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Tuesday
Mar272012

Rodizio Grill in Stamford: Healthy Eats @ a Brazilian Steak House?  

As the gauchos paraded by our table brandishing huge spears of juicy, caramelized proteins in a non-stop moveable feast, I had a question:

                  "Can you eat healthy in an all-you-can-eat Brazilian Steak House?"

It was a concern I imagined many a health or diet conscious CTBites reader might harbor, especially if a friend or significant other was suffering a severe steak jones and insisted on a visit to Stamford's new Rodizio Grill, an authentic Brazilian Churrascaria in the space formerly occupied by Houlihans.

When asked, Renee Torres, a Managing Partner of Rodizio (meaning "continuing service") smiled, her eyes brightened, and she nodded enthusiastically.

  "Oh, Absolutely!" 

Pointing over to the vast gourmet salad table imported from Brazil, boasting more than 40 hot and cold dishes, including ceviches, salads, veggies and fruits, she told us. "We source as much locally as possible – depending on the season -- and make everything right here."

Now, full disclosure: I'm not a salad bar kind of guy, if only on style points. But I'd certainly go back to Rodizio's iteration, as I actually have done on both visits there, framing the offerings as tapas rather than a “salad bar.”   My favorite: the shrimp ceviche (a South American specialty) which was bursting with lemony flavor topped off with a mild kick. Shut your eyes, and you’re on the beach in Rio.

Standouts amongst the salads were a dilled cucumber and tomato, a rich Quinoa, delicious roasted edamame, and roasted pineapple and coconut.  We were also impressed with the refried black beans, roasted veggies, and creamy mashed potatoes. The only disappointments were the mozzarella balls.  The seasoning overpowered the cheese and rendered its texture overly mushy.

According to James Layfield, also a Managing Partner, many vegetarian and health-conscious customers opt for the salad bar only, and Rodizio provides lots of leafy choices for them, as well as a reduced price.  His other restaurant, The Melting Pot in Darien, skews largely female, and he has been pleasantly surprised that Rodizio attracts a good share of women, who seem especially drawn to the salad bar.

Men come mostly for the meats which are all rotisserie grilled in gigantic ovens imported from Brazil. The slow, revolving spit roasting dramatically reduces the fat, which drips down into holding pans at the bottom of the gas-flamed grills.

Most of the red beef Rodizio serves is sirloin. One of the least expensive cuts of steak (good for Layfield’s bottom line), sirloin is happily one of the leanest (good for diners’ bottoms). Rodizio's chefs trim off most of the fat, and when carved off the skewer in thin 1 ½ ounce servings, a strip of top sirloin (Picana) has a calorie count under 100, according to the USDA.   When the cut comes mixed with parmesan and spices (Picana com Parmesao), it’s more calorific… but even more tasty.

Full disclosure: as a steak lover and unrepentant carnivore, I don't much care for sirloin, because the lack of marbling deprives it of taste and juices. Moreover, the cut is often tough. However Rodizio’s rendition changed my opinion a bit. The slow rotisserie and special seasoning lend more flavor to the sirloin, and the thin carves across the grain help reduce the toughness. The kitchen will cater to a request for rare, which is more tender than the medium found on most skewers.

Of all the red meat cuts, the Fraldinha, or Beef Tender, came closest to a “melt in your mouth” experience. The Assada, beef pot roast served with onions, potatoes and carrots, also enjoyed a smooth  almost silky texture, and thus was ladled on the plate rather than carved from a skewer.

But Frango, a sweet and spicy skinless chicken, offers a much healthier alternative.  It is anointed with piri-piri, a Portuguese hot sauce which is counterpointed with sweet seasoning.  In my mind, this South American Classic is the downright star of the show. Health and taste-wise, it’s white meat and sweet heat.  

Not as heart friendly, ironically, are the chicken hearts (Coracao), which are relatively high in calories and cholesterol. But this South American specialty (and Midwestern farm favorite) is small, flavorful, and not to be missed. Indeed, our gaucho Asher told us most patrons give them a try.

In addition, the gauchos also bring sausages, turkey wrapped in bacon, glazed pineapple, and lamb (which was not available at both visits.)

The first Rozidio Grill opened in Salt Lake City, where seafood is scant, which explains the lack of fish on the menu. However, Renee and James promised that soon fish would be making a debut in Stamford and would be locally sourced.  The kitchen is experimenting with textures that can be skewered without flaking apart.

Renee also pointed out that nutritional and gluten free menus are available upon request.

I didn't bother asking her which of the desserts were healthy. (Full disclosure, I have a sweet tooth the size of a tusk). All their deserts are homemade from scratch on site. Although only six in number, the top choices are Pudim de Leite, a creamy and surprisingly light flan, a chocolate cake topped with ice cream, bananas and sauce that give a new dimension to “decadent,” a flight of fruity tropical Brazilian Cremes, and Torta de Limao, an amazing Brazilian lime pie with a classic crunchy graham cracker crust.

