Friday, February 3, 2012

Pradaria Steaks and Churrascaria in Houston


As we got out of the car and headed into Pradaria churrascaria and steakhouse, I pointed out to my wife that I really didn't know why I had not tried this restaurant in the nearly three years since it had opened.  I had tried several "Brazilian Steakhouses" in Houston and had started to ask myself if there was really any difference among them other than the prices and the locations.  After dining at Pradaria, though, I believe that I would have to say that I had wasted a lot of time by waiting so long for the Pradaria experience.
While other Brazilian steakhouses gave me the impression that they were developed to give Americans a taste of Brazil... I'm convinced that Pradaria is a restaurant concept that was developed to give transplanted Brazilians and Argentineans a taste of home. In my opinion, it is truly in a class of its own in Houston!

First, I should point out that the name “pradaria”, in itself is a reason for the genre of “Brazilian steak houses and churascarrias to exist in a beef state like Texas.  In Portuguese, “prada” refers to the Pampas Flatlands area in southern Brazil and Argentina where gauchos herd the cattle, allowing them to roam and graze the vast grasslands.  Hence, the cattle not only roam freely, but they are grass fed... and produce wonderful flavorful beef. In traditional churrascarias, the servers are dressed as gauchos (the cowboys of the Pampas region) and they cruise the dining room offering guests various cuts of meat skillfully carved from long skewers (Rodizio-style) upon which the meats were roasted over wood charcoal smoke.


Fried Bananas

When I read diners’ comments about these Brazilian steakhouses, it seems that many rate them based upon the quality of the salad and hot bars that they can scurry back and forth from before turning the card on the table to GREEN, signaling that they are ready for attention from the gauchos. The buffet portion of Pradaria stands out in the industry, in my opinion. Mountains of cheeses, carpaccio, ceviche, mussels, salads, black Beans feijoada, mashed potatoes, yucca fries, polenta, fried bananas and potato cakes make the salad and hot bars capable of providing a meal alone.

Beef Kidneys (Rinon)

Back to Pradaria specifically, I was impressed with several things which I hadn’t seen in other Brazilian steak houses in Houston. Let’s start with some typical items that are offered by Pradaria’s Brazilian-American executive chef that you will not see in other churascarrias, but are listed in a table tent as available (complimentary) for the asking. I ordered two rounds of the wonderful Molleja (sweetbreads) Tripe, Chicken Hearts (yum, yum), Beef Kidneys (Rinon) and Blood Sausage. These aren’t on the tip of the average Houstonian’s tongue in a steakhouse, but ARE in Brazil and Argentina... and I believe may be the reason that there was so much Portuguese and Spanish being spoken by other diners in the restaurant. All were delicious!

Entrana (Argentinian Skirt Steak)

I almost bypassed the Entrana (Argentinian Skirt Steak marinated and coated with Chimichurri Sauce). After a couple of passes by the Gauchos, I relented and asked for some and may well start replacing my charcoal-grilled fajitas at home with this delicious typical delicacy.

Rib-Eye Steak

Costela de Cordeiro (Lamb Chops)

Costela de Boi (Beef Ribs)

The variety of meats is astounding at Pradaria. I say “variety” to steer away from the phrase “all you can eat”... I just hate that phrase. It always evokes images in my mind of overfed overall-clad folks in baseball caps waddling back and forth with plate piled high.  NOT the case here... I saw fit, happy Latin-American couples, friends and families enjoying the atmosphere, a bottle of wine and carefully selecting the cuts that they prefer and remember from South America. Choose from Picanha (Top Sirloin),  Fraldinha (flank Steak), Alcantra (Sirloin), Rib-Eye Steak... and YES, they will carve the portion you want and YES, you can have it rare,  Costela de Boi (Beef Ribs) I’m a fourth-generation Texan and these are the first beef ribs that I have ever really liked, Costela de Cordeiro (Lamb Chops), Grilled Shrimp, Entrana (Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce), Tri-Tip with Butter Mustard Sauce, Filet Mignon, Filet Mignon with Bacon, Picanha com Alho (Top Sirloin Tips with Garlic Sauce), Perna de Cordeiro (Leg of Lamb), Costela de Porco (Baby Back Ribs), Lombo de Porco (Pork Loin), Frango com Bacon (Chicken with Bacon), Chicken Legs,  Linguica Argentina (Argentinean Sausage). It is important to note that in the premium cuts of beef served here, there are no secret sauces... no “house blends” to hide the taste of beef and the only seasoning used at Pradaria is salt... and just enough to bring out the natural flavors.
Roasted Pineapples

I hope that I didn’t insult the chef when I told him that what really stood out to me as a treat were the beautiful Roasted Pineapples on skewers that were dusted in cinnamon then caramelized into brown syrupy sweetness over charcoal and carved at the tables.

There are selections of typical desserts (and some American favorites), but having sampled those ordered around the table, my “hands down” favorite was Papaia Creme (Papaya and vanilla ice cream) and I recommend it with a drizzle of Crème of Cassis.
For those who want to target their appetites and their choices, there is an a la carte menu, also.

I recommend that you try a Brazilian steakhouse... a REAL one... try Pradaria.

Pradaria

10694 Westheimer Rd (Between Rogerdale & Wilcrest)

Houston, TX 77042

www.pradaria.com




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