San Diego Area Best Churrascaria - Brazilian BBQ Carlsbads Samba?
- Stanley Stephan
I had my first Brazilian BBQ experience at Samba in Carlsbad. This food is wonderful.
Im new to the area, and I know Ive passed a few Churrascarias on the road. Are there others in the area?
Samba is owned by Paulo Ra who operated the same type of restaurant for over 20 years in Brazil called Bai Branco (White Car). He flies in the outstanding linguisa, pork sausage, from Brazil. There are two recent reviews at the end of this post.
For one price, you can eat as much as you like of up to 20 types of meat. The meat is roasted over an open spit fire and only seasoned with sea salt. A salad bar and buffet of hot side dishes supplements the meal.
Theres a peg on the table and if the green side is up, meat runners will stop by your table with long skewers of roasted meat. They cut off a piece which you grab with tongs and place on your plate. I love good food that is prepared simply, letting the flavors shine. Samba excels at this. Just meat sprinkled with sea salt and roasted.
Its interesting to try so many cuts of beef and see how different the taste and texture can be. On my three visits there was the following cuts of beef (top sirloin, tenderloin, tri-tip, brisket, filet wrapped in bacon, baby back, skirt steak, beef ribs). There was also pork ribs, pork tenderloin, lamb, chicken thighs, chicken legs, and turkey wrapped in bacon. Theres quite a bit of bacon here. Keep in mind, you get too try ALL of the above at the same sitting and eat as much of it as you would like.
My favorite is the linguisa, plump golden sausages oozing juices, pure meat with no trace of filler. My next favorite is the beef ribs. The ribs and the brisket are the exceptions to meat on the skewer. Slabs of perfectly roasted ribs sit on top of butcher blocks and the carts are rolled up to your table. The meat is fall apart tender and juicy. If all they had was the ribs and sausage, I would be a happy diner. The lamb cubes were sensational too. Dont miss them.
My favorite hot side was the bananas coated with bread crumbs and fried. This is the perfect chafing dish item. The bananas get sweeter the longer they sit in the dish. The collard greens with bacon and diced garlic (for your heart?) are very good. There is a huge pot of black beans with chunks of tender beef and pork. And if you havent had your beef fix yet, there is rice fried with diced beef.
I was not fond of the fried yucca which is a little blander than French fries. The dish with manioc tasted like bread crumbs with bacon and I think it is supposed to accompany the meat, but I found it detracted from the wonderful beef.
The 22 item salad bar is top notch. The potato salad is excellent.
There is also wonderful cheese bread. Tiny mozzarella size balls of hot bread that taste almost of pure cheese.
For dessert, I passed on the cheesecake as I wanted to live to visit the restaurant another day (Really!!! beef, some of it with a layer of juicy fat, bacon AND cheesecake).
The stellar dessert is the papaya cream. Im not usually a fan of cold soups. The papaya cream has a soup like consistency. It is icy cold and has brown liquor swirled through it. One of the best desserts that Ive ever had. The passion fruit mousse is also excellent.
If you drink, dont miss the Caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil. Fresh limes are crushed with sugar in a glass filled with crushed ice. Picu, a Brazilian rum called cachaca made with white sugar rather than sugar cane is poured over the limes and sugar. Addictive. Ill probably be stopping by just for one of these drinks every now and then.
Another Brazilian drink on the menu is a maracuja, or passion fruit, cocktail also with Picu. Lovely pink color and frozen daiquiri texture, but not even close to the Caipirinha.
There is also the Brazilian beer, Sanbadouro. It was, well, beer.
If you dont drink alcohol there is a refreshing Brazilian soda called Guarama Antarctica as well as a large selection of fresh squeezed juices. The Caju was one of the best Ive had. My understanding is this is made from cashews. Other versions Ive had were gritty. At Samba it was almost the flavor and color of a pineapple aqua fresca with a hint of a nutty finish. Lovely. The passion fruit juice was refreshing and served with packets of sugar if you cared to sweeten it. The acerola juice was a pretty pink but didnt have much flavor. This is a tropical fruit that looks like a cherry and has subtle apple-like flavor.
There are also many non-Brazilian choices, but I thought Id focus on the unusual items. This is a place that has something to make everyone happy from the picky five year old to the food snob. Well, maybe vegetarians and vegans would be unhappy. The salad bar is available by itself for $9,99, The biggest variety is available on weekends. The best value is at lunch.
The staff is pleasant and quite a few of the boys serving the meat are from Brazil. On Saturday night, which was very busy, the drinks were slow to arrive. Other than that, the staff is very accommodating and goes out of their way to make sure you have a pleasant dining experience.
Sorry for rambling on about Brazilian BBQ. This is probably old stuff for you folks. It was a new experiance for me and I'm interested to see if there are other places like Samba and if they are as good.
Heres David Whites review from the Coast News.
We often go to Rei Do Gado in the Gaslamp, it's decent, all pork dishes are pretty good, I found their "homemade garlic sausage" to be pretty weak.
The now defunct Fronteira Brazilian BBQ in PB was much better.
Our favorite overall is Roda Vida in the Puente Hills Mall in Hacienda Heights, far better than the more highly reviewed Greenfields in West Covina
Sorry to see you've left the bay area (as I've greatly enjoyed reading your "sensitive" reviews ;)), but glad to see you are finding all sorts of fun chow places in SD area. I'll be visiting at the beginning of October and will have to talk my sister-in-law into trying Samba. A little meat induced coma never hurt anyone!