Foreigners, in general terms, go mad for Brazilian food, particularly their barbecued meat. The best way to sample Brazil’s superb steak is at a rodizio, Brazilian steakhouses’ take on the all-you-can-eat system. After helping yourself to a massive buffet of salads, pasta, rice dishes and other delights, waiters will circulate around the tables with massive cuts of grilled meat skewered on swords, slicing off pieces for the hungry diners until they can’t eat anymore. Here are some of the best rodizios in Sao Paulo.
Restaurant, Brazilian, Steakhouse, $$$
Upon walking into this traditional Southern Brazilian steakhouse in Jardins, you are met with the tantalizing sight of half a dozen racks of beef ribs slowly roasting around a wood fire, enough to set anyone’s taste buds into overdrive. Vento Haragano is one of Sao Paulo’s best steakhouses because of its simplicity and quality. The gorgeous cuts of meat are seasoned only with rock salt and then cooked to perfection on the kitchen’s seven-meter-long barbecue.
The picanha (rump cover) is highly sought after, as it is all over Brazil. However, make sure not to miss the pork ribs and the delicious rack of lamb.
Having already broken into the U.S. market, chances are you will already have heard of Fogo de Chão. While being more or less the same experience in Brazil, with a few more local dishes than at addresses in the U.S., Fogo de Chão is still a solid option for a rodizio in Sao Paulo.
In Itaim, the understated yet excellent Barbacoa is fast becoming one of Sao Paulo’s top steakhouses, serving succulent meat, a varied buffet and washing it down with a massive wine list. The highlights are the Argentinian cuts, such as asado de tira and bife ancho. It comes at a price, but you’ll leave more than satisfied.
Boi Preto follows the hard-to-understand Brazilian rule of thumb that many of the best rodizios are found at the side of major freeways. While not as high-end as the aforementioned trio, Boi Preto pulls its weight with delicious meat and a much ampler buffet selection, with diners being able to choose between a number of rice, pasta and seafood dishes, and all before the meat even starts coming.
In the neighborhood of Vila Olimpia is Jardineira Grill, one of the more modern churrascarias in Sao Paulo. Though a bit pricey and with meat not quite as good as Vento Haragano or Barbacoa, Jardineira excels in its buffet selection, with a huge variety of dishes.
When eating at a rodizio restaurant, the quality of service is extremely important. Waiters need to circulate the tables constantly, making sure that each group is offered each different type of meat. At Fogão Gaúcho, in the neighborhood of Barra Funda, the service is notoriously excellent. Opting for a more traditional décor, Fogão Gaúcho is becoming one of the most sought-after steakhouses in the expanded center of Sao Paulo.
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While dollars, euros, and pounds go far in Brazil, eating at a rodizio is still pricey, being reserved for special occasions. However, if you’re traveling on a budget and still want to experience a proper rodizio, check out Tendall Grill in Bela Vista. Whereas a typical rodizio will run you between R$ 60–80 per head, with Vento Haragano, Fogo de Chão and Barbacoa pushing R$ 120–130, the full all-you-can-eat lunch at Tendall costs just R$ 27 (US$8.50).
For the price you pay, the food is very good indeed. Just watch out for the pineapple slices served by the waiters—inexplicably, they are charged separately at R$ 5 a slice.
If you thought the rodizio restaurants were only restricted to steakhouses, think again. Being such big fans of the concept, Sao Paulo has rodizios of all kinds of cuisine, such as pizza, pasta, Middle Eastern food and Mexican food. However, the most popular non-barbecue rodizio in the city, by some distance, is Japanese food.
Aoyama, which has a handful of addresses across the city, is arguably the best and most sought-after Japanese rodizio in SP. Serving up a huge variety of sushi, sashimi, temaki and some hot dishes, Aoyama is the place to go for this odd, yet delicious culinary experience.