Suz and I tried out a new restaurant in Madison recently, the Samba Brazilian Grill, based on a recent glowing review in the Isthmus. It was an expensive night out ($120 for two of us with a couple of drinks, dessert, and tip), but (in contrast to most of the time when I eat an expensive meal) worth every penny.
We started out impressed upon walking in; the remodel job on the old 1907 building is really well done, and we stayed impressed through the night.
Probably our least favorite part of the meal was our apertif of a caipirinha, which is sort of a mojito made with a Brazilian liquor instead of rum. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.
Dinner began with a visit (and for me, a revisit) to the "salad bar" which was a really nice spread of veggies, nuts, cheeses, and salads. To call it a salad bar really doesn’t go it justice. Non carnivores can stick with just that for their dinner, and it would be a good dinner in its own right.
However, the reason to go is for the meat. Each night ten different meats are grilled up on spits that the "gauchos" bring around to your table. I recall having that night:
– Rack of lamb
– Leg of lamb
– Bacon wrapped beef tenderloin
– Bacon wrapped chicken tenderloin
– Parmesean crusted pork
– Sirloin steak
– Flank steak
Of them all, only the sausage was a real miss… it seemed more like a breakfast link than anything else.
The highlight for me was the sirloin. They salt it up, then sear it on the spit, and slice off a nice hunk… on one side seared and salty, and on the other side, still bloody. All delicious.
And you also have to be prepared to do a little surgery on your food. The rack of lamb was pretty fatty, and the bacon wrapped choices suffered from underdone bacon… but with a little effort with the steak knife, there was much tastiness to be had.
Also served with the main course are some rather plain rice and beans, plus some tasty mashed potatoes. Along with that are these little cheese biscuit things that had some proper (now forgotten) name in Portuguese, and were some of the tastiest little morsels I have ever put in my mouth.
We topped it off by splitting an excellent, dense, flan.
Damn, I’m hungry right now!
All in all, a really fun dining experience, and truly a carnivore’s delight. I made the bold statement at the end of our meal, and I think I’m sticking with it, that this is my new favorite restaurant.
Pricey, but worth it!