With Darlene’s birthday this past weekend we decided that we were due for a fine night out on the town for dinner. It was just our luck that a the owners of Hermanos Argentinian Steakhouse opened a new South American themed restaurant just down the block Carnaval Brazilian BBQ.
For Winnipeg the concept is quite revolutionary, for a fixed price of $39 per adult an endless buffet of savory meats and side dishes is brought to your table and sliced fresh from a skewer and onto your plate. Simple in concept and frighteningly efficient in bringing one quickly to the point of entering a meat coma. But oh so good. Onetime chef and now author and globe-trotter Anthony Bourdain has said in the past that food and cooking is all about domination and submission. The diner must be willing to submit to the will of the cooks and the severs to receive the best of what they have to offer.
Our meal began quite simply, the floor manager welcomed us to our table and instructed us on the workings of the table and the floor staff. We were each given a coaster, one side printed green with a hungry diner smiling fork and knife at the ready. This was to be displayed if we wanted the gauchos to bring food to our table. The other side was printed in red, the diner passed out in blissful slumber as if to say “Please no more, I need a break.”
She also explained that family sized portions of side dishes would be brought throughout our meal to accompany the gaucho’s BBQ’d offerings. Ready, steady, GO! We cautiously flipped our cards to green, almost instantly a smiling gaucho appeared with a skewer packed top to bottom with roast chicken wings. Yes, why yes of course I would like some my good man. The wings were hardly off the skewer when a second gaucho appeared bearing pork chorizo sausage. All so innocent luring me into their trap.
The wings were crispy and juicy to a fault I gnawed at the wingtips for the crispy goodness and devoured the chorizo with equal fervor. More and more gaucho’s appeared, skewered chicken thighs, slices of heavenly rare top sirloin, sirloin cap so fatty and crispy and delicious on the outside and so incredibly tender and flavorful on the inside that my eyes rolled up into the back of my head with near orgasmic delight.
One of the most outstanding wandering table side attractions turned out not to be food at all but a caipirinha trolley. Where he mixed a very potent Brazilian staple beverage in honor of Darlene’s birthday. Handing it to her, he whispered sip it slow it, it sneaks up on you.
Our table which was empty at the start of our meal was now packed with side dishes, condiments and the detritus of the meal. Looking less and less like a fine dining experience but more like a frat party gone horribly wrong. I had slipped into the dark side and was loving every finger licking, chin mopping crispy skinned and painful sigh as I tried to keep pace with the gauchos.
They looked less like friendly servers now, taking on the visage of black clad, sash wearing delivers of pleasure and pain. My stomach pleaded with me to stop, full to bursting. But my meat addled brain wanted more, more lamb, more cap of sirloin, a chicken wing yes please.
Then it appeared, the object to stop my protein psychosis. A single slab of BBQ pineapple coated in cinnamon and grilled to perfection. The simple combination of sweet and acid brought everything together. Something so simple almost mundane left me full and complete.
Overall the meal was delicious, however on my next visit I would do things a bit differently to ease into the meal. Ordering a course of salad or starters from the complementary menu right of the bat seems the way to go. We were pounded by meat right away and by the time our salads and bread had arrived we were already into full-fledged feeding mode.
This concept for Brazilian BBQ coupled with the quality and know how that the Hermanos ownership group brings to the table, I can’t see Carnaval being anything but a smash hit.