Noun 1. gastronome - a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink)bon vivant, epicure, epicurean, foodie, gourmetsensualist - a person who enjoys sensuality. Follow me on Twitter: @Aghastronome

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meatasaurus: Samba Grille Soft Opening Adventure

Last night, I was priviledged to hit the soft opening of Samba Grille, located at 530 Texas Ave, which is also known as Bayou Place, to give them a free test run prior to the grand opening slated for September 7th, or so I hear tommorow, per @SambaGrille.  First, I have to say thanks much to Christy for allowing me to tag along.  Second, I will give you my take on the food, wine and service without any photographic evidence.  As I stated in my earlier post, I didn't even wave the magic crackberry over any of my food, which allowed me to be an incognito diner.  Something about looking like a dressed up NatGeo insect photographer that tips them off (and I am just kidding here, put your hackles back down - I actually suffer from "big girl camera" envy and hope that's not terminal).  Samba is a South American/Brazilian restaurant that serves full-on churrasceria as an option at night.  We both chose the festival of many meats, or, churrasceria option, which is a nice deal at a suggested $40 per person and includes a starter and choice of side, plus a nice array of grilled vegetables.  Now, let's have the rubber "meat" the road, so to speak.

The atmosphere is wonderful, clean lines, very sleek and modern - the beaded chain hanging around the support posts is a wonderful look.  The drawback to the chains?  Children cannot help themselves, it's like a built-in toy as it is shiny and not tied down.  Our evening began with prompt seating and rather prompt offer of wine, a nice smooth Malbec.  It took a few minutes for someone to take our actual order, but, this is not a complaint in my world - we were able to peruse and discuss the menu.  I find this enjoyable, as long as I know that you know that I am in the building, and I have been offered a choice of beverage.  For a starter, I had the Jade Soup and Christy went for the wedge with a manchego cheese dressing.  I tried a bite of salad, delicious.  The wedge was more a butter lettuce and not a hard, cold hunk of iceberg and the dressing was perfect.  The wedge came with two tomato wedges that appeared oven-dried.  The Jade Soup, and I think I'm capitalizing it subconsciously, was verdant magic.  A broccoli and spinach cream soup with plentiful jumbo lump crab.  Verdant is what comes to mind as the broccoli has been cooked and creamed but the spinach bite shone through the earthier broccoli and gave the soup an elevated "freshness".  I can only surmise that the spinach is blended in fresh and uncooked.  They should offer it up by the quart, to go. 

I should really offer up a fair warning to all future patrons.  The warm cheese bread that they will bring you, until you burst - it's like crack.  Unless you hate cheese or suffer from serious lactose-intolerance, good luck staying out of the bread.  I am determined to find a recipe and try this.  Who says a girl can't bake and eat an entire batch of these for dinner?  Maybe they should sell these by the dozen too, in a gift box with a nice bow (I would not reject a gift of mini-cheesy bread crack).  So, don't fill up on these because the meats are coming, and coming, and coming until you flip the tab to "Just a Wafer Thin Mint", or "No Thank You".

She and I tried our level best to have a conversation and the skewers of meats floating by kept distracting our attention from the wine and whatever we were pratting on about.  Yep, wave a sword of succulent meat at either of us and we go into a trance...mmmmm, meat. Once our starters were cleared, we received a nice large plate and our sides and veggies.  Our sides were asparagus and coconut rice.  I won't wax poetic about the veggies, they were properly cooked (read: not soggy, with a slight crunch) and very well seasoned.  The coconut rice was not so much.  "This tastes like Hawaiian Tropic", "Seriously, it tastes like tanning lotion smells".  You know, it did.  I am sorry to say that, but, I think it was made with Coco Lopez.  That being said, the management asked about the salt level of the Jade Soup, as it was too salty at lunch - so, I have zero doubt that the coconut rice will be perfected prior to the Grand Opening.  Don't be afraid to order it - really, the managements attention to what customers thought was impressive.

Okay, I like big meat and I cannot lie.  I would never make it as a vegetarian, myself.  I like beef, chicken, lamb, pork, miscellaneous fruits from the sea, offal offerings, you get my point.  Meat. Word.  I have tried armadillo and rattlesnake - I ain't skeered.  I won't eat a conventional pet, I have standards, for the love.  The picanha was the best of the best - it was a soft red in the center, tender and juicy.  My second favorite sword selection? The pork ribs, slightly crispy outside and still juicy inside they were delightful.  My third were the sausages, which were on the salty side, but had great flavor.  The bacon-wrapped filet and chicken were good, but the bacon on the filet is difficult to fully cook without over-cooking the filet.  The shrimp were nicely herbed and properly cooked, juicy and succulent and over-salted.  The lamb chops needed "something", they were muttony and I would suggest some chimichurri to soften the flaver.  I love lamb, I even cook it myself - I just found that the meat needed a kick of seasoning or acidity.  The flank steak was very nice, but the chimichurri filet was not as tender as one might hope.  The parmesan crusted pork loin, in my opinion, needed a nice sear to create a nutty, crunchy parmesan crust.

Lastly, this feastival was capped off with a shared slice of tres leches.  Very moist, and pretty much perfect for a tres leches.  The only thing I wasn't just wild about was the frosting/topping.  I will caveat my opinion with "I don't have a big, fat sweet tooth".  It's worth ordering, I would order it again.

Overall, the value is there, what you pay for and what you get are very nicely aligned.  I feel very confident that the salt and coconut issues will be resolved well before Samba opens.  There are non-meatasaurus choices, don't let my carnivorous ways keep "veggie people" at bay.  Unless the sight of meat in it's cooked form offends, please go and don't make everyone pick someplace else.  You will not starve, eat a cheesy bread, no seriously, they have selections on the menu for you.  There are entree options, in addtion to the rodizio-styled, never-ending meat.  It did take about ten minutes for me to get a second glass of wine - I understand, when it's served free, you don't want to overserve.  Also, the wine changed from Malbec to Pinot, which was almost too light and peppery after the rich, smooth Malbec.  Again, it was free and it was good wine, no complaints.  I am merely stating the facts, man.

What not to say in a churrasceria (or, my filter from thought to out-loud quit working briefly):  "Where is little sausage man?"  I have to say, that question was rephrased and started a vein of digression in conversation.  The sausages were the last of the meat offerings we sampled, so the digression was short-lived once dessert arrived.

Note: Links will be inserted later, my lunch hour is exhausted.  Also, we tipped huge as the meal was free.  I'm sure there will be a tipping tirade in my near future.

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