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BRAZIL CHURRASCARIA — PORCAO IN RIO DE JANEIRO

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There's a good reason why the name of this Rio restaurant, Porcao, means "big pig" in Portuguese.

Waiter slices meat off skewer.
Waiter slices meat off skewer.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Porcao is one of many churrascarias or barbecue restaurants in Rio de Janeiro. Like most Brazilian bbq restaurants, it's a rodizio churrascaria, which means all-you-can-eat for a fixed price (except drinks and desserts). Trust us, you won't have room for dessert.

Come hungry. Make that starving.

The aroma of freshly grilled meats (more than two dozen varieties and cuts) tantalized our taste buds when we entered the comfortable brick and wood-walled room.

Brazilian drinks

A friendly waiter seated us at a linen-covered table, while another offered us a batida from a rainbow-colored assortment on his tray.

Batidas are fruit cocktails made from fresh mango, papaya, coconut and other fruit, mixed with sweetened condensed milk and cachaça (pronounced ka-cha-sa), a potent alcohol distilled from sugar cane.

The traditional accompaniment to Brazilian barbecue is cold chope (pronounced show-py), an excellent draft beer. Many locals were drinking caipirinhas.

Waiter carries tray of batidas.
Waiter carries tray of batidas.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The national drink of Brazil, a caipirinha is a refreshing cocktail made from cachaça, sugar, ice and as many chunks of fresh green limes that you can cram into the glass.

Salad bar

Although barbequed meat is the mainstay here, vegetarians could survive quite well, with the bountiful salad bar, featuring all sorts of vegetable and leafy green combinations, as well as curried chicken, hard-boiled quail eggs, cheeses, soups, sushi and luscious hearts of palm.

We exercised restraint at the buffet, not only to save room for the barbecued meats, but also because many side dishes appeared at our table — fried bananas, potato chips, French fries, rice, onion rings, farofa (manioc root meal, toasted in butter) and salgadinhos (addictive little pastries, stuffed with cheese).

Prime steaks

Porcao has no written menu. A continuous parade of white jacketed waiters stopped by our table, wielding sword-like skewers of grilled meats — chicken, lamb, pork, sausage and beef.

Grilling skewers of meat
Grilling skewers of meat
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

There were so many cuts of meat that a waiter offered us a diagram of an ox, neatly partitioned into 17 beef cuts, ranging from filet mignon to brisket.

We could have easily eaten only the juicy top sirloin cut, called picanha, but curiosity motivated us to try different beef cuts.

We pointed to the ox hump and the waiter vanished, only to reappear a minute later, brandishing a skewer of the tender, flavorful meat, which he sliced directly on our plates. Rare, medium or well-done, the choice was ours.

Carnivorous feast

While our waiter spoke some English, we didn't worry about our minimal grasp of Portuguese. He gave each of us a small cardboard coaster.

One side was green, with a picture of a fat pig holding a knife and fork, reading: sim por favor, yes please. The other side was red, with the smiling pig holding out his hand, saying: não obrigado, no thanks.

The card worked to a limited degree. Even with the red side up, waiters still stopped by, just in case we changed our minds.

Diner selects grilled beef from spit.
Diner selects grilled beef from spit.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Waiters continued bringing sizzling spits from the open grill in the kitchen, to our table, until we pleaded for mercy. Even then, after plying us with enough food to fuel a pair of sumo wrestlers, they tempted us further with a pastry cart of flans, cakes and fruit salads.

Settling for some cafezinho, black coffee served in tiny demitasse cups, instead, we sat back, patted our full tummies, and agreed that the Porcao restaurant name was indeed an appropriate one.

Porcao restaurant locations

There are several Porcao restaurants in Brazil: Rio's, Ipanema, Barra, Ilha, Niteroi, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte. We visited the Ipanema branch of Porcao at 218 Rua Barão da Torre, in Rio de Janeiro, just north of Ipanema beach.

The Porcao Rio's on Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, Aterro do Flamengo, offers superb views of Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açùcar) and Guanabara Bay.

Porcao Brazilian churrascaria restaurants are open daily for lunch and dinner.

Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.


More things to see and do in Brazil:

Copacabana Palace Hotel Rio de Janeiro

Iguaçu Falls Brazil

Amazon River Cruise

Manaus Brazil Tours

Brazil Ecolodge Rainforest Expeditions