You Want Meat With That?

Chowing down where vegetables barely rate a mention

You Want Meat With That?

I entered Rio Brazilian Grill with the advantage of being hungry and carnivorous. Rio is an all-you-can-eat prix-fixe restaurant ($22.50 a head) featuring a menu that does not stint on dead animal, which suited me fine. Or would have if it weren’t for one glaring disadvantage: I had a toothache. Chewing meat on one good side that you can’t even close all the way for fear of collapsing in pain is, needless to say, not the optimum condition under which to review a restaurant, but it’s better than nothing, and about half the time Rio’s offerings didn’t require much more—good news whatever the condition of your teeth.

The setup is simple: Walk into the rather plain room, find a table (Rio does not take reservations), sit down, and out come the appetizers. The feijoda, a bean and meat soup, is a little soggy, and the farofa (spiced yucca flour) is dry and pasty, which means I should have probably combined them. But the potato salad and especially the yucca with garlic butter make up for it. That sets you up for the rotisserie, 24 varieties of skewer total, served from table to table right from the grill—no problem during my visit, on a balmy Tuesday night when there was only one other customer in the place, though I’ve heard stories that on busy weekends skewers occasionally run out. Vegetables first: grilled peppers, onions, and especially corn on the cob, heavily buttered. Then the main course(s).

Once the meats start coming, it’s tempting—and recommended—to try them all at least once. The chicken hearts are generous, but they flatten out after a couple tries, even for someone who generally prefers bird to cow. The bacon-wrapped turkey breast fares better, however, and the lime shrimp is predictably enjoyable. But the real action is in the beef. A good pepper steak keeps its shape but shreds on contact, and generates a good amount of juice. Even better is the tri-tip steak, sliced long off the skewer, gyro-style, which is where the comparison ends—slightly sweet, even tangy, it’s what I kept returning to even after I’d dutifully stuffed myself as full as I could with the rest of the meat menu. Three weeks later, after a root canal and a new gold molar, I might appreciate the other items more than I did at the time. But I suspect that the tri-tip is what I’ll still feel ravenous toward. Rio Brazilian Grill, 5259 University Way N.E., 206-526-7123. UNIVERSITY DISTRICT. $$

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