Written by Lyn Dobrin, Editorial@antonnews.com Wednesday, 24 April 2013 08:44
Don’t speak Portuguese? Here’s a little vocabulary lesson to explain the name of this family-style restaurant.
Brasa — hot coal that is ready for roasting.
Churrasqueira — a restaurant serving wood-char grilled meat; servers come to the table with meat on a skewer.
Rodizio — a style of service, where diners pay a fixed price and waiters bring food several times during the meal until the diner says “Enough!”
In this Portuguese-style all-you-can-eat restaurant, waiters bring skewers of grilled meat to the table and you select what you want: pork loin, skirt steak, top sirloin, beef cubes, beef ribs, chicken, chicken drumsticks, turkey with bacon and Brazilian sausage. When you’ve had enough, you just say “no” when the skewers are brought around.
Or you can order individual dishes from the menu. Brasa is rightfully proud of its chicken, a two-and-one-half pound fryer, butterflied, seasoned with sea salt and other spices, and basted as it cooks over the hot charcoal fire. The skin is crispy and a bit spicy. The meat, particularly the leg and thigh, is tender. If you want to go spicier, ask for their piri piri sauce with red pepper flakes and oil.
In addition to the meats, Brasa serves soups, hot sandwiches and fish dishes that include grilled cod fish, grilled swordfish and branzino, all served family-style with an assortment of carbs: white rice, French fries, boiled potato, delicious house-made potato chips, plus steamed vegetables. All diners get the cold and vinegary house salad of lettuce, onions and tomatoes, plus olives and bread. Extra sides are black beans, fried bananas, sautéed collard greens and farofa (toasted cassava flour).
There are two lunch specials every day. A recent offering was grilled octopus with red skinned potatoes, roasted red pepper and onions, and alentesana — pork, clams and potatoes with cilantro, one of the most traditional and popular pork dishes in Portuguese cuisine.
Most desserts are made in-house and include flan, heavenly whites (a rich pudding of heavy cream, eggs and Marie tea biscuits) and pistachio cake.
A few words about that pistachio cake. When co-owner Paul Batista told me the most popular dessert at Brasa was a pistachio cake, I thought I’d hear that it had been passed down from generation to generation from his ancestors in Portugal. Instead, I learned that he had invented the cake, modifying a recipe that his Italian mother-in-law had located, and that one of the prime ingredients was white cake mix.
The recipe for Brasa’s pistachio cake feels a bit like the Food Network’s “Chopped” where chefs are given a box of ingredients to make a dish. In addition to the white cake mix, there’s also pistachio pudding mix, Sprite soda and pistachios.
The cake is very moist — almost like a thick pudding. The chopped pistachios add a welcome crunch in the icing. This is the kind of dessert that can easily become a craving.
Brasa Churrasqueira Rodizio is located at 100 Herricks Road in Mineola. The phone number is 516-280-8000; the website, www.brasarodizio.com.