Filet mignon. Lamp chops. Parmesan-crusted pork. Bacon-wrapped chicken breast. Grilled pineapple. Brazilian flan. Caipirinhas. Those are some of the myriad of items available when I went to rodízio (Brazilian steakhouse) Brisas do Sul.
I don’t know if vegetarians could appreciate this, but when you’re a carnivore (or omnivore), the scent of barbecuing meat wafting through the air is quite tantalizing. That was what greeted us as we walked through the doors of Brisas do Sul in Folsom. Floating through my thoughts as I took in the pleasant food aromas were the (modified) lyrics of the Jam’s song “Beat Surrender”:
Come on boy, come on girl
Succumb to the meat surrender
What can I say – I’m weird.
I’d been looking forward to trying out this restaurant. I’d only had one previous experience visiting a rodízio, and it wasn’t a very good one, surprisingly. I’d expected it to be much better since the restaurant was located in Carlsbad, a somewhat upscale city in North San Diego county (a very popular golf tournament takes place there every year, for one). Anyway, I’d heard about rodízios from a real estate broker I worked with; he’d mentioned visiting Fogo de Chão down in the Gaslamp Quarter. I was highly unlikely to drive into San Diego city, much less have the kind of money I’d need for a meal at Fogo de Chão, so I figured having a meal there was never going to happen for me. When I’d learned that a Brazilian steakhouse had opened just a few miles away from where I worked, I was very interested and excited to check it out, which I did with a friend and fellow meat aficionado.
Boy, were we disappointed! I can’t remember much about the service, although I do recall the “salad bar” was also underwhelming at best (it was on a small side table that had barely more than fried plantains IIRC). However, we had no idea what disappointment really was until after we’d finished our meal and realized that every single freaking cut of meat we’d been served tasted like they’d been bathed in the fuel with which they’d been cooked. I naively wondered if all rodízios did the same thing to their meat. Given the cost of even going to this brand-new, unproven restaurant, I wasn’t interested in trying another one out. I was not surprised in the least when this restaurant closed its doors fairly quickly. I guess we weren’t the only ones who didn’t care for gas-marinated food.
Jump forward about 15-20 years, and I’m starting to harbor the idea of trying out another rodízio. I start checking out the area for rodízios in the area (I know they have them in the Bay Area, but I’m not so interested in going to another one that I want to travel that far just for a meal). I discover that, whereas San Diego seemed to have just the one rodízio (can’t really say it had two since the second one didn’t seem to last even one year), the Sacramento area has now been blessed with three (how many Brazilian steakhouses can one small region of northern CA accommodate?). Given how big San Diego is and how metropolitan the area is, it’s odd to me that there would only be one Brazilian steakhouse there vs. the three in Sacramento, although I will admit that I’m comparing this to almost-20-years-ago San Diego. However, a quick Yelp check shows that there are now TWO rodízios in San Diego, woohoo!
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to my search. I find a couple of rodízios are fairly close by – Flame & Fire and Fogo de Minas. While one has 4 stars in Yelp (Flame & Fire) and the other has 4.5 stars (Fogo de Minas), the recent reviews (for that time, which was June) gave me pause. There appear to be problems with the quality of the food for both restaurants. Again, while I am intrigued enough to give Brazilian steakhouses another go, I don’t want to spend a lot money on food that I’m more likely not going to enjoy given the reviews (at the time, I kept seeing reviews complaining about the cook of the meats; currently, most reviews seem to be very good for both restaurants). Anyway, I decide to wait on going and about a year, year-and-a-half passes before I revisit this thought. By this point, a 3rd rodízio opens – this time in Folsom. The reviews seemed okay, but I’m still on the fence. Then the Groupon came – it was like a sign. The Groupon was for dinner anytime for two at a discounted price at Brisas do Sul, the very restaurant I’d just been looking into. I determined we were meant to go so I bought the Groupon.
Now, about that Groupon. I took a look at the recent Yelp reviews and, apparently, all of those individuals who still had a Groupon good for anytime recently (as of last weekend) got to be faced with a notice stating that those Groupons would no longer be honored for Fri-Sun. Wonderful. I can’t imagine why. No, really. The restaurant was EMPTY when we got there and, by the time we left, only one other party (of two) had arrived so it’s not like they were losing business (because of the Groupons, anyway). This was on a Saturday. It’s no wonder their Yelp rating is at 3.5 stars. Poor poor form. I know I would’ve been pretty peeved, too, to get all the way over there (Folsom is a bit of a drive from my home) and learn I couldn’t use my Groupon (I wonder if someone made a mistake initially and forgot to limit the Groupons to M-Th only; when we came in and I told the host or the server we had a Groupon, I was asked if it were for M-Th, which I told them it was not). I think they should’ve just honored the Groupons as they were written. I wouldn’t trust buying another Groupon for them. I’ve never before heard of the merchant refusing to honor the Groupon as it was stipulated. The Yelp reviews for this restaurant are rather entertaining (in a “can’t look away from a train wreck” sort of way). I guess we were blessed not to encounter the manager that day. There were no problems with using our Groupon.
All the Groupon drama aside, the experience wasn’t bad; it was, actually, quite lovely. Our server was Joseph, and he was perfectly attentive (I should hope so; for most of our meal, we were the only patrons in the restaurant). The gauchos brought out the parade of meats at fairly regular intervals. I was keeping count of how many we got to try since I knew I’d be writing about the meal. When we got to having tried twelve of the meat options and they started repeating, I asked Joseph about the remaining options. We did get to try two more after my inquiry – the chicken leg and the regular filet mignon – but didn’t get any more new options after that. When I asked about the beef ribs and chicken hearts, I was told the beef ribs wouldn’t come out until around 4pm and that there were no chicken hearts available. Hmmm. On the weekends, the only pricing available is the dinner pricing so where is the justification for short-changing the paying customer for their meal options? I didn’t really care for that but after reading the rather scathing Yelp reviews, I realize not getting the beef ribs was a pretty mild issue in comparison (I don’t remember seeing this on their website before, but the beef ribs and chicken hearts are now listed as needing to be requested and are seasonal).
