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Jul 22, 2006 04:55 AM

Churrascaria Rodeo, Woburn

This is the new place in North Woburn (on the north side of 128), at 920 Main St, the space vacated by Ristorante Fiorentino.

We arrived at about 8:00, after cruising Main St a little to find on-street parking. There wasn't much of a crowd - maybe 5 people at the (retro-fab sparkly gold formica) bar, and about 3 tables occupied - but they've only been open about a week. I hope the low population density is a short-term problem. As itaunas has mentioned, the room looks really nice - it's been so long since I ate at Fiorentino's that I can't really tell how much of the decor they kept, but it certainly doesn't feel like one restaurant slapped up over another one.

There's currently only one copy of the wine list - handwritten on a sheet of notebook paper - but they're coming soon. For reds by the glass, they had a merlot and a cabernet whose names I don't recall and which were OK but nothing I'd go looking for a case of.

The full course of salad bar plus "bring me meat until I burst" was $21.95 per person - $10.95 for salad bar alone. They also offer takeout rodizio by the pound - I think $8.95 per pound, you select, they carve. There was a third page to the menu, turned face-down, that had some fish dishes on it, so clearly I'll have to go back in a few weeks (when I'm hungry again) to check that out.

There were two salad bars in a small room off the main dining room - one a traditional (to North Americans at least) salad bar, with romain lettuce, various vegetables (including corn, of course) and dressings, cubes of a mild cheese in olive oil and herbs, etc. The second salad bar contained, to the best of my recollection (I'm missing a few, I'm sure, and I don't know the Portuguese names for things): white rice; red beans; a really really smoky-tasting feijoada (which I loved, but my girlfriend found too smoky - we disagree on barbecue sometimes too, along the same lines); a cut of pork I've never had before - a slice of bacon or something-like-bacon, about a quarter-inch thick, with some very crunchy skin clinging to it; chunks of chicken that had been braised or stewed in something salty and a little sweet, sort of similar to Chinese red-cooked chicken; and a cold mixed salad that had been mixed with what I think (google is your friend) was toasted manioc flour.

Everything from the second salad bar was delicious (my girlfriend concurs on all but the feijoada). The first salad bar was fine, but I'll skip it next time - the opportunity cost is too high.

Then, the meat parade: a wonderful kielbasa, not too smoky and not too spicy (we agreed happily on this one, harmony restored); a smaller sausage, finer-ground and very garlicky; chicken breast wrapped with bacon, which was tasty but a little dry; beef (sirloin?) grilled with a lot of coarse salt (everything was well-salted, it almost goes without saying - but this stood out), delicious and seriously BEEF-y; pork loin, also a little dry like the chicken (I blame the misguided attempts by Food Science to breed leaner pigs); and lamb that was a little fatty and chewy, but delicious and entirely un-muttony. I feel like I'm missing at least one - I'll have to go back and check. When I'm hungry again. (If)

(I didn't see chicken hearts - I saw them on the menu, but I didn't see them ride around the room on a skewer - maybe it's one of those things like chicken feet at dim sum that they don't generally show the gringos because no one wants their customer to go "Ewww!"? I'll ask next time, when I'm etc.)

I was a little surprised that a 15% gratuity was added to the bill for a party of two (though we ate like some parties of six would) - but any discussion of the pros and cons of that practice should go in the General Topics board, not here. Our waiter was careful to warn us that it had been added, though.

I haven't been to Midwest Grill yet, so I can't compare it to that (I keep meaning to get to MG, but I always find myself at East Coast Grill instead, drawn to it as if by powerful science-fiction rays). The last churrascaria I had was at Pampas in Central Square, however long ago that was there - Churrascaria Rodeo compares very favorably to my dim memory of that. Good food, a relaxing comfortable room, the obligatory guitar player/singer was good at both - we'll certainly be going back.

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  1. I think Midwest Grill is a good place to take North Americans who haven't had the Brazilian barbecue experience. And bilingual staff to make it more comfortable.
    My Brazilian husband refuses to go as he thinks it's overpriced for the quality. But then again, he would prefer to cook at home.

    Thanks for this tip though, it sounds interesting.

    1. Thanks for the great review, Bob - looking forward to trying it out! (And I like the idea of takeout rodizio!)

      1. I made it to Churrascaria Rodeo on Sunday around 5 and will try to fill out Bob's report a bit. They offer a lunch price for the rodezio of $15.95 and the full one is $21.95. It sounded like they offer the lunch price on Saturday and Sunday, but only until 4pm (according what the head waiter shouted at our waitress, but probably better to show up before 3pm). We were the only diners at the time and only one other table (brazilian couple with american friends) showed up later and a few people were hanging out at the bar.

