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Dining

Viva Via Brasil!

We dare you to save room for dessert amid all the meat (and more)

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Waiter David Thomazi slices off a piece of fire-grilled picanha steak, one of 18 different cuts of meat offered at Via Brasil.
Photo: Richard Brian

Suddenly, there is a wealth of churrascarias, or Brazilian-style barbecues, in the city, none more unabashedly authentic than Via Brasil, which spells Brazil as it is in done in Portuguese.

The restaurant belongs to the Gomes family, which operates a Brazilian restaurant in New York City, and it deviates from the formula by making various dishes available to knowledgeable customers. Feijoada, a black-bean-and-meat stew served to the public on weekends, is one, and another is acaraje, dense bean fritters fried in dende (palm oil)—a street-food staple in the northern city of Bahia, home of Afro-Brazilian cuisine.

This is a vast, expensively decorated restaurant, staffed by captains in classy black suits and gauchos who slice meat from skewers brought to the table on rolling carts. A large, well-stocked wine cellar sits behind glass walls in the middle of the dining room. The bar area has a tile floor patterned after the walkway on Rio’s famous Copacabana Beach, and there is a simulated waterfall, representing its waves.

The Details

Restaurant Guide
Via Brasil
1225 S. Fort Apache Rd.
804-1400
Lunch, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily; dinner 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, until 11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Prices: gourmet table only, $17.95 (lunch), $24.95 (dinner). Rodizio $29.95 (lunch), $39.95 (dinner)
Reviews of other Las Vegas churrascarias
Vegans beware! (11/6/08)
Meat! More meat! (6/8/08)
Restaurant Guide
Texas de Brazil
Pampas Brazilian Grill

Ricardo Gomes, a cousin of the owners, handles the dining room and the wines, which accounts for the many top-notch wines in his cellar, including a Clos Apalta from Chile, various Argentine Malbecs, and Chateau Pape-Clement from France’s Bordeaux region, all wines you’d be hard pressed to find away from top Strip wine lists.

Gomes explained that his family comes from Brazil’s Minas Gerais, an inland state famous for cheese bread, hot little orbs that the gauchos bring you as soon as you are seated. Don’t fill up on these delicious breads. You’ve been warned.

Other temptations follow, each designed to keep you from eating too much meat, which is really the point of any rodizio, where rotisserie meats rule.

A platter of Brazilian appetizers including kibbee, Lebanese-style meatballs, cod fritters, a turnover called rissoles and risotto balls, also comes to the table, as does a cart containing a selection of cachacas, sugar cane rums for making caipirinhas, Brazil’s answer to the margarita.

The next course is a trip to the “gourmet table,” which Gomes was quick to point out is not a buffet. “Many of the items we serve illustrate the hybrid culture that is Brazil today, such as chicken stroganoff, influenced by our many Russian émigrés, and sushi, from our even more populous Japanese community.”

Tasting your way through this table and leaving room for the rodizio is a chore. I found the chicken stroganoff, which tastes suspiciously of mustard and cream, a bit strange. But the Afro-Brazilian dish bobo de camaron, composed of shrimp and yucca root, is great, as is moqueca, a Bahian seafood stew based on coconut milk and fiery spices.

Hopefully, you’ve come through all of this with your appetite intact, because there are 18 meats coming your way, each one worthwhile. The cooking philosophy here is simple. Red meats, except lamb, are simply salted, in order to bring out the flavor. Other meats, such as chicken and turkey, are marinated in white wine, garlic and spice, in the Brazilian fashion.

Perhaps my favorite meat here is the beef rib, sliced off the bone according to the temperature you specify. In practice, I asked for an entire bone, and my gaucho was a willing supplicant. I’m also crazy about the chicken drumsticks, the picanha with garlic, a wonderful linguica sausage and the moist, juicy, bacon-wrapped turkey.

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And that’s just a smattering. Flank steak, skirt steak, salmon and pork ribs are also on the menu here, as is leitao, Portuguese-style roast suckling pig, crispy skin attached. You will not be able to handle all 18 cuts here unless you are a competitive eater, so let me suggest the following: Share a cut, rather then eat each one in its entirety. That way, you’ll be able to taste more of them, and should you require seconds, you will be able to pick your spot intelligently.

The meats, by the way, are accompanied by fried bananas, fried yucca, mashed potatoes and collard greens, as well as two sauces, a Brazilian vinaigrette and the Argentine sauce chimichurri, an oil, parsley and garlic suspension made to be smeared on roasted meats.

Did I mention dessert? Acai, a tropical fruit mashed with some vanilla ice cream, and said to have magical antioxidant properties, is interesting, and manja, a coconut flan, also deserves notice. If you’ve saved room for one, you deserve notice as well.

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