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Jun 6, 2008 06:57 AM

Pampas -- Palo Alto

Brazilian churrasco. Downtown Palo Alto. Nice space. Any feedback?

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  1. There were a few comments on this earlier thread:

    1. Dined there the first week they were open, and had a really nice meal. Alas, I was in a cast and did not get a chance to take in the full extent of the salad bar, but enjoyed the meat dishes quite a bit.
      The concept of the churrascaria is to serve a bunch of regular/ cheap meats with a few great cuts. I was really pleased with the filet, and even in their cheaper cuts I thought they were very creative (the chicken was good, the sausages were good, etc.). The service was great, with multiple waiters lined up at our table when we were open to receive meat.
      I think overall the experience was really good: the design of the place is great, the service was friendly and prompt, and the food was good. I think I was not blown out of the water (there wasn't a Parmigiano wheel waiting at the salad bar like I have seen at Fogo de Chao), but I found it a good place.
      What I especially appreciate about Pampas is their philosophy: they provide language classes for their staff, they support staff retention and promote bus boys to waiters, etc. This is a place I will go back to!

      5 Replies
      1. re: VanessaItalyinSF

        Do you know how they compare to the other local churrascarias?

        529 Alma Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

        1. re: rworange

          What other churrascaria are in the area, other than the one in SF?

          BTW, went back last night and on my first review I forgot to report on the most amazing offering- the "bread" plate! A dish of fried plantains, breaded polenta sticks, and "blinis" is served to each table as "bread". All is delicious- the plantains are freshly fried, the polenta stick is served warm, but the most amazing thing is the "blinis" (choux dough)- terrific! Best thing is- it is served even if you order just appetizers at the bar. Worth a visit!

          1. re: VanessaItalyinSF

            Cleo's in San Bruno

            That 'bread' sounds great. Nice to know about it being available at the bar too. Thanks.

            Some interesting desserts ...

            - chocolate torte served with caramel ice cream, crème fraichesauce, bacon Brazil nut toffee, and smoked sea salt

            - warm blueberry-açai crisp with vanilla bean ice cream

            - raspberry-hibiscus and mango sorbet

            1. re: rworange

              The crisp and the chocolate torte were just okay, but their accompanying vanilla and caramel ice creams were very good. The bacon Brazil nut toffee was terrific (the smoked sea salt was absent).

              Best of show: lamb chops, picanha (top sirloin), cous cous salad
              Least liked: fraldinha (skirt steak)

          2. re: rworange

            Espetus is about the only other place on the peninsula with another location in SF, there are a few other also-rans that aren't even worth mentioning. Even Espetus is prone to overly dry meats and slow service; the others are even worse. Pampas is the first place I've visited in California that didn't suffer such fate.

        2. How would Pampas be for an after-work bar? The lounge menu apps are a plus, of course.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Mick Ruthven

            The drinks are great, but the appetizer menu is a bit thin. We had empanadas which were okay (the smoked tomato sauce was overwhelming- thankfully, beacsue the taste of the vegetarian empanadas was not very thrilling!). There were only 4 appetizers (I think)...

            1. re: Mick Ruthven

              The drinks are good, the bar is nice and the music is fun. It's also a great place to watch people. The night I went it looks like it might be a hook-up place for people for that certain social-economic group who are willing to drop more than $50 each for dinner. The appetizers menu looks pretty dismal though.

              1. re: KathyM

                >The night I went it looks like it might be a hook-up place for people for that certain social-economic group who are willing to drop more than $50 each for dinner.<

                I'm curious about when that was. Two of us went last night (Thursday before a holiday, so like a Friday evening) for dinner (described in another message here), just after 5:30, and saw nothing like that at the bar before or after dinner.

            2. Two of us went for a pre-holiday dinner last night and both of us thought it was great. The design and ambiance is just what I like, and every staff person we encountered was both very friendly and very professional. They've only been open for 2 1/2 months, and our waiter said that every day they discuss how they could do things better. My friend had the Rodizio service ($44). I didn't want that much food so ordered the halibut entree ($28). The meat on skewers started arriving and my friend got so involved with that that she didn't think about going to the "side bar" (which runs the full width of the restaurant) until she couldn't eat anything else. I didn't order the side bar service so, alas, I can't report about it. But her meat was very good - I had some samples, and she loved it - and my halibut was possibly the best fish I've had in a restaurant - cooked through and still very tender and juicy, with a very flavorful thin sauce that I wish I could describe better. We ate early, just after they opened at 5:30, and by the time we left the place was more than half full. It looks like the word is out about this new place. I've never been to other churrascarias so can't compare. If you're in the area and want to spend that type of money for dinner, you should check it out.


              1. I was recently treated to rodizio dinner at Pampas for my birthday and delighted in every moment.

                My birthday was on a Tuesday, so it wasn't a particularly busy evening. A cheery hostess showed us to our table, and our water immediately stopped by to greet us. He explained the dining options as well as the drinks, and left us for a few moments to decide. I had to order a Caipirinha, while my daughter wondered if she could possibly get a virgin Alma, a drink normally made with sagatiba Pura cachaça, muddled fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, fresh-squeezed lime, and agave nectar. The waiter returned quickly with two perfect beverages just to our liking.

                My daughter and I chose the Rodizio while my husband selected the fish du jour, a blue nose sea bass. My five year old son was delighted by the children's menu, especially since he was able to order a huge dish full of plain pasta with grated cheese on it (his favorite).

                Those of us not waiting for entrees made our way quickly to the salad bar where we were pleasantly surprised by a combination of hot side items, seasonal vegetables, salads, cheeses, and charcuterie with some authentic Brazilian choices. However, I was here for the meat so made sure to select sparingly.

                I was particularly impressed by the service at Pampas. Not only did we have an attentive waiter who would stop by to replenish drinks and deliver a la carte menu items, but there were also several Rodizio servers as well as bussers who made sure we always had something new on fresh clean plates.

                Once we sort of felt like some of the Rodizio items were coming around for the second or third times, we had another glance at the menu. We had already enjoyed the sirloin with parmesan, sirloin with garlic & herbs, spicy pork and garlic herb pork, lamb chops that my daughter said were so good they made her cry, "Picanha" the traditional sliced sirloin, maminha, spicy and herbed chicken that was simply melting with flavor, linguica sausages, ham with roasted pineapple, turkey breast nuggets wrapped in bacon, and slices of marinated skirt steak. What we apparently were missing were the chicken hearts (available only by request) and the sliced lamb loin. By all means, be sure to ask for these final two items. The hearts are marinated in some amazing seasoning so tasty that we had several each, and the lamb loin is sliced thin and served with an incredible balsamic and honey reduction that will leave you searching for some bread to mop up every last drop of juice. All of the meat was perfectly seasoned and cooked, so that I was able to have my sirloin juicy and nearly purple in the center while my daughter enjoyed the crispier bits on the outside. Nothing was dry, nothing was over-salted. Just juicy luscious carnivorous love.

                Well, I wasn't going to be able to escape without the traditional birthday embarrassment served with desert. Although we were fairly well stuffed to capacity, we ordered the chocolate torte. We were served a perfect disc of torte, with crumbles of smoked sea salt topped with a caramel ice cream and crème fraiche. I don't even eat sweets and this was to die for. It came with a candle appropriate for inflicting birthday pain.

                This is by far the best rodizio/churrascaria I've visited in California. Most of these places specialize in overpriced fixed menus served with limp excuses for veggies and dry tired oversalted meat items and spotty service. Pampas, on the other hand, clearly pays attention to every detail. I can't wait to slip this in as our next office dinner out ;-)