For the past few months, I've been on an inexplicable quest for PROTEIN. Seriously, I used to get down with some veggie-oriented foods on a fairly regular basis, but they just haven't been cutting it as of late. To help appease my inner cavewoman, BFTB and I decided to check out Chima Brazilian Steakhouse for dinner this past Sunday. (Well, what actually happened is that BFTB knew I was really mad because Max ate one of my favorite shoes while he was on dog watching-duty, so he tried to smooth things over by taking me to an all-you-can-eat meatstravaganza… well played, BFTB.)
|Playing innocent right before the great shoe-chomping incident...|
I've been to a few Brazilian steakhouses before (Brasa and the now defunct Rio Churrascaria in Raleigh as well as Fogo de Chão in Orlando), but have been intrigued by Chima for quite some time. We parked nearby and walked in to discover a mostly empty restaurant, so I'm assuming Sunday isn't one of their busiest nights. The vibe was contemporary and swanky -lots of clean lines, light-colored wood, and simple décor. A hostess led us to our table and we were greeted by one of our two servers, who explained how Chima's rodizio dining worked. Meanwhile, she offered us some cheese bread, shredded turkey spread, and little meatballs. They hadn't given us any kind of plate yet, and I felt a little weird chewing on top of the table, so I decided to hold off until we were better outfitted for eating. That was probably an unfortunate decision because I ended up really liking the cheese bread, and I'm certain it would have been even tastier if I'd actually eaten it when it was warm. The turkey spread was also really good, despite the fact that I was pretty weirded out by the idea of rubbing shredded turkey on a meatball. After placing an order for some drinks (a Brazilian beer for BFTB and a caipirinha for me), we headed over to the salad bar in the center of the restaurant, where we cautiously loaded our plates with salads and appetizers. The salad bar is really big, and was chock full of veggies as well as a few meat, cheese, and fish options. I decided to try the steamed broccoli, asparagus, blue cheese endive salad, smoked salmon (seriously, I have a salmon problem... we've addressed this), roasted artichoke hearts, beef carpaccio, and gorgonzola mousse. I guess saying that I "cautiously" filled my plate is somewhat of a misstatement... Anyway, when we returned to our table, our drinks had been delivered and we tucked in.
|The spoils of my trip to the salad bar. The gorgonzola mousse (under my knife) was outstanding!|
As I expected, I found the smoked salmon to be silky and delicious, but my favorite items ended up being the broccoli, asparagus, and the gorgonzola mousse. The veggies were not only a fresh change from all of the savory and salty items that I was otherwise inhaling, but I thought they were steamed exceptionally well and had a perfect balance of crunch and tenderness. The gorgonzola mousse was just insane. It was creamy, tangy, out of this world delicious, and I couldn't stop thinking about how amazing it would be with fruit (and obviously with a nice hunk of beef... good thinking, Chima). The roasted artichoke hearts and carpaccio were probably my biggest disappointments. It wasn't that they weren't good, it just seemed like it would have been easy for them to be great, and they both missed the mark.
As for our drinks, we were both pretty pleased. I'm a huge mojito fan, and if you've never tried a caipirinha before, I think the two are very similar (minus the mint). The caipirinha consists of cachaça, a hard liquor made from sugar cane, sugar, and muddled lime. Nom. While Chima's caipirinha was super tasty and refreshing, it wasn't the best I've ever had (and actually wasn't even the best I've had in Charlotte... for that, head over to Soul Gastrolounge and order one at the bar. It'll blow your face off). BFTB enjoyed his beer (sorry, can't remember its name..) and thought that it kind of resembled a Corona or other light lager.
While we dug into our app's, our server brought over a few other sides to our table -creamy mashed potatoes, fried polenta sticks, and fried bananas. I gave all three a try and liked them all, but once again, wasn't blown away by anything. I was really excited about the bananas, but found that they were a little too ripe and the fried part didn't contribute any kind of flavor. Even the texture seemed a bit off. I was expecting something like the delicious fried plantains at Cantina 1511 or Viva Chicken, and I was sorely let down. I'd heard a lot of good things about the potatoes, so I wasn't shocked when I saw that they contained so much cream that they resembled potato soup more than mashed anything. I took a big bite and discovered that they were velvety, buttery, and (as expected) just about the creamiest thing I've ever ingested. While they were good in a Paula Deen "let's throw as much fat in here as possible!" way, they weren't as outstanding as I'd been led to believe they would be. I actually ended up liking them more when I used them as a sauce for my chicken and some of the other less juicy meats (holy crap, I just admitted to using mashed potatoes as a sauce... sign me up for the heart transplant list now).
|Clockwise from top right: fried bananas, mashed potatoes, turkey spread, cheese bread, fried polenta|
Finally, BFTB and I took the plunge and flipped our little coins over from black to orange, signalling to the meat-bearing gauchos that we were ready for them to bring on the protein. I am not kidding when I say that we were suddenly inundated with food options. The gauchos were literally lining up to hawk their meat options at us and we just kept letting them pile up our plates. After a while, it made me a little anxious to have all these people eyeballing my plate like prey, so I flipped my coin back to black and actually took a second to finally eat some food. My favorites ended up being the picanha-top sirloin, leg of lamb, lamb chops, and pork ribs. We also tried the swordfish (and accompanying passion fruit sauce), ribeye, bacon-wrapped filet mignon, Parmesan pork loin, bacon-wrapped chicken, and sausage. And yes, writing that down does indeed make me feel like the biggest oinker on the planet... BFTB and I were both in agreement that everything was good, but nothing was exceptional. For instance, the lamb chops were my favorite of the rodizio items, but they were nothing compared to ones I've had at Sullivan's, Fig Tree, and even some that I've cooked at home. I also thought almost all the meats were a little overcooked. I kept requesting medium rare cuts, but was asked "is medium okay?" for just about everything. Maybe I should have put my foot down on my meat temperature specifications, but I found myself settling for what I considered overcooked pieces (these weren't mediums, y'all... they were medium well's on a good day). To be fair, our server came by towards the end of the meal and specifically asked us, "are you finding your meat temperatures satisfactory?" However, at that point, we'd gorged ourselves on so much food that we just agreed that everything was "great" and prepped ourselves to roll out of the building.
|Meats on meats on meats...|
|And another round of meats on a fresh plate!|
All in all, we were pretty satisfied with our Chima experience but neither of us are in a rush to head back any time in the near future. We are glad we went, but will probably head elsewhere the next time we're feeling carnivorous. Chima does pretty much everything almost well, but not well enough to justify the $55 price tag. Quantity-wise, we certainly ate enough for our trip to be worth it (thanks, BFTB :D), but the quality just wasn't as on point as I'd hoped it would be. For special occasion dining, Chima gets a 7.25/10.