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Sizzle and samba

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

August 28, 2003|S. Irene Virbila | Times Staff Writer

A new restaurant right on the water is worth noting, but a churrascaria where you eat unlimited amounts of meats grilled over a charcoal fire, Brazilian cowboy style, may be a first. At least in Redondo Beach.

The owners of the South Bay restaurants Aioli, Breadstix and Trio are entering exotic territory with Samba Brazilian Steakhouse & Bar. They've painted the cavernous space in tropical colors -- lime, orange, pink. But that looks to be the extent of their decorating budget. (The marina view outside the window more than makes up for any lapses.)

Even walking from the parking lot, you can smell the char of beef. And in the three-tiered dining room that gives every table a view, passadores (servers) go from table to table with long metal skewers, slicing leg of lamb or skirt steak right onto your plate. The waiter sets down a wooden dowel painted green on one side, red on the other. Turn it to green and the meat will keep coming. Turn it to red when you want to say basta, enough.

Meanwhile, there's a buffet set up in another area. They're not strong on presentation here, and some of the dishes look a little tired, but, in fact, most of them are pretty good. The greens in the salad bar are fresh, the dressings well made.

The feijoada (a black bean soup with various meats) is thick and velvety. Even the fried zucchini and cauliflower passes muster. And the mashed potatoes are better than many I've been served in far fancier restaurants.

I'm amazed when a couple of slender Brazilian beauties sipping caipirinha, the popular drink of cachaca (sugar cane alcohol) and fresh lime juice, start to eat. And eat.

First comes top sirloin marinated in garlic, then skirt steak and tender meaty ribs. We try the linguica pork sausage, the moist chicken thighs suffused with oregano and garlic. The leg of lamb doesn't actually taste that much like lamb, but the quails marinated in rosemary and sage are quite good. Until you say stop, the parade of meats just keeps coming. I'd hate to see a soccer team let loose here.

Our waiter, Tati, explains that she's usually one of the dancers who have the run of the place on the weekends, but since it's slow during the middle of the week, she waits tables. They're also offering a price reduction: Monday through Thursday it's $19.95 for the full deal instead of the usual $24.95. That's quite a bargain. It also includes desserts.

If caipirinha isn't your thing, Samba's wine list has 20 choices, from a local Fess Parker Chardonnay and a Rosenthal Cabernet from Malibu to Bodega Lurton's Pinot Gris and Malbec from Argentina.

As we leave, Tati invites us to come back at 8 on Friday night for a salsa lesson (there's dancing on Friday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.). Salsa? What about samba, I ask. She says she'll teach us samba too, if we like.

I just might.

*

Samba Brazilian Steakhouse & Bar

Where: 207 N. Harbor Drive, Redondo Beach

When: Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; dinner 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Friday. Full bar. Lot parking with validation.

Cost: Buffet lunch: $8.95 Monday through Thursday, $12.95 Friday through Sunday; dinner $19.95 Monday through Thursday,

$22.95 Friday through Sunday. Barbecue (includes buffet) lunch: $12.95 Monday through Thursday, $14.95 Friday and Saturday; dinner $19.95 Monday through Thursday, $24.95 Friday through Saturday. Sunday brunch $18.95. Children 7-12: buffet $5.95, barbecue $7.95, brunch $8.95.

Info: (310) 374-3411

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