From the archive – this article was posted on our original site, MyCityLife, back on 21 July 2014
The churrasco is a must-do Brazilian interactive experience to write off the foodie bucket list. Portuguese and Spanish for ‘barbeque’, churrasco is a method of grilling beef, chicken, lamb or pork on the purpose built churrasqueira barbeque grill. The meat is cooked on large skewers and roasted across kosher South American charcoal and wood embers – just for those extra special La Pampas flavours to really sink in. And just as it is for Australians, the churrasco is much more than meat; it’s a social ritual. And the churrascaria is a place where meat is cooked churrasco style.
The Churrascaria traces its origins to the gaucho; the South American cowboy European immigrant of the 1800s who settled the fertile Pampas lowlands to herd their cattle on their vast farmlands. These lowlands covered a massive area, ranging from Buenos Aires to La Pampa, Santa Fe, Entre Ríos and Córdoba; most of Uruguay; and the southernmost Brazilian state, Rio Grande do Sul. And just like their Clint Eastwood counterpart, the gaucho were known as strong, proud honourable, silent types; capable of great violence when provoked, with a tendency to settle matters with their heavy-bladed facón when possible. Large and elaborately-decorated, their facón conveniently doubled as a weapon and an eating instrument.
As a social occasion, the ranchers would gather and build a massive wood fire, using the deadwood from the surrounding Pampas rangelands. Once the fire had died down to embers, large portions of prime meat – offerings from their herds – were skewered and slowly cooked to perfection amongst the embers – the essence of the Pampas wood cooking into the meats. Then using their facón, the barbequed meats would be thinly sliced and served onto plates.
While this method has been refined across the centuries, much of the traditional cooking techniques remain, and the social ritual of meat being served from swords in a communal setting is very much with us, though perhaps now elevated to the carnivore’s ultimate fantasy.
From its premium riverside setting of The Riverside Centre with Head Chef David Kim at the helm, Navala Churrascaria brings a slice of authentic Brazilian culture right to our doorstep. The enticing smell of roasted meats in every hue, shape and form dominates the room, as wood and charcoal fire pits roast lances of turning meat to complete tender perfection.
The unlimited Brazilian BBQ Degustation is served up Rodízio Style for an epic all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of South American rotisserie cuisine. The beef, chicken and pork are genuine Brazilian products, sourced from JBS SA exclusively for Navala. In keeping to that Gaucho tone, Anapolis rancher Jose Batista Sobrinho initially established the company in 1953, to now stand as one of the world’s largest beef producers. And the Friboi beef is a grain-fed beef particularly renowned for its tenderness as Navala’s kitchens keep close to home with Great Southern Lamb.
As a result, an array of pasture fed beef sirloin and rib, whole brisket, whole short ribs, lamb forequarter and whole legs and pork belly are served from the bone, right off the cooking spit. Then a mélange of chicken, sausage, beef, lamb and pork are seasoned with achiote and cumin, then served up espeto corrido orrodízio style. Truly, meat served from swords and sliced onto your plate is the ultimate in BBQ awesomes.
A lineup of sides, from mixed salads to pinto beans, chinese broccoli, Farofa, crumbed banana, polenta, roast onion, potato salad, coconut rice, chips are dished up to enhance the flavours of the barbequed meat; the sweet starchness adding acidity, to cut through the generous quantities of tallow and oil from the meats. The selection of South American sauces from their house made chipotle sauce to the malagueta piri-piri sauce, Brazilian chili, tomato salsa to their gorgeous harbanero mustard and chimichurri sauce – macerated parsley, garlic, peppers, and olive oil – keep the meats swimming in augmented flavour.
The ultimate embellishment to the roasted tang of this traditional barbeque comes care of the wine list; an extensive one featuring both local and global grapes. And keeping in mind that the traditional seasoning of churrasco meat emphasises the alcohol in wine, the sharp cutting wines in this list nicely cut through the generous quantities of oils. The rich strawberry tones with hints of blueberry from the 2013 Scarborough Pinot Noir Rose hold a wonderful fruit acid balance to nicely penetrate the smoky charcoal flavours. Or for a full bodied flavour on the opposite side of the spectrum, the 2010 De Martino Alto Las Piedras Carmenère brings cedar and plum tones with dark chocolate notes to really balance the gust of lambasted protein.
The quite incredible Rodízio experience finally comes with its own unique cuteness: a coloured card stand that allows the card to revolve: red on one side, green on the other. Red for stop, and green for go, it’s a straight-forward visual aid for our urban gaucho churrasco handlers to keep serving us – or not. For full bellies are definite side effects of this unique degustation where this South American rotisserie is a meat lovers’ paradise and a necessary communal custom. Cue those meat sweats, now.
Photo Credit: Lady Lex