        They have a full bar and the on-table cards were promoting contreau oriented drinks. No draft beer and pretty standard beer selection -- out of Brahma when we arrived, but it was restocked while we were there. I think a Heineken was $4.50, but don't quote me. They had both Yipoca and Cachaca da Roca for cachacas. No juices, except cranberry. The sound was setup for a performer, but he did not perform while we were there.

        The cold buffet had the same salads Bob mentioned. I did grab a bit of salpicao which was ok -- no potato sticks, just chicken, but my DC complained it had a tuna taste. The mayonaise (potato salad) also was not a hit with the DC. The cheese with oregano was decent, but would have been better with a nice provolone.

        The hot buffet had large slices of torresmo (pork bellies), which were good. There was a feijao tropeiro that was a disappointment -- small amounts of sausage, brown collard greens, no toicinho (torresmos), no egg. The rice was a bit dried out and had been sitting. They had rabada which was fairly good and some fried linguica mixto (pork and beef sausage with sazon flavoring) that I didn't try. Overall the buffet seemed to be styled a bit after Midwest (eg the rabada), with the torresmo being something different, but with a somewhat limited selection. I couldn't see anybody being happy paying $10.25 just for the buffet.

        We had the rodizio, the only other option being the moqueca and I what was odd was that was listed on the "takeout side of the menu." The churrasqueiro or gaucho was the high point of our service experience -- came regularly to bring us meat, made a point of asking if we had any special requests, and stopped to chat. The picanha was really tough ... and we tried it twice to see if it was better the second time around. Much better was the alcatra c/alho (top butt seasoned with garlic) -- this was a lot more tender and the seasoning was excellent. The pork loin was different as it seemed to be seasoned in yogurt, tender but so/so flavor. Our server said they make garlic bread to order and made it for us, but it was a bit weak on seasoning. The calabresa they brought us appeared to be store bought kielbasa, rather than anything from a Brazilian butcher, but was quite good (we often use it to season beans). The linguica brasileira/toscana seemed to have more fennel than a brazilian butcher would use, so I believe it was also sourced as basic italian sausage, but was still good. The lamb was overdone and I left it. My DC liked the chicken with bacon, which I passed. We had to specifically ask for the chicken hearts which they had seared earlier, then put on the grill for our request. This was one of the highlights and they were just a little bit rare and nicely marinated. Lastly they offered a pineapple dusted with cinnamon and slightly warmed, which was a nice change to the meat.

        The service was fairly inconsistent. Our waitress was pretty flakey and basically evaporated for most of the meal. Toward the end my DC felt totally rushed by her, then when I said "ok bring the check" she made a face like "so soon." The head waiter was shouting out tablecloth sizes to the owner after we were seated... and passed a bunch of times shouting questions about how we enjoyed the meal, also encouraging us to suggest it to friends and giving us a card. I wanted to slip an extra tip to the churrasqueiro bringing the meat, but chickened out.

        Considering that we went during the first week and when the restaurant was empty, I am not surprised there were some misses. On the other hand, a lot of other Brazilian restaurants pull out all the stops when they open and given the price point of this restaurant, I did expect more overall and Sunday afternoon is prime time for Brazilian restaurants. Our churrasco server indicated to me that they try to cater to American tastes (putting salt on the table instead of the meat, which perhaps was the issue with the picanha -- if they had used sal grosso it could have been better). They also put a lot into the decoration and its nice to have music. They are trying to do something classy that works for both Brazilians and Americans which is worth something.

        Since I live in Medford, I have the option of per-lb churrasco in Somerville and less expensive rodezio in Everett (Sal e Brasa & Picanhas). I am more likely to frequent these. However, Churrascaria Rodeo is much less boisterous and if they improve with a bit of experience, it could be a nice getaway. The bar seems decent for sitting at too. I am not certain I would jump to the idea of eating there when visiting friends in Woburn and I wonder if it will catch on in the area, but they are trying and I wish them luck.

        1 Reply
        1. re: itaunas

          I went here over the weekend and had an ok meal but would not rush back.

          We arrived about 4:30pm which was a mistake. The first meats that were served were obviously left over from lunch and were all overcooked and generally dry. The buffet tables seemed to suffer from the same problem. When the fresh meats began to arrive later during our visit, they were much better, but still not the quality I have had elsewhere such as Midwest Grill or Firebull. They had some good garlic rolls, except after the first time they came around they overcooked them so the outsides were partially blackened.

          The wine list was decent, with most selections averaging $20 a bottle. I did have a tasty Carchello Monstastrell, from Spain, for $22. I think the most expensive wine was only around $35.

          Service was very good, and the waitstaff was very attentive. The servers did ask if you wanted anything in particular and they brought your requests pretty quickly.

          If you do go, do not go early in the evening.