I love the concept of a Brazilian-style churrascaria like the Northland's Em Chamas Brazilian Grill or the even fancier Fogo de Chao on the Country Club Plaza: an orgy of tender grilled meats and an all-you-can eat assortment of cold salads and starters. But those restaurants are expensive. And even though the experience is delicious -- even sexy -- it's not the kind of meal you can afford to enjoy all that often.
Kansas City needed a cheaper version of the churrascaria experience, and suddenly there is one.
The idea of making a Brazilian grill more accessible to Kansas City diners is the idea behind the Fazenda Brazilian Grill, which opened last month in the Shops at Boardwalk (next to the soon-to-close Borders Bookstore at 8626 North Boardwalk Avenue), by former Em Chamas
co-owner Jeff Peterson and his fellow Park University roommate Christian
Maciel -- both men also worked together at the Piropos Restaurant in Parkville.
The restaurant is a stylish but budget-conscious version of Em Chamas or Fogo de Chao. "These are the kinds of small restaurants you find all over Brazil," Maciel says. "They're called comido por kilo because customers purchase their food by the pound." Like any buffet-style restaurant, customers at Fazenda -- which is the Portuguese word for farm -- pick up a large plate (a 10-inch by 10-inch square lightweight plastic platter in this case) and can heap it up from the assortment of cold salads at one station and hot dishes at another.
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The salads aren't even remotely glamorous like the chilled asparagus or hearts of palm salads at Fogo de Chao. They ran the gamut of picnic dishes: a macaroni salad, carrot salad, Caesar salad. Peterson and Maciel plan to double the number of offerings on the hot-dish station: The current choices include the national dish of Brazil, feijao com arroz
-- black beans and rice -- as well as beef stroganoff in a peppery sauce and mashed-potato cakes.
Instead of handsome passadores
walking around with skewers, there's a burly chef at the wood-fired grill station who offers to slice eight different cuts of roasted meat.
The basic meal costs $7.49 a pound. Beverages and desserts (Brazilian flan, sweet corn mousse, passionfruit mousse) cost extra. There isn't liquor yet, but Peterson is hoping to soon have his license so that Fazenda can offer two different Brazilian beers -- Xiangu and Palma Loca -- and wine and potent caipirinha
cocktails. Until then, the restaurant offers mango, passionfruit and guava juices, fresh-squeezed orange juice, Brazilian sodas, and the custom blend of coffee created for Fazenda by the Roasterie. There are also a half-dozen sandwiches that can be ordered a la carte, including a Brazilian-style Reuben, pork sausage on a baguette, and a Frango club.
Maciel and Peterson say the perception that Fazenda will be as expensive as the full-service Brazilian restaurants is one obstacle, and the concept of buying food by the pound is another. "It's still a little intimidating to customers," Peterson said. "They think they're going to spend a lot."
I'd say it's a fair deal: I piled up a plate with a couple of salads, rice and beans, a dollop of stroganoff, one mashed-potato cake, and two hefty pieces of picanha, a beautifully grilled top sirloin with a slightly crunchy, deliciously caramelized exterior. Throw in a cup of coffee and a chilled water glass filled with passionfruit mousse, and the meal came to about $13.