Restaurant News & Reviews

It’s all about the meat at Folsom’s hit-and-miss all-you-can-eat Brazilian eatery

Folsom’s gleaming, sprawling Palladio Center is home to many restaurants, and has seen the quick closure of many fast-casual casualties. One of its newer openings, Brisas do Sul, takes a completely different tack from the usual eat-and-run places in the shopping center: it’s a full-service, full-price, all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse with a formal yet welcoming air.

More than a dozen cuts of meat, hot off the grill, circulate on dramatic swordlike skewers, and you load up your plate at the “farmer’s table,” a glorified salad bar. The Brazilian term for this type of steakhouse is “rodizio,” and there’s a whole story on the menu about how it originates in southern Brazil — with mural-size photos on the wall paying tribute to that time.

On one of my visits, groovy samba music also supported the theme. On another, though, a live musician was playing keyboard and crooning easy-listening versions not of Brazilian standards like “Girl from Ipanema” but more recent hits of the twenty-teens, including Cee Lo’s “Forget You.” I guess Bebel Gilberto wasn’t available.

Brisas do Sul (the name means “breezes from the south”) comes from a Brazilian ownership team Luciano Lima and Emanuel Peres. The latter, according to a manager, co-owned Roseville’s Flame and Fire (which The Bee’s Blair Anthony Robertson reviewed in 2014) but has left that restaurant.

This concept might not play with teens trawling H&M, who probably can’t spare the hefty $58.95 per person charge, but their grandparents will probably eat it up — and so will the teens if someone else is paying. It’s actually a good place for family groups; there’s even a vegetarian option, though most of the fun is reserved for carnivores.

The whole place feels old-worldly, with courtly service from the men in gaucho garb, who circulate with sizzling meats. You have a little set of tongs and grab a slice off the cuts of meat as they slice it, often with the gaucho patiently explaining what to do. Female servers handle explaining the concept, busing plates and taking drink orders; there’s a noticeable traditional gender divide here.

Most of the servers seem to be Brazilian and very into the idea of sharing a slice of the culture: they nod enthusiastically when you order the excellent caipirinha, gently correct tricky Portuguese pronunciations, tell you about the cuts of meat, and generally offer a high standard of hospitality.

Where to start is not with the meat, but with the “Farmer’s Table” — to translate from the branding-speak, it’s a salad bar with extras. This lavish spread is an obvious point of pride, but I wasn’t sure that was entirely warranted. A lot of the options are pretty basic: a section of cold cuts with salami and uninteresting cheeses (manchego, parmesan); cut fruit; the usual suspects of any regular salad bar; wilted arugula.

There were clumsy handwritten signs for a lot of the options, which seemed amateurish: one read “Grape Salad Dairy On” and adorned a bowl of grapes in what seemed to be sweetened sour cream, a throwback anyone who has read about or attended 1960s ladies’ luncheons or bridal showers may remember.

One more interesting choice, the Brazilian “vinaigrette” (chopped colorful peppers in a tangy dressing) swam in liquid. Roast mushrooms, also in dressing, were savory (if visually unappealing). Pasta and couscous salads mostly tasted interchangeable. A bright, parsley-rich quinoa tabbouleh was not Brazilian, but it was good.

My favorite things from the big serve-yourself room were the hot, traditional Brazilian items: a rich and rib-sticking feijoada (black bean stew with tender meats), a simpler meatless dish of savory black beans, and some absolutely excellent garlicky shredded collards. The latter were the only things I went back for seconds on, and they were the perfect thing to offset all that meat. If I could go for lunch and just order a big plate of beans, collards and fluffy rice for ten bucks or so, I’d be very happy.

At Brisas do Sul, however, you’re expected to enter into the full meat experience. I found it a mixed one. The appeal of all the meat you want is high, but the quality of the actual meat on offer was just OK, I thought. The restaurant serves 15 types of meat at dinner; at lunch, where the price is $25 lower, there are seven types.

The offerings include two kinds each of chicken, lamb and pork and a wide variety of beef cuts, plus plump, sizzling little linguica sausages. That said, several meats that a manager listed for me, among them lamb and long-cooked beef ribs, were items I never got to sample.

My favorite items, to my surprise, were both chicken: crisp-skinned little drumsticks bursting with flavor, and bacon-wrapped chicken breast, both juicy and utterly succulent. Parmesan pork, by contrast, was bone-dry, and one of the more well-done pieces of garlic sirloin I tried had suffered the same fate.

