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Meating Places

Two new churrascarias deliver Brazil to the ’burbs.

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If there is a corner of heaven that caters specifically to carnivores, it must look a lot like Grille From Ipanema. That’s no typo. The Grille From Ipanema restaurant in Jordan Landing is a pun on Astrud and João Gilberto’s cachaça-soaked bossa nova tune “The Girl From Ipanema”'Ipanema being Rio de Janeiro’s most upscale beachfront neighborhood.

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A hot destination for meat eaters, Grille From Ipanema is the latest entry in the rodizio-style Brazilian steakhouse sweepstakes. Known in Brazil as a churrascaria, Ipanema joins brethren like Salt Lake’s Rodizio Grill, Samba Grill and Braza Grill'along with Tucanos Brazilian Grill in Provo'in the all-you-can-eat Brazilian buffet culinary category. But if the term “buffet” triggers images of Chuck-A-Rama or the Golden Coral, you’ve got the wrong picture.

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You probably know the churrascaria routine by now: For one all-you-can-eat price (plus extra for drinks and dessert), you get to load up your plate from a huge assortment of hot and cold dishes at the extensive buffet. Once you’re seated, the real fun begins. A rotation of five or six servers armed with sword-length skewers pop by every few minutes with a variety of freshly grilled goodies carved right onto your plate. The assortment of grilled items typically arrives within seconds of being taken off the rotisserie grill.

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Visiting Grille From Ipanema for an early dinner on a rain-soaked Sunday, I was surprised to see anyone else in the restaurant at all. But business was good, and most of the customers were Brazilian families who seemed to be dressed for church; Saturdays and Sundays are popular days for family meals in Brazil. The restaurant itself is an attractive, modern structure about the size of a B-52 hangar, but the large space is divvied up into separate dining rooms with a big buffet and grill in the center, making it feel less spacious (if not exactly cozy) than it really is. Someone put a lot of money into making Grille From Ipanema’s looks sizzle.

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At dinner, the “full churrasco” meat frenzy costs $18.99; lunch is $11.99. At the new Braza Grill in Clearfield (see below) the churrasco lunch is $9.99 and $16.99 for dinner. At those prices, feeding the family can quickly add up to some serious Brazilian reals, although Braza charges only half price for kids ages 5 to 11; those under 5 eat free. Grille From Ipanema is not so kid-friendly however, charging full price regardless of age or appetite. Both restaurants offer a lower price for the salad bar/buffet only, just in case a lost vegetarian wanders in.

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While practicing my rusty Portuguese on a terrific server named Alberto at Grille From Ipanema, I was treated to a dozen or so grilled meats and the always-delicious grilled pineapple. It’s smart to pace yourself in these churrascarias'something I rarely manage to do. The meat parade began with a sweet and spicy sausage reminiscent of the linguiça so popular in Brazil and Portugal, followed by grilled ham, chicken and turkey. The Parmesan-crusted pork tenderloin was a bit dry and salty, but we all enjoyed the grilled, thinly-sliced bottom sirloin. Still, we should have held out for the top sirloin, which was much more juicy and flavorful. By the way, the best cut of meat I’ve had in any Utah churrascaria is the top sirloin at Clearfield’s Braza Grill, which was exquisite'although only slightly more marvelous than Braza’s skewered chicken hearts.

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Both Braza Grill and Grille From Ipanema sport typical Brazilian buffets: There’s an array of salads and pasta, fresh fruits and veggies, hot dishes such as beef stroganoff and the Brazilian black bean stew called fiejao, fried yucca, rice croquettes (which are yummy at both restaurants) and lots more, like the hearts of palm that are always my downfall in these restaurants. One of the buffet highlights was the palate-pleasing crab salad at Braza Grill, while the lowlight was probably Grille From Ipanema’s tortellini with tomato sauce. Foolishly, I assumed the tortellini would be hot, not cold. Cold tortellini with vinaigrette I can get behind, but cold tomato sauce on cold pasta is just plain icky. Even the kids thought so. On the other hand, the sampa rice (sampa is slang for São Paulo) at the Grille was delicioso.

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Another oddity: At Grille From Ipanema we noticed bread baskets on adjacent tables. So we asked our server if we could have an order of bread. She had to check with the hostess, who informed my carb-addicted wife that they were “running out of bread”'notwithstanding the fact that the restaurant had been open for less than 15 minutes. So, no, we could not have any bread. Thankfully, the guys with the skewers at the Grille are much more friendly and accommodating.

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A key attraction at the new Braza Grill in Clearfield'owner J.R. Lopez also owns the original Braza Grill in Murray'is al fresco patio dining, which included a live batucada band playing sassy sambas and carnival music on a recent Saturday night. And, like Grille From Ipanema, Braza Grill is a shiny, new, modern eatery with lots of room for meat lovers to roam. Good thing, since the place is mobbed on the weekends.

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All that charred meat just cries out for an Argentine Malbec wine or ice-cold glasses of the Brahma beer that’s so prevalent in the churrascarias of Rio and São Paulo. Braza is licensed and, according to folks at Grille From Ipanema, their license will be up and running in a week or so. Until then, try a highly caffeinated glass of guarana, the huckleberry-tasting soda of Brazil.

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BRAZA GRILL BRAZILIAN STEAKHOUSE
n5927 S. State Street
nMurray
n506-7788
n1246 Legend Hill Dr.
nClearfield
n774-9933

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GRILLE FROM IPANEMA
n3763 Center Park Dr.
nJordan Landing
nWest Jordan
n282-2233

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Correction: In my recent review of Thai Lotus restaurant, I incorrectly stated that they did not serve beer or wine. In fact, they serve both.

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