Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pampas in Palo Alto

Vivian celebrated her birthday at Pampas this year. There were 14 of us gathered around a large table in the downstairs (there are three levels) seating area. The place was very dim (we could have easily used twice as many candles at the table), but it was a fun time.

Pampas is a Brazilian Steakhouse, and they call themselves a Rodizio as opposed to a Churrascaria (not sure why). Basically, servers come by with large hunks of different meats, and slice each person what he/she wants. Same fashion as Texas de Brazil, which I would call one of JB and my favorite restaurants.

For those of you who have been to Texas de Brazil (we went to the one in Orlando for Jonathan's 24th birthday, so a bunch of the Melbourne peeps have been there), they are completely different. The Pampas salad bar (which comes with the meal) is probably about half the size of the one at TdB, and only offers cold items. So instead of lobster bisque, the soup choice was a chilled cucumber, which was strangely sour. There were many cheese options (and good salami, too), but the general "salad" toppings were lacking in variety (no carrots, for example). But, let's be serious. You don't come to spend $44/person (before tax/tip) for the salad bar, you come for the meat!

If you like beef, this is a good restaurant for you. For those who prefer pork or chicken (such as myself), you kinda lose out. There was one pork option and one sausage option. There were two chicken options (aside from chicken hearts), and one turkey option. There was also a pineapple choice, which was unique and nice. There were two lamb options and five beef options, so there was a good half the menu I didn't try. (I should add the disclaimer that I do enjoy hamburger/meatloaf/brisket, probably because they're all well-done. but I really don't like steak at all, with the small exception of well-done tri-tip, which is hard to come by anyway.)

The spicy pork was easily my favorite of the evening, and I had three pieces. It's one of the few meats that comes with an accompanying sauce, which I loved with it. Jonathan liked the pork without the sauce. Everyone seemed to enjoy the top sirloin and both lamb options. There were a couple different sirloin fillets that nobody complained about (so they must've been tasty), a skirt steak that I heard a few people label as their favorite, and a rock-salted tri-tip that a few people got seconds of. The chicken options included a sweet thigh and a spicy leg. The spicy was a vinegar-spicy, so it wasn't much to speak of, and rather blase. The sweet was good, and if I had room, I would have tried another piece as well. The sausages were standard breakfast-size, but very juicy (I had two). The turkey could have become a favorite had it been cooked a little longer. It was wrapped in bacon, and both were smoked... however the bacon was still very limp, so it didn't really fit with the smoked turkey (which was nearly ham, as is most prepared in this fashion). The pineapple was extremely juicy, wonderful, and delicious.

Was it worth $44? Not really, no. BUT, I do need to mention that the complimentary starters included FANTASTIC cheese bread (I think I had four pieces all in all), fried plantains (pretty good), and fried polenta (eh). Otherwise, the meats were kinda fatty and not as flavorful as they could have been, and the salad bar was lacking. The tabouleh was overly dry, the whipped potatoes lacked flavor, and the grilled veggies (squash, eggplant, peppers) were oily.

Is TdB worth $50? Heck yeah. Serve me a good soup, a diverse salad bar, and lean, tasty meats and I'm good to go. (and we've been there more than once, so it wasn't just a "lucky occasion" that I'm remembering, LoL).

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