I have had the pleasure of visiting churrascaria rodizio restaurants in different parts of the world. One reason that I chose to write about Papagaio Jerusalem was to see how it compared to the Buffalo Restaurant in Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro’s Carretão Restaurant in Ipenema. Both are far larger and include salad bars for vegetables, pasta, and seafood. In fact, Carretão has a sushi bar. Neither of these restaurants is kosher.
I am primarily a carnivore … although an omnivore in emergencies. As a counterbalance, my wife is a vegetarian who will occasionally condescend to eat chicken or fish (both of which are brainless and can thus be considered vegetables). She joined me for a dinner at Papagaio.
The main Papagaio dining room can accommodate about 140 guests and there’s a private room that can hold up to 35 diners. We were there on a Thursday evening and by nine o’ clock the place was full, including the private party room. The décor might be considered plain, which makes the bar and the grill the centerpieces of the restaurant. The grill is taller than the cook and includes 36 turning spits for skewers over the charcoal bed and a slow roasting rack above. This allows different cuts to be cooked at different temperatures. The bar is spotlessly clean. Every time the bartenders were not serving, they were polishing the glassware or the bar.
An important element worth a considerable weight in a restaurant, is acoustics. At Papagaio there is no terrible, loud music. In fact, no music! There is actually a chance for patrons to talk to each other and to their server without shouting. Marvelous!
The compact kitchen is outfitted with spotlessly clean stainless steel appliances and counters. The beef is aged for tenderness on stainless steel racks in a walk-in meat locker.
A good assortment of wines is on view through the glass door of the cooled, walk-in wine cellar. Cabernet is the most popular, but the mashgiach (talking to us in Hebrew and Yiddish) opened a good 2006 Golan Heights Merlot … sweet and fruity enough to complement the beef.
After being seated, we were offered choices ranging from individual platters to the full churrascaria. A BIG steak knife at each table setting looks like it means business.
Like the South American restaurants, our table was first spread with traditional little side dishes of appetizers. Caution! Save room for the main meal!
The churrascaria rodizio, with meat carved at the table, demands a high level of personal attention. If you order the full churrascaria meal, you have to remember the “On/Off” signal on your table. Leave the signal on green and the meat will keep coming faster than you can eat it. Be prepared to spend most of an evening at dinner. (We came at 6:30 and left at 10.)
The entrecote is the star at churrascaria rodizio restaurants. Lesser beef cuts would not be adequate to the task. Since Entrecote steaks come from the leading half of the steer, we can enjoy an authentic kosher lemahedrin churrascaria rodizio restaurant (try wrapping your tongue around that phrase!).
Then came the beef! Various cuts ... skewered and roasted and broiled and grilled. Chicken and chicken livers skewered and grilled. Vegetables skewered and grilled and, by the way, very artfully presented. My wife especially liked the sweet potato salad and the roasted eggplant. She gave me a taste of the honey-mustard chicken. It was perfectly cooked all the way through but still moist and tender. Amazing!
The asado, a slow-roasted beef rib rack, showed Amir’s ten years of experience as a meat cook. The fat was not removed until it was served at the table, preserving the flavor and retaining a smell that delighted the nose as well as the palate.
About the Papagaio Menu
I took advantage of the churrascaria to sample a small bite of each menu offering from the chicken livers (crisp on the outside and soft on the inside) and the chicken basted in honey-mustard sauce, to the skewered cubes of steak, the entrecote and the standing rib roast. They were all excellent. I followed Yaniv and Amir’s advice and I had the entrecote with a cold draft beer.
Prices are reasonable for all menu items. Our service was fast, polite and friendly. Now, ask me if I’d recommend Papagaio! You bet.
After finishing the entrecote I leaned back in my seat to observe the other tables. Everyone, including the waiters carving big chunks of meat at the tables, seemed to be having fun.
I thought I was done with dinner until my wife asked for the dessert menu. She ordered an irresistible three-layered concoction. When I say irresistible, I mean that I couldn’t resist taking samples from her plate.
How did Papagaio shape up to the South American restaurants that I have visited? Given the limits of kashrut,I found that the meat and chicken at Papagaio were of equal quality. Preparation, presentation and service were at the same level. (Isaac, our waiter, and his brother had recently made aliyah from Rio. He was familiar with Carretão. )