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Churrascaria Tropical


slkinsey
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This last weekend I spent a very enjoyable evening with friends at Churrascaria Tropical in Astoria.

For a while now the prices have been going up at Churrascaria Plataforma, long the gold standard of NYC rodizios. Right now, I believe Plataforma is charging 47 dollars for the rodizio dinner, drinks and dessert not included. And the price goes up considerably if you have a few of their absurdly overpriced caipirinhas. There were lower priced alternatives, of course, but they were always inconveniently difficult to reach and often served meat that was notably inferior in quality to what was being served at Plataforma. We've resorted to dreary subway rides out to Master Grill in Flushing and endured long train rides out to Newark to try to get a reasonably priced rodizio dinner, and I was always left feeling that it ultimately wasn't worth the effort (especially when you figure in the cost of taking the train to Newark).

Well, wait no more. If you want a reasonably priced rodizio experience with top quality meat, and you don't want to travel to the ends of the earth, just take the N/W train to Astoria Boulevard and walk a few short blocks to Churrascaria Tropical at 36-08 30th Avenue, between 36th and 37th Streets.

Michael Marich, the chef at Churrascaria Tropical, worked for many years at Plataforma. He uses the same meat suppliers, he uses the same equipment, and he uses the same techniques. In fact, in our opinion, several of the cuts of meat which are often dry and better skipped at Plataforma (pork loin, ham, lamb) were juicy and delicious at Tropical. The chef took me to the kitchen and showed me around. It is a remarkably simple procedure. The skewered meat is placed under a powerful broiler where it automatically rotates until charred on the outside, whereupon it is brought out for service, the outer layer is carved away and it is returned to the kitchen for another go under the broiler. There must have been 10 gallons of rendered fat in the catch basin below, just from one day's service!

Tropical's salad bar is quite modest compared to Plataforma's. They had hot dishes of mussels and shrimp, various greens, hearts of palm, some potato salad-like things, etc. Certainly nothing like the lavish spread at Plataforma, but I found that Tropical had most of the things I end up having when I go to Plataforma. It's always important at a rodizio not to fill up at the salad bar.

Once we finished out salad plates, we got the usual side dishes: black beans, white rice, fried plantains, fried yucca, a kind of tomato, onion and vinegar sauce, the absolutely addictive pao de queijo, and some farofa. The farofa at Tropical is fried with chorizo, which is the way I like it (it is available without for the porkophobes).

Then they had just about all the meats you get at Plataforma: chicken legs with sausage, turkey wraped in bacon, pork loin, lamb, brisket, ham, top sirloin (picanha), short ribs, flank steak, chicken hearts, etc. All the meats were comparable in quality to Plataforma at its best, and some of them (short ribs, pork loin, lamb) were better than I've had at Plataforma. What Tropical doesn't have are the occasional "extras" they bring around at Plataforma: the suckling pig, the whole salmon, etc.

Tropical also serves Brahma, a Brazilian beer. It's clean, crisp and slightly sweet. More or less the Brazilian equivalent of Miller. But, just as it is fun to have Tsingtao, the Chinese equivalent of Budweiser, when eating at a Chinese restaurant, it's nice to have a Brazilian beer at a rodizio. Tropical has a nice and reasonably priced wine list, but caipirinhas and beer are my drinks of perference at a rodizio. When you're trying to eat your weight in roasted meat, a heavy red wine just doesn't seem to fit the bill. Oh, and those caipirinhas? They're made with Velho Barreiro Cachaça -- still a relatively inexpensive cachaça but a lot better than the Pitu most places are using -- and they only cost six bucks.

And if the great food, relatively convenient location and friendly service aren't enough to get you there, there's this: the rodizio at Churrascaria Tropical is only 20 bucks!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I can say hands down that Churrascaria Tropical is the best I have had on this side of the equator. The cuts of meat were exceptional and so succulent that my party and I ate until were almost falling out of our chairs. The service was also fantastic, with complimentary fried yuca at the bar and when it was discovered that they were out of soda water for a wine spritzer, 2 glasses of complimentary wine followed. They also seemed to have a greater selection of meats and even cooked up some chicken hearts just for me when I requested them. The prime rib was amazing.

The salad bar was light on options but fresh and good. The beer was a bargin at $5 for an ice cold brahma beer (and I mean ice cold), we drank a lot of those. While I did not try the caipirinhas I was told that they make 16 per liter bottle, which makes for a hefty 2.1 oz drink. I plan to talk to them about getting a better brand in ;)

I'll be back there for sure, especially at the $19.95 price, well worth the trek to Astoria.

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That's a fantastic price for such quality. I really like Plataforma but just can't justify the price for the amount of food I can eat.

Do you think they might cook up some chicken livers... perhaps wrapped in bacon... if I ask nicely?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Last night, I had my second meal at Tropical and I can only echo the posts above... both meals were pretty sensational. Last night's especially: the salad bar, although not as opulent as at some other rodizios, was exceptionally high in quality. Everything I tried was scrupulously fresh and tasty (and that definitely can't be said of most other, significantly more expensive places), and the hot dish was simply fantastic--some really lovely fish filets (red snapper, perhaps?) topped with shredded vegetables and fresh calamari rings in a zesty sauce flavored with coconut milk and dendé oil. I went back for seconds of the fish--not my normal practice when I'm anticipating an avalanche of meat.

As for the meat, I agree completely with slkinsey... they are all of similar quality to, or better than, Plataforma at its best. It should be noted, too, that the carvers really know what they are doing. I've noticed that with picanha especially, it makes a noticeable difference just how it is carved... if it is sliced too thick (and the Newark rodizios are especially guilty of this), the taste and texture of the meat actually suffer. It was ALWAYS perfect here. The side dishes I also find to be exceptionally good. I don't know what they do to their black beans (simmer them with some beautiful pork product, no doubt), but they're positively addictive. I'm not usually crazy about fried yucca, but I couldn't seem to stop eating the light, perfectly fried cubes. And theirs are the best fried bananas I've had anywhere.

As an unrepentant carnivore, this place is, for me, just about the best value I can think of in New York.

Edited to add: It just occurred to me that at the table were both a Grammy Award winner and a Grand Prix du Disque winner (neither one of them me, unfortunately!). I'm thinking that's probably a first for that restaurant, but this being NYC, you never know!

Edited by Eric_Malson (log)

My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

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Went to Churrascaria Tropical again last night, and it continues to impress. Hands-down it is the best lamb and pork to be found in any NYC-area rodizio. The lamb was sprinkled with rosemary and nicely pink on the inside, and the pork was literally dripping with juice and coated with some kind of garlic glaze. These two meats are done so much better than any other rodizio is doing that there is simply no comparison. We also had several meat items I've never had before. For example, in addition to the usual turkey wrapped in bacon there were chunks of fillet mignon wrapped in bacon. There was also a dish the server called "fillet with garlic" which was, as far as I could tell, slices of picanha (including a nice strip of fat on the top) rubbed with garlic and roasted on a skewer. Delicious! He also brought out an impressive piece of "prime rib" that looked like it belonged in an episode of the Flintstones (I am not sure that it was what we would normally call prime rib at all). It was the approximate size and perhaps half the thickness of an accoustic guitar body, whatever it was.

What impressed me the most was the consistently high quality given the fact that my party of seven comprised most of the customers in the restaurant. Normally a rodizio has to be packed with customers and really moving the meat to get this wide variety of meats and to get meats that haven't been overcooked and dried out. This is a must-visit place for NYC carnivores.

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What impressed me the most was the consistently high quality given the fact that my party of seven comprised most of the customers in the restaurant.  Normally a rodizio has to be packed with customers and really moving the meat to get this wide variety of meats and to get meats that haven't been overcooked and dried out.  This is a must-visit place for NYC carnivores.

What time did you go? I'm told that Brazilians eat late. I haven't eaten there yet, but I have eaten at their sister restaurant, Sabor Tropical, just a few doors down. Sabor Tropical, which caters primarily to a Brazilian clientele, doesn't get really busy until sometime after 9pm. My guess is that Churrascaria Tropical's original clientele goes after 9pm, so if you go then, the joint may be jumpin’. Just a guess, since I'm not usually out that late. :laugh:

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Gee, I have to go back. I thought it was OK and worth reviewing in Newsday, but not as good as Plataforma by any means, though better than Greenfields. I liked the sister restaurant, sabor tropical, more...for rodizio meats in Astoria, I think Brazilville is better. Have any of you guys tried it? It's just a by-the-pound place that happens to be loaded with brazillian nationals. Really good meat, very cheap.

Mr-Cutlets.com: your source for advice, excerpts, Cutlets news, and links to buy Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore's Guide to New York!
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