For years I have read about Brazilian steakhouses. I've imagined a small army of sword-wielding servers bearing massive loads of fragrant meat. The stuff of carnivorous fantasy, if wolves, tigers or bears dream of food. I never managed to visit one, though, no matter where I traveled. Always out of reach, always nothing more than a salacious and alluring review in a city guide or newspaper. A few months ago, rumours alluded to the long-overdue premiere of a Brazilian steak house here in Edmonton. Like many others, I salivated and waited for my inaugural foray into the world of churrascaria.
Edmonton - finally - has its own churrascaria: Pampa. This is not a world for those that are easily intimidated or like to pick at their food. No. This is a meal for the hungry. The "hungry like the wolf" crowd. One pays a flat $45 for all the food (aside from drinks and dessert) that you can eat. It is an interactive experience. Each diner possesses a small disk; green on one side, red on the other. The moment one flips the disk from red to green, the army of servers advances.
There are at least 10 different cuts of meat, each roasted over charcoal on long sword-like skewers. I attempted (in vain, sadly) to try all of them. Chicken thighs, parmesan-rubbed pork loin, lamb, prime rib. The list goes on. I wasn't enamored of the lamb, but the garlic-rubbed rump steak was delectable. It was rubbed liberally with finely minced garlic, and this garlic infused the meat with a nutty-sweet essence that complemented, rather than overpowered, the beef. The salad bar, after so much meat, was a bit of an afterthought for me. Quinoa salad was a standout, but I'm not convinced that caviar and mango belong together. Such a sizable meal has the potential to be an ordeal, rather than an experience, if one does not exercise proper restraint. In summation, though, Pampa provides a sturdy protein return on my investment.