all-welcoming, and cheery as a hotel brunch buffet. Basically, they had me at bacon.
Hot Dates: Wine for Jugheads: Level I Presented by The Study Fine Wines & Spirits
Three classes: April 11, 18, and 25, 7 - 9pm
$100 for three-week series
From the flyer: “Wine for Jugheads: Level I will joyfully lead you through the confusing world of wine. Learn how wine is made, Old World vs. New World, taste evaluation, basic wine regions, food pairing, how to serve, and of course how to choose the perfect wines for you. We will meet for 3, 2-hour sessions. Materials, antipasti, and 6 wines of varied styles will be provided each week.” Wine selections will be available for purchase at a discounted class price. Class conducted by Katie Goldberg, Certified Specialist of Wine, WSET Level 3 Advanced in Wine and Spirits Certified, to be held at Westwood Custom & Antique Wood Flooring, 1064 North St, Greenwich, Connecticut. For more information, email email@example.com, or call The Study at (203) 340-9410.
HotPlate: Mozzarella made daily, olio novella and grilled Tuscan bread at The Cookery
Sometimes the most magical thing about a dish is its texture. Sure, Chef David DiBari’s house-made mozzarella offers a sublime hit of milky flavor, the thyme and drizzle of balsamic are fragrant, and that warm, oiled crostini tastes great. But imagine the almost insubstantial texture of this cheese, which barely retains coherence as it hits your lips. Couple it with the scraping crunch of still smoky bread, and this classic pairing delivers the yin-yang punch of soft and hard, cream and wheat. Yum.