If dining at Texas de Brazil, I suggest you park on the other side of Walden Galleria. Like, Macy’s. The resulting 20-minute walk lets you contemplate which buffet items are worth valuable stomach space. The stroll back can aid in digestion, as you reflect on which of the dozen kinds of grilled beef, chicken, pork and lamb was your favorite. The restaurant is styled after Brazilian churrascarias, which are a civilized version of gauchos fueling up after a cattle drive. Cowboys work hard. Me? I was just glad I could still walk. ¶ If you’ve never been to a churrascaria-style restaurant before – I hadn’t – prepare to reconsider the possibilities of a buffet.
Texas de Brazil is like a steakhouse, in that it specializes in the ruthlessly efficient delivery of large amounts of animal protein. Yet it’s built for volume, with an eye for showmanship, with costumed servers in wide belts and puffy pants wielding yardlong skewers of meat and scimitars to slice it. The night we visited it was noisy and bustling, reminding me of a casino buffet, albeit in swankier surroundings.
The buffet part offers more than 50 choices, most higher value than usual buffet fare. Help yourself to salads, green and grilled vegetables and couscous, grilled asparagus and hearts of palm. Hack a chunk from a huge wheel of grana padano or another half-dozen cheeses, browse a selection of prosciutto and other cured meats, or sushi, or a side of salmon, or thin-sliced grilled pineapple. There is a basket of bacon.
Ladle up a bowl of lobster bisque, or cheesy gratin potatoes, or feijoada, black beans simmered with smoked pork, a hearty Brazilian dish.
Or don’t, because in strategic terms, it’s just a feint.
There is a disc next to your plate, a Bat-Signal of beef, which turned to its green side means “go.” In a minute or two, a gaucho, carrying a skewer of meat standing in a drip tray, appears at your elbow. “Would you like some bacon-wrapped filet mignon?” the first asked.
I said yes. To that, and to everything, 14 kinds of meat. To wit: filet mignon with and without bacon; top sirloin with and without garlic; beef rib; flank steak; chicken breast in bacon, and chicken leg Parmesan; pork loin herbed and Parmesan, and pork spare ribs; lamp chops, leg of lamb; and sausage.
Not until you turn the disc over to its red side will the gauchos desist.
It can be an audience participation show, as you sometimes must use provided tongs to secure your slice as the gaucho saws away. The default setting on beef and lamb is medium rare with lots of salt. But our server explained that meat could be cooked to order, to preferred doneness or salt level, with a few minutes’ wait. Service was generally attentive, with plates cleared regularly. A black napkin appeared to go with Cat’s dark pants, while the rest of us got standard white.
More side dishes arrived for the table: cheese-stuffed bread nuggets, garlic mashed potatoes, caramelized bananas in cinnamon sugar.
But how was the food? Quite good, in the aggregate. Most of the cold buffet items were fresh and seasoned well, vegetables, seafood and cheeses presented with care. (Wilted haricots vert, baby green beans, were an outlier.) Hot buffet items, like the gratin potatoes and feijoada, held up well. The lobster bisque could have used some lobster meat, but was rich, creamy and lobstery enough to satisfy.
Meats I most enjoyed were the top sirloin, both the garlic version and the standard, called picanha in Brazil and served rimmed with crackling fat. The filet was tender and buttery with bacon or without, and the flank steak was firmer but enjoyable too. The only beef I didn’t like was the rib, with a steamed pot roast texture.
I enjoyed both blood-rare leg of lamb and more highly seasoned chops. The sausage was moderately spicy and decently moist. The pork ribs were surprisingly good, tender with a sweet barbecue sauce. Both pork loins were drier than I like, and the chicken leg wasn’t exciting. But a morsel of chicken breast wrapped in bacon, straight from the grill, was one of my favorite bites of the night.
So to recap: Within seconds after the server finishes their spiel, you can start eating bacon-wrapped filet mignon, and not stop until forced to, by your capacity, or your conscience.
That is not to say the meal was without healthy aspects. For instance, to refill your bowl with lobster bisque, you have to get up and do it yourself. Which counts as exercise.
At $44.99 a seat, it’s not cheap. But if you are a dedicated meat eater, it’s worth the thrill. Texas de Brazil is not a hushed cathedral of cuisine. It’s Disneyland for carnivores.
Texas de Brazil charges $24.99 for the buffet, without meat service, billing itself as a steakhouse that “even vegetarians love.” There are certainly enough vegetables, cheese and salads to make a solid meal. But I don’t know many vegetarians eager to pay $25 to serve as pylons in a meat parade, unless they dearly wanted to join Texas de Brazil-bound people for dinner.
Dessert included carrot cake, chocolate mousse, coconut cheese pie and flan ($9 each). They weren’t bad, just not worth it at that point.
I might split a flan next time. But probably not. Walking back to the car made me wish I’d parked in Depew.
Texas de Brazil - 8 plates
Brazilian barbecue buffet arrives to challenge the capacity of carnivores.
WHERE: 1 Galleria Drive, Cheektowaga (683-0013, www.texasdebrazil.com)
HOURS: 5 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
PRICE RANGE: Dinner, $44.99; buffet without meat service, $24.99.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.