Rodizio Brazillian Churrascaria - Cronulla, Sydney
Bun bread on skewers. Tongs for each guest to help take off a meat slice hanging ready on the sword like skewer. The last time I saw such skewers was at Santa Fe Portuguese in Wollongong CBD. This time, in a southern Sydney suburb in the Shire, I am surrounded by family groups and couples, with our table of five selecting the churrasco and tapas degustation menu. The meats are cooked over hot charcoals and offered in a wide variety, from minted lamb to beef sirloin. Above picture captures our starting blocks, with chorizo and chicken (which was my fav selection for the night, crispy and full of flavour). A variety of condiments are utilised to marinade the meats - lemon, French mustard, herbs like thyme, garlic, honey, wine and chili. These ingredients reflect the heritage of European settlers from more than a hundred years ago merging the availability of meats from an extensive animal grazing industry to the cuisine of their forefathers.
For starters, we loved the banana fritters with a touch of doughnut crumb and cinnamon icing (image above). Interesting examples of tapas served are pork belly, cevice bianco (fish gougonettes with onion, tomato and capsicum) and a wild mushroom saute. We had decent reds and whites on our table and they blended well with the various meats from the skewers. I did find a few of my sampled meats a bit over the top in saltiness. There seemed to be only one guy circulating with the sword skewered meats and he (the passadore) was patient and attentive to the customers. My group was also taken positively by the smiling engagement by the staff. For example, they took the effort to let us know that the coffee machine was not producing sufficiently hot coffee that night, before they asked us to consider our orders.
Fresh pineapple grilled over charcoal was a new concept to me (above) and it took me a while to adjust to the different taste. Brazil lies mainly around the equatorial belt and so such fruits were not a surprise to us. We did have a few rounds of the bananas and pineapples.
The unique menu offered is food of the cowboys, or Gauchos, in a barbecue called churrasco. If you can recall those Hollywood movies of old, envisage the characters huddled around campfires on tough open terrain, having spit roasts and tall tales told. Churrasco was born in such surroundings and most probably served in chunky sizes. In modern day Cronulla, bite sized cuts and fancy salads are made available, together with modern day delights like mozzarella, olive oil and passion fruit juices. On this occasion, we did not sample the cocktails, with names like Mojito and Cachaca (sugar cane based). However, Frank was the usual entertainer and Murph poured the grog.
Interesting enough, beers are not accepted BYO, but you can bring in your own wines, subject to a corkage charge. The evening we were there, the atmosphere was sufficiently boisterous, despite a chilly night, and even at 10pm, the piped in music continued to entertain. Some attention was paid to recreate a Rio Grande region street scene, with actual louvred windows facing inwards along the inner bricked walls and huge orange/red coloured piping running ostentatiously above, just below the ceiling. The kitchen had an open concept over a counter for guests to see the tools and ways of the grill trade. Dining tables are made of solid wood and relatively spacious. On Saturday nights, there are live performers bringing the vibes of Carnivale to the restaurant. I could see a McDonalds joint across the road but I was more than happy to be on this side instead. The meatballs are lusciously tasty and the garden salad, refreshing (picture below).
Rodizio also operates in the inner city suburb of Leichhardt in Sydney. My impressions of my visit to the Cronulla outlet of Rodizio are:
Location: The Shire.
Taste: Palate teaser and rewarding.
People Engagement: Relaxing and attentive.
Service: Responsive even on a busy night.
Best Time to Visit: Saturday nights.
Fav Dish Experienced: Charcoal grilled Chicken,
Would I Return?: Yes, I am already eyeing the
prawn and chorizo pasta.