These desserts, as well as coffees and drinks are served ala carte.

During both visits, one on a weekend, another on a week night, the room was teeming with laughter and conversations.  The convivial gauchos literally connect with everyone at the table.  Indeed, the room seemed full of what Brazilians call Alegira. Joy.

With some discretion and restraint, diners can actually eat as smartly as at most restaurants.  Or they can go crazy and gorge to their heart’s content, if not its health.  

The price points are quite reasonable for a steak house and far less than Brazilian Churrascarias in New York City.  There’s also a deep discount for youngsters.

FULL RODIZIO (appetizers, unlimited salad bar and meats)   LUNCH 19.99        DINNER 34.99

SALAD BAR (unlimited Salad Bar)                                       LUNCH 13.99       DINNER 22.99

Desserts and Drinks ala carte.

 

Rodizio Grill

5 Broad Street

Stamford, CT

203.964.9177

Rodizio Grill on Urbanspoon

 

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Reader Comments (9)

Fantastic! Any idea when this is opening?

March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

It's open!

March 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterStephanie Webster

This sounds great. I can't wait to try it!
-Me
Friendsfoodwine.com
Bellamadre.com

March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMe

You can't find a healthy option in most steak houses. Sounds lovely.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJet for Hire

Went tonight to check the place out..... If it's there longer than hooligans I will be impressed. You should never have to wait to have the" slouchos" see that you are in the green waiting for a poor excuse of chicken and over cooked over salted beef and a salad buffet that is comparable to a bad stag. If you beg to differ
PLease take a ride to the new ridge hill in yonkers and try texas de brazil and then you will see what a difference. I will take the trip from here on out to satisfy my craving for Brazilian steakhouse style service. Or will go to any Barcelona and order there rendition of this concept that simply stomps all over this location. Stamford has shown that the service pool is a challenging one... Ie all of the town center restaurants, brutal service. This place has the similar unprofessional careless service that makes you feel like you are inconveniencing them to serve you.

I can only pray that the new hudson grille that is due to open next to butterfields is a mirror of the one in white plains. That would be a treat and save ke some gas money..... For that extra martini.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe dinner diner

ct bites-bites! I thought u had an ounce of culinary knowledge until you gave a glowing review on the incarnate of sizzler! Either you're on the payroll or you're a mindless twit with no tastebuds! thanks but nothanks

March 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmused

Hit up Rodizio tonight...and as a fan of Churrasaria.... Plataforma NYC, Fogo de Chao and Texas de Brazil...must say VERY disappointed. Service was pleasant, but light at best. The plates of fried plantains, cheese bread and polenta fries were small and we had to ask a few times for refills. The salad bar was pathetic...and looked very unappetizing.
The gauchos were doing the best they could, with small cuts of meat, overcooked and unseasoned. Long waits in between service.
Great waiter and Malbec from Argentina, but not sure Rodizio will make it if it continues to skimp on the Churrascaria experience.

Probably makes sense that is is next to Target!

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDisappointed

Tried this place last night. It's pathetic. Not sure how this website gave them a good review. I guess the author has never tried any other churascaria anywhere.
I should have just stuck to tripadvisor reviews.
The service is really bad. We had to call them to get a refill or water. The meats were also very bad. They bought in picanha only once every 30 min. The cheese breads were not even baked properly from their frozen state.
While waiting for some top sirloin they suggested that we turn the indicator to red since we are done according to them.
Not surprisingly this place was half empty on a Friday night. Hopefully they will be out of business soon.

December 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPragueresident

I find it wildly offensive that you seem to think that eating meat is "unhealthy". I'm a fitness junkie and I have body fat in to the teens... I take my food seriously but I find it really annoying and wildly offensive that you seem to think eating meat is unhealthy and that women eating meat rare. "Seem drawn to the salad bar" get out. most of the women I see eat the meat- and most of the women I eat with- eat all the meat there.

I don't get my panties in a twist over much but I can't stand when people seem to think because people who are fit and "healthy" that all we do is eat salad - I eat at the Rodizio at least once a month- and I have eaten at the salad bar once (my first visit and of the "try everything once mentality" it's good- you are correct- but the meat is better).

And it's an all you can eat steak house- so that's what we do- eat all the meat.

How about you do a little research on what is actually good for you rather than just reading all the garbage on "red meat bad"

But yes- Rodizo is amazing- I love it. Everything else was spot on- sorry to everyone else who seemed to get bad service- the one I go to is very pleasant and the meats are in great condition.

September 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJo

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