Picanha Churrascaria

I have to admit it: I lived a great many years in the abject darkness of abysmal ignorance. I was totally unaware of Brazilian all-you-can-eat barbecue restaurants, the wonderful "churrascarias" that offer deliciously barbecued cuts of meat served at your table, endlessly cut to order from skewers removed just seconds ago from the open-air grill that anchors the entire restaurant experience. Happily, my son spent time in Brazil a few years ago and discovered them. When he returned and told me how great they are, at a single stroke he significantly improved my quality of life. Eager for the experience, I began my search and over the years have found and enjoyed many of these restaurants in cities across America. Picanha's Burbank location deserves a place on anyone's list of top churrascarias: more affordable than some, better than most.

Mesquite Grilled Meats Are Prepared Continuously

The decor is simple and comfortable, the ambience quiet enough for a lover's conversation but noisy enough to let you cheer for the Lakers or Dodgers at one of the two TVs hanging behind the full bar. At this restaurant, however, the food is understandably the highlight of the dining experience, and it's not only plentiful, it's tasty. Vegetarians can keep busy at the salad bar, but -- let's be honest -- this is a restaurant for meat lovers.

What prevents a churrascaria from overloading your stomach and your senses is the red/green signal under the control of each diner or table. It lets servers know when you do or don't want to be offered more of the succulent meats. Go green, and a continuing stream of freshly cooked meats streams to your table within minutes or even seconds of being mesquite grilled. Go red, and the parade of gauchos bearing skewers of these meats wordlessly pass you by. Of course, though you're signaling green you're not obligated to take a piece from every skewer. Say "no" as often as you like. But going red is a convenient way to carry on a conversation without interruption or temptation, or simply to rest while your digestive system deals with what you've already tasted.

The Salad Bar Includes These Grilled Peppers

To begin the meal, you usually fill a plate at the sumptuous salad bar. Here you will find a variety of simple items, from lettuce and tomatoes, to peppers, olives, cucumbers, and various steamed vegetables, along with slightly more ambitious offerings, including tuna salad, pasta salads, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm with tomato, garlic mashed potatoes, black beans, fried zucchini, fried plantains, a couple of different fresh soups, and much more, including a wide choice of salad dressings and a large bowl of Farofa, a powdery food topping made from Brazilian plant root.

Once you settle at your table, now supplied with the soft, slightly sweet Brazilian bread filled with cheese, and you "go green", costumed servers begin including you as they make the rounds of the restaurant. Each time they visit they offer one of a long list of grilled beef, lamb, chicken, and pork dishes. My favorites include the filet mignon and the restaurant's namesake "Picanha", which is a special cut of top sirloin marinated in garlic and peppers.

Look at these lovely meats

But there's a lot to be said for the taste of Picanha's tri-tip, bacon-wrapped chicken, garlic chicken drummette, sirloin tip steak, Polish and Brazilian sausages, pork loin, and pork ribs.

People who have been to Brazil will relish the availability of Guarana, the carbonated drink popular in that nation that is made from a fruit native to the Amazon. The fruit itself is widely considered to be good for you, and in some circles is also thought to be an aphrodisiac. If you have room, desserts include cheese cake, Brazilian-style flan, Passion Fruit mousse, and triple chocolate mousse cake.

The one-price meals, which don't include a beverage or dessert, cost $16.95 for lunch Monday through Saturday, and $25.95 at all other times.

Picanha Churrascaria
(Brazilian All-You-Can-Eat Steakhouse, with Full Bar)
269 E. Palm Avenue
Burbank (Media City), California
818-972-2100 (reservations suggested on weekends)
you may also visit their website at: www.picanharestaurant.com

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