A Brazilian barbecue buffet on Pham Ngu Lao Street that is proving popular among large parties of friends and family. By Ruben Luong. Photos by Nguyen Nguyen.
Twilight has announced itself as a noticeable glow emanates from the kitchen windows of JJ’s Brazilian BBQ. To the right, cooks prepare long metal skewers of churrasco and roast them in a sizable wood charcoal grill in the bottom floor kitchen. The skewers rotate so slowly that you can almost feel the heat.
This style of cooking is direct from the southern Brazilian high plains, a centuries-old method in which gauchos (Brazilian cowboys) spit-roasted slabs of beef, pork, lamb, and poultry over coals in open fire pits to preserve the juices and flavours of the meat. The Brazilian houses of barbeque, known as churrascarias, became gathering places for feasts with family and friends.
By 7pm, the entire upstairs dining room, warm and sophisticated, has filled with large parties of six or more. In the far corner, a trendy entourage of 14 slowly trickles in. We join in on the churrasco buffet (VND 550,000) and salad bar (VND 250,000). An a la carte menu is also available with risottos or pizzas (VND 160,000-200,000), pastas (VND 140,000-180,000), and meats from the grill (VND 240,000-380,000).
The buffet is served rodizio (continuous) style, in which waiters rotate and hand-cut one of at least 10 meats from table to table. While the skewers roast, we sashay over to the salad bar, where we pile heaps of fresh greens and cherry tomatoes, cold salami cuts, kimchi, calamari, cured salmon, and rice crackers onto our plates. There are also ample potatoes, brown rice, and refried beans in slow cookers.
Minutes after we return, I forget the salad. Our first waiter arrives with pieces of bacon, shrimp and asparagus. They were a tease, until the tender pork sausage came shortly after, followed by rounds of pork ribs and leg of lamb, which both produced a flame-charred satisfaction. A juicy slab of medium-rare ribeye, still steaming on the skewer, is our last meat, and takes the gold in the churrasco buffet.
The meats pair best with Chilean Luis Felipe sauvignon red wine (VND 450,000/bottle, VND 90,000/glass), ripe with berry fruits and hints of capsicum. In the din of the evening, you’ll notice groups in the room raising their glasses on more than one occasion, toasting to good company and to endless churrasco.