In this special feature, Dineout picks out our favourites in the FIFA World Cup 2014. Sadly, the Brazillian team were annihilated during the semi-final with the Germans. But nevertheless, we continue the spotlight on host nation, Brazil. I arrive at Carnaval Churrascaria in Damansara Jaya anticipating a hearty meal. I was fortunate to have General Manager, CY Lum, delight me with the history and makings of this Brazilian joint. Our conversation was varied and we even found out that we have mutual friends! The spirit of this place was evident – homely, with a touch of flair, very much like their Brazilian counterparts on the pitch.
Mr Lum recommended that I start off with their specialty drink – Caipirihna (RM18.50++), a concoction of premium Brazilian rum, lime wedges, crushed ice and sugar. I told Mr Lum I’m not too keen on alcohol and he was ever so accommodating to let me off with just a sip. It’s a bit like a mojito but I like this better. That sweet-tooth of mine was searching for the bits of sugar via the straw and it elevated the drink for me. I’m easily satisfied by sweet things, what can I say?
It’s a bit like: Thiago Silva
I start off my meal proper with a selection of greens from their warm salad bar. It featured a variety from lightly flavoured steamed ladies fingers, stir-fried French beans, stir-fried cauliflower to chilli squid and cauliflower, deep-fried eggplant, and grilled potato wedges. Each were delightful on its own and as a vege-lover, I truly appreciated the variety on offer.
One dish that stood out from the warm salad bar was the only non-vegetable item – beef with black bean stew. It’s eaten with steamed rice topped with fried onions and is to Brazil what nasi lemak is to Malaysians. The beef chunks vary between the dry and the tender and the beans are soft and moist. It’s simple yet hearty and comforting.
Once done, I moved over to the cold salad bar. (Oh, did I mention this is a buffet after all?) My eyes lit up at more vegetable selections – fresh greens, cucumber, pineapple and chili salsa, cucumber, tomato and onion salsa, coleslaw, cold vermicelli in sweet, sour and spicy dressing, and even cold spaghetti in marinara. It’s a good mix of flavours and textures but I prefer the warm salad bar variety.
After stuffing myself with all those greens, it was time to get down to business - the meat! Mr Lum told me that the Brazilians take great pride in their barbecue culture. They claim no one can do a barbecue like they do. After sampling a few slices of succulent, juicy, hot off the skewer beef, I found it hard to disagree. The fascinating thing about this place is that servers will come to your table and slice the meat off the huge juicy chunks to your liking. You can either go for the crunchier, well-done outer layers or the more tender, juicier medium portions closer to the centre. The outer layers can be a bit too salty for some though this is due to the extensive use of herbs and spices to give the meat such wonderful flavour all the way through. Do take note that no MSG is used in the preparation.
There are two types of beef offered daily, together with lamb shoulder, chicken ham, chicken sausages and chicken wings. They even have dory fish that’s chunky and tender, smothered with creamy savoury curry. It’s hard to separate all the meats which taste good individually but for me, the star of the show is the premium beef steak. It’s simply wow! Flavourful and bursting with juices, you can even see the steam coming off as each thin slice of meat is cut before you. I don’t think I can accept barbecued beef in any other form from now on.
One surprise offered from the steel skewers was Carnaval’s own take on garlic bread. Trust me when I say you’ve never had it this way before. Slices of French loaf generously smothered with the chef’s own mix of mayonnaise, fresh garlic and parsley, crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. They were so irresistible I had to control myself. I’ve had far too many cheat days in a week!
As it usually ends with most meals, I had to have dessert and was presented with their version of Caramelised Banana (RM11.50++). Two large whole bananas grilled to perfection, drowning in sweet caramel drizzle, and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. I’ve had a version where the bananas are dipped in batter and deep fried, which I think is better but this was good as well. If I try to comfort myself, I’ll say it’s healthier than the fried version. Oh, and for those who love playing with their food, have fun scooping all that caramel drizzle with a fork. I sure did!
It’s a bit like: Hernanes
Food : 4.5/5
Drinks : 4/5
Service : 4.5/5
Ambience : It’s a no-frills restaurant yet it’s filled with colour and flair, which truly brings out that Brazilian spirit. Oil paintings on canvas adorn the walls, and the Brazilian flag and Jalur Gemilang stand proudly side-by-side. If only that were true of our national football team.
Pros : I think the experience of a Brazilian barbecue will be new and exciting to some. I regret that I’ve not discovered this place earlier considering it’s been around for so long. General Manager, CY Lum offers a flexibility and generosity to customers rarely seen in businesses in this day and age. Kudos to Carnaval Churrascaria for going against the grain in such noble fashion!
Cons : It’s perhaps the only drawback to this place that the salad selection pales in comparison once the star attractions come out, hot off the grill. Considering how good the vegetable selections are, that tells you how serious the Brazilians are about their meat.
Written with passion by Caleb Ho