A couple of months back, Sutherland Shire locals, Kathy and Sam Bakafoukas purchased Caringbah Churrasco from the restaurant group. While new to Brazilian restaurants, the pair are experienced restaurateurs, with over twenty years in hospitality. Along with extensive time in multiple venues inside Leichhardt’s Italian Forum, the pair also set up Southside Makaroni for their daughter Kerrie. It's the Italian pasta bar that sits under the same block of apartments as the newly renamed Chama Brazilian Style BBQ.
With a recent visit to the former Coogee sibling under my belt, it was hard not to compare the pair, especially with the two restaurants still looking very much like sisters.
Seated at one of the same long wooden tables, we’re quickly set up with sides for our All-You-Can-Eat ($39/head) meal.
At Chama this means bowls of black beans and plain white rice, fluffy farofa that you sprinkle onto your meat to soak up the fat, fresh tomato salsa and a mild red chilli sauce.
Here the spicier green chilli sauce is only available on request – so we immediately ask for some. It’s great at cutting through the excesses of rich, fatty meat; unlike the warm potato dish, which here tastes too much like salty chicken stock to provide any relief.
The pão de queijo – little cheese breads - are just the same; and give our hungry bellies something to work on while we decide upon drinks.
We opt for a shared jug of White Sangria ($35) and it proves to be a really pleasant drink. While the glass carafe doesn’t feel particularly good value in terms of volume, it does impress with high quality eating fruit – fragrant strawberries, crisp green apple, orange segments and kiwi fruit.
Friendly South American floor staff, who have stayed with the restaurant through the ownership change, arrive at our table with undercooked Parmesan zucchini, and heavily dressed coleslaw.
There’s also a barrage of chicken – maybe because it cooks more quickly than some of the other meats, and we’re dining close to when the restaurant opened. While stylistically different – honey soy chicken, then Brazilian chicken – the birds are all a bit bland for my liking.
Just when I was despairing that Chama wouldn’t live up to Churrasco’s benchmark, out come the meats. We move from very evenly cooked rump, to scotch fillet that tastes even better.
The cooking is consistent across two different rounds of scotch fillet, and it’s hard to say no to this buttery, tender, great quality meat.
Chama's roast pork is also a winner – the skin is crisp and crackly, covered in salt with a hint of lemon or vinegar cutting the fat.
Chicken sausages and mild chorizos punctuate the onslaught of beef and lamb.
While I’m not dead keen on chimmichurri lamb, I do like the lemon lamb that follows - it tastes a bit Greek.
We work our way through everything from marinade-dominated shish kebab to pepper beef that is tender, with a good peppery crust.
This is all without the person manning Chama's rotating metal skewers missing a beat. Chama, by the way, is Portuguese for flames.
Even secondary cuts, like those used in Chama’s Parmesan beef, eat better than Churrasco’s version. Here the beef is served rarer, with the cheese sauce tangoing with irony richness.
Sides from an average Caesar salad to a better mix of rocket, Parmesan cheese and caramelised vinegar keep circulating, as do generous bowls of shoestring fries.
I’ve only got eyes for fat golden fingers of haloumi, which are fluffy perfection here too.
Dessert is a bit of a disappointment – the fried bananas are too firm and floury, and the pineapple is sharply acidic – perhaps it would have improved with more time on the grill. However you don't come here for the sides - Chama do excel at cooking meat.
Chama Brazilian Style BBQ
Shop 3, 277-281 The Kingsway, Caringbah
Ph: (02) 9525 7717