The beef items are supposed to be sent out medium rare, but the kitchen is good about cooking things more for those who prefer meat more fully cooked. I found the doneness varied from skewer to skewer. Filet mignon was more well done than I might have liked, and not as tender as the cut ought to be.

The house specialty, “picanha,” is a top cut of top sirloin. They also serve regular top sirloin as well as bottom sirloin, called “fraldinha” in Portuguese. This was rimmed with rich fat — maybe a little more than needed, and I say that as someone who loves a crispy edge of fat on meat. The bottom sirloin had a gamy taste and was on the gristly side, a problem that plagued several meats I tried, unfortunately. I came away with the impression that not all the meat was of the highest quality, though a lot of the specialty butchering to cut the meat for the skewers is done in house.

Meat dinners come with small parmesan and tapioca rolls, served warm and chewy, like a cross between a cheese puff and the pearls in bubble tea. I loved them, though at one meal they were lukewarm and less toothsome.

Meals also come with buttery mashed potatoes, fried bananas (very sweet), herbaceous chimichurri and a so-called hot sauce that I found very bland. The chimichurri was the best of the lot.

I wished the wine list had been a little richer in South American offerings; as it was, it was well priced but short and relatively unimaginative. The house Malbec, though, is Argentinean and very serviceable. Better, however, are the Brazilian cocktails: if you like something tropical, go for the sweet, strong batida de coco; those who like tartness will love the caipirinha.

Desserts are a mixed bag. A chocolate mousse cake was terrible, tasting mostly of the refrigerator, but densely creamy flan bathed in caramel and a sweet, sugar-crusted round of thick grilled pineapple suggested that traditional Brazilian desserts are the way to go.

I’m skeptical whether this high-priced, high-time-commitment sit-down restaurant can make it in the busy, go-go-go Palladio. Fair warning: it occupies a slightly hard-to-find corner that seems to bear no relationship to its street address. Open since October, it’s busy at dinner but has already curtailed some of its lunch hours, and the salad options are far from as fresh and vibrant as one might hope. Still, the real draw is the meat, so if the carnivores can find it — and are ready with their cash — Brisas do Sul may remain a fresh breeze in Folsom.

Brisas do Sul

380 Palladio Parkway, Folsom. 916-883-2747. Brisasdosul.com

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.

Beverage options: Full bar with specialty cocktails that veer to the sweet (but don’t miss the caipirinha). Wine list is not extensive but is reasonably priced.

Vegetarian friendly: Well, it’s an unlimited-meat eatery. That said, there is a $32.95 all-you-can-eat vegetarian option for the Farmer’s Table and side dishes, but vegetarians may be happier elsewhere.

Gluten-free options: Most items on offer (meat, beans, salad greens) should be safe for the gluten sensitive.

Noise levels: Modest, thanks to a softly furnished dining room that bucks the echoing sleek surfaces restaurant trend and well-spaced tables. There’s live music some nights, recorded samba at other times.

Ambiance: It’s on the formal side, but with an old-world, throwback vibe: plush chairs, black and red décor, big scenes from southern Brazil on the walls, and the kitsch factor of costumed waiters bearing swords of meat.

Overall

☆☆1/2 (two and a half)

The Sacramento area doesn’t exactly overflow with South American cuisine (another Brazilian place called Fogo de Minas just opened in late January), so this addition to the scene may be welcome for lovers of rodizio (all-you-can-eat Brazilian grill). The meat quality is fine but not amazing, the atmosphere fun if you go in ready to surrender to the slight cheesiness of being served by gaucho-clad swordsmen.

Food

☆☆ 1/2 (two and a half)

It’s all about the meat quality at places like this, and here it’s middling: beef can be a tad gristly or fatty. Salad-bar items, too, were often wilted, overdressed, or ho-hum. The surprise hits were the two chicken offerings, succulent drumsticks and juicy bacon-wrapped breast. Don’t miss the excellent collards and black beans.

Service

☆☆☆ (three)

Servers are helpful and enthusiastic, often courtly when offering the meats, and eager to help with explanations and different meat preferences. The pace at which different meats come out, however, can be erratic, and it’s easy to miss items you want to sample.

Value

☆☆ (two)

It is all-you-can-eat, so the level of value depends on the capacity of your stomach. The price (about $60 per person, not including drinks and dessert), however, seems a bit high for the quality level of the meat and many of the salad-bar offerings.

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