I wish I could say all the meat was great as the quality of the cook on everything we tried seemed perfectly fine. However, there was a ton of salt on most of the meat we had (I was beginning to wonder if it were just me). Since we got to the restaurant shortly after it opened and were the only ones there, I don’t recall any significant wait for meat. Okay, we might’ve had to wait ten or so minutes for the chicken legs or the filet mignon. I don’t really remember, and the wait didn’t seem too long or unreasonable. Our carousel of meat (and one fruit) options came out as follows:
Bacon-wrapped chicken breast
Leg of lamb
Top sirloin again (no picture)
Chicken leg – (Joseph told us it’s made with cognac, beer, salt, pepper, lemon pepper)
Funny – I thought their website used to list the meat options, but I could be wrong (I could be thinking of the website of one of the other rodízios around here). The website DOES give them an out and state the Full Rodízio Experience is 12 to 15 different meats, and we received 13 so they get a pass there (not trying to be greedy, here; just wanted the opportunity to try all of their meat options as I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be returning since an AYCE-meat restaurant isn’t something we normally would go to). After the regular filet mignon (or maybe just before), the previous meats were coming back around again so none of us partook in those (I think – or maybe Gabriel got more of the lamb or pork). Looking at the order in which they came out, I can see what one Yelp poster meant about the cheaper cuts coming out first (such as the chicken breast and pork sausages) and the most expensive cuts coming out last (such as the regular filet mignon). I suppose you could opine that the restaurant is trying to fill up the patron with the cheaper cuts first but knowing better stuff is coming along, you do what I did – don’t fill up on them. OTOH, I did, multiple times, ask the gaucho to give me a small serving, and it was as if they didn’t hear me (or wouldn’t listen). I got a regular-sized serving every time (this I know because my dining companions – Gabriel and Aunt Mary – got the same-size servings I did when I asked for smaller servings, whether or not they were served before or after me).
Of the things I liked the best, I’d have to say it was the non-meat options that stand out the most for me – the grilled pineapple, the fried bananas and the GF Brazilian parmesan cheese bread of yuca and tapioca. I think we might’ve gotten the dipping sauces at some point into our meal, but I can’t remember and would have to check the pictures I took (just checked them – nope, we never received the dipping sauces but, now that I think about it, Joseph might’ve told us they were available at the salad bar and that the mashed potatoes were in one of the silver covered dishes next to the salad bar). Also greatly enjoyable was the caipirinha cocktail. I normally don’t enjoy alcoholic beverages, but I wanted to try this one since it’s part of Brazilian cuisine. I found it so tasty, I finished Gabriel’s caipirinha also. The Brazilian flan dessert we shared to round out our meal was also delicious (and, of course, Gabriel partook in a Brazilian medium-roast cup of coffee, which he deemed excellent). The bread was very light; it was like eating lightly crusty soft puffs of cheese (but not cheese puffs). I asked what they’re called but was told they’re just rolls (a few of the Yelp posts called them “pao de queijo” so I guess they’re not “just rolls”). I found the pineapple and bananas to be great palate cleansers after all the salt (hmmm…maybe that’s why I enjoyed the alcohol so much – all that salt!). I did make sure to try a couple of Brazilian dishes I had heard of previously and was curious about. I tried feijoada (a black bean stew) with rice and farofa (a toasted flour mixture). I don’t really remember anything about the farofa. In fact, I forgot I even tried it until I saw it on my plate in one of the pictures I took. The feijoada was okay. I might’ve enjoyed it more if I hadn’t already eaten everything else. My take on feijoada is that it’s another version of beans and rice (we Filipinos have munggo beans and rice as our rendition of beans and rice).
From what I read from the Yelp reviews, the experiences of the diners are rather uneven, except when it comes to the Brisas do Sul staff sharing information regarding things like being able to use Groupons or seafood being an additional price or lunch prices not observed on the weekends (despite the website info presenting to the contrary). I believe the most recent review (as of this writing) had a “diner” who didn’t even get to dine there, having arranged for a late lunch only to find that the online posted times of the restaurant do not match the actual operating hours. Some people, like me, found the meat incredibly salty. Others found it underseasoned (which made me wonder if the proprietors are reading the online reviews and making changes according to what they’re finding, especially since the full dinner price dropped from $60 to $50). Some patrons, like me, enjoyed the cook of the meat while others found them very dry and chewy. I read once somewhere that the gauchos return the meat to the grill if it’s not all served when they finish traveling around the room; that sure would explain the meat being dry and chewy (since we were there almost right when it opened and were the only customers for most of our visit, we got the different meats on their first go-rounds). It’s a shame that where the customer service is listed as bad is incredibly bad. I’m so glad this wasn’t our experience at all.
Ultimately, would I recommend going to Brisas do Sul? Well, I think it’s a do-so-at-your-own-risk decision (but doesn’t that apply everywhere?). $50 for dinner (to start) is not cheap, especially when the experience appears to be like spinning the roulette wheel. I’d say buy the Groupon to find out, but you already know how that goes…
If all else fails, go for the flan, I say!
#kakainna #socalval #restaurantreview #sacramentorestaurants #brisasdosul #braziliansteakhouse