VIVA BRAZIL ***
St Mary Street, Cardiff. 029 2022 0255 / www.vivabrazilrestaurants.com
Following the blueprint of its preceding success, the third Viva Brazil to open in the UK sees an intriguing Brazilian gaucho dining experience that’ll most likely shake up expectations.
Rather than choosing a starter, main and desert, the main ethos of Viva Brazil’s churrascaria design is that diners pick and choose what they’d like to eat from the extensive buffet bar and tempting range of flame-licked barbequed meat, endlessly brought to your plate by passadors who wander between tables looking for the green light to carve up a slice of whichever hunk of skewered meat they are carrying. Flipping your coaster-like dining cards from green (yes please), to red (no thanks) will let the passadors know that you’re ready for more – a dangerous game for those with eyes bigger their bellies.
With buffet-style prices to match the unusual dining experience, you can choose purely from the salad bar for £12.50, or opt for a full rodizio for £22.95 (a seafood or vegetarian option is also available). The salad bar alone will easily fill you up with a mix of cold pasta salads and warm Brazilian stews and sides, but with Viva Brazil modelling itself as a steakhouse, the main focus is inevitably on the 15 cuts of meat. I particularly enjoyed sampling the chicken hearts – a Brazilian delicacy – along with succulently slices of cooked rump steak. Whilst some of the meat was overly salty, all the meat was beautifully slow-cooked over charcoal with plenty of charred barbeque flavour to boot. With so much to try, we sadly missed out on trying the pork collar and leg of lamb amongst others, but the sirloin, rump and chicken & bacon were all great. The endless procession of food inevitably led me into eating far too much, and for gluttonous meat eaters, restraint is not easy. The laissez faire service is attentive, friendly and helpful, but the dining style is certainly unusual. Our deserts were simple and largely unremarkable, but with an open mind, Viva Brazil is a meat-eaters heaven. GARETH LUDKIN