Monday, September 17, 2007

Meaty Joints

16 Sep 2007, ST

Buffet lovers who love their meat are flocking to eateries offering all-you- can-eat Brazilian-style barbecued meats

By Huang Lijie

WHEN researcher Connie Ng craves meat, she makes a beeline for Carnivore, an all-you can-eat buffet restaurant serving Brazilian-style barbecued meats at VivoCity.

The restaurant is one of at least eight churrascarias - or Brazilian-style steakhouses - here, which are becoming increasingly popular.

In the last year alone, three such buffet outlets have sprung up with two more in the pipeline next year.

'The huge variety of meats on the menu is a definite draw. But what I like about dining at a churrascaria is that the buffet comes to my table and I don't have to jostle at a buffet counter,' says Ms Ng, 32.

In churrascarias (pronounced shoo-hus-ka-REE-ahs in Portuguese), trained waiters go from table to table with long skewers of barbecued meats - beef, pork, chicken and lamb - which they carve onto diners' plates.

The waiters called passadores (pah-sah-DOR-es) bring a new type of meat to each table every few minutes.

Churrascarias here offer between six and 16 types of barbecued meats, including seafood such as fish. The various cuts of beef - typically the rump, hump, tenderloin and topside - however, remain the highlight and are usually imported from Brazil.

Another common feature is the salad bar, which serves an array of greens and hot stews.

When Mr David Gabriel opened Brazil Churrascaria, the first of its kind here in 1994, he never doubted that there were enough meat lovers to sustain the business.

'My target customers were the Singaporeans who had grown up with Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald's and were ready for a big meat restaurant,' says the 63-year-old.

Customers at these restaurants, though, are not just athletes on a high-protein diet, hungry national servicemen or growing teenagers with voracious appetites.

Mr K.K. Ng, 41, group general manager of Carnivore, which opened its first outlet in Chijmes in 2004, says the churrascaria counts among its customers at VivoCity families with children as well as senior citizens.

Indeed, the demand for a novel dining concept and a meat-centred buffet was what prompted the opening of other churrascarias.

Mr James Lian, 35, partner of three-year-old Samba Brazilian Steakhouse Churrascaria in Katong Village, says: 'I'd eaten at churrascarias in Singapore and I found the style of service refreshing, and offering value for money. These factors convinced me that there was room in the market for another player.'

Churrascaria offerings here, however, adapt to the local palate.

Vibe restaurant at Negara in Claymore hotel in Claymore Road, which offers churrasco for dinner, serves char siew, Chinese honey grilled pork and a salmon sashimi spread.

Brazil Churrascaria uses Australian rather than Brazilian beef, as its customers prefer the less gamey taste of the former.

Mr Carlos Brian Pheysey, 40, a trade adviser at the Embassy of Brazil, who has eaten at six of the churrascarias here, says the restaurants make a serious effort to emulate what is offered in Brazil, but laments that the meat served here is not cooked as rare as that in Brazil, which 'leaves blood on the dinner plate'.

That said, business has been good for the eight churrascarias LifeStyle interviewed.

Brazil Churrascaria, which cost about $1 million to set up, boasts an annual 40 to 50 per cent return on investment.

And just last month, Gabriel opened Seven On Club in Club Street, which offers both the full churrasco and an a la carte Mediterranean menu.

Similarly, Carnivore at Chijmes recovered its start-up cost of $200,000 within just three months.

General manager Mr Ng believes that its outlet in VivoCity, which opened last November at more than $1 million, will do the same by the end of this year.

The popularity of the churrascarias is evident from the 30-minute to hour-long waits for walk-in diners at most of the restaurants during peak hours.

This positive reception has fuelled expansion plans.

Mr Gabriel is looking to open another outlet in the East Coast area next year while Carnivore is setting up two more branches in the next two years.


Where to go

CHURRASCARIAS owe their origins to the cattle drivers of southern Brazil many centuries ago. They sustained themselves in the wild by slaughtering cattle and roasting them on a spit over an open fire.

Below are eight churrascarias here.

Brazil Churrascaria
14/16 Sixth Avenue,
Tel: 6463-1923

Open: 6 to 10.30pm daily

Price: $38++, $16++ (children) for 14 churrasco meats and seafood

Seven on Club
7 Club Street, Tel: 6327-9663

Open: 11.30am to 2.30pm (lunch, Mondays to Fridays), 6.30 to 10.30pm (dinner, Mondays to Saturdays)

Price: Lunch - $28++ , $16++ (children) for six churrasco meats; Dinner - $38++, $16++ (children) for 14 churrasco meats and seafood

30 Victoria Street, 01-29A, Chijmes, Tel: 6334-9332

Open: 6 to 10pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 6 to 10.30pm (Fridays, Saturdays and public holidays)

Price: $39++, $19++ (children) for 13 churrasco meats

1 HarbourFront Walk, 01-161/162, VivoCity,
Tel: 6376-9939

Open: 11.30am to 3pm (lunch), 5.30 to 10pm (dinner)

Price: Lunch - $25++ (weekdays), $29++ (weekends), $15++ (children aged five to 11) for nine churrasco meats; Dinner - $37++ (weekdays), $39++ (weekends), $19++ (children aged five to 11) for 13 churrasco meats and seafood

Brazilian Churrascaria by Mamma Lucia
11 Unity Street, Robertson Walk, 01-03/