It’s been quite a few years since my last churrasco experience. We chose to refamiliarise ourselves with Brazil’s famous barbeque at Anthony Mitchell’s Coogee restaurant, Churrasco.
The glass-fronted restaurant is expansive, filled with long wooden tables and decorated with a festive mural depicting scenes of Brazilian life.
The wooden stools are not designed for comfort, but after a few rounds of cocktails, you’re not going to care.
While the name might indicate alcoholic intensity, the Brazilian Martini ($18) is actually a very soft blend of vodka, passionfruit, fresh pineapple juice, sugar syrup, lime and lemonade that drinks like passionfruit cordial. The Moscow Mule ($18) has been given a Brazilian spin with more fresh lime than I’ve ever had in one before, and it drinks all the better for it. Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha ($10/$14) is available in both traditional and exotic form, where you can add your own choice of flavour. I went exotic with chunky fresh pineapple and cinnamon, and wasn’t disappointed with my drink.
You’ll also find a short list of ten-buck cocktails, like the Red Sangria ($10), which is complex and fruity with low tannins. With Churrasco obviously geared towards groups, cocktail jugs are also on offer.
As soon as you sit down, your table is populated with sides, from porky black beans to a bowl of green chilli sauce that’s bright and acidic.
Lather it onto slices of smoky lamb with a dusting of farofa, the toasted cassava flour mixture, and you’ll find it cuts the fat rather nicely.
The rounds of lamb - easily one of the best things I tried - are prepared in the other half of the restaurant. Long metal skewers are slotted into racks and turned by hand over red-hot charcoal.
The meats are efficiently delivered around the restaurant by ridiculously attractive Brazilian floor staff; sometimes on white plates, like the chewier pepper beef; and sometimes cut from the skewers themselves at your table.
We work our way through doublets of chicken sausage and pork chorizo. The chorizo is flavoursome without being challenging on spice. Chicken thighs are another standout – clever cooking means the fat is well rendered, with a charred exterior, and a moist and juicy interior. They arrive in rotating rounds of plain, honey-soy glazed thighs dusted with sesame seeds, and bacon-wrapped chicken. Small chicken hearts are superbly tender - making for perfect, salty drinking snacks.
Beef rib is so succulent; it falls apart in your mouth. Parmesan beef takes a lean, chewier cut and makes it work using a creamy cheese sauce.
I pass on well-drained shoestring fries only to have my desire to avoid filling up on carbohydrates ruined by pão de queijo. These little Brazilian cheese bread rolls are a firm favourite.
Skewers of cheesy zucchini make for another lovely wet palate break from all the meat, though the cheese sauce is quite salty. Saltiness is also a feature of the spongy haloumi cheese, though this golden grilled cheese is impossible not to like, because it's the airiest version I’ve ever tried. When combined with the tomato salsa, it’s a meal highlight.
Along with your on-table sides, which include a sinfully good creamy potato gratin, there are also circulating salads.
Fresh coleslaw, and a lovely rocket salad dressed with Parmesan cheese and caramelised balsamic vinegar, both give you a break from the samba line of fatty flesh.
Pineapple, dusted with cinnamon, is juicy and super-acidic, which is great for digestion in this particular context, so don’t be afraid to take some even if you’re not quite ready for dessert.
Despite the focus on well-cooked meat, the best thing I put in my mouth turned out to be banana! Looking like little doughnut balls, their brown cinnamon sugar coated exteriors hide super sweet soft banana. They’re so good they give Berry's Famous Donut Van a run for its money.
Like the high jump, churrasco is a sport that always ends on failure. Cue me, staring into the eyes of a beautiful Brazilian woman, refusing her tender rump steak. With the variety of vegetarian sides, the quality of the meat, and the smokiness of the cooking all having significantly improved since my last visit, I won't be leaving it so many years before my next trip to a churrascaria!
240 Coogee Bay Road, Coogee
Ph: (02) 9665 6535
NOTE: You can see a previous review for this venue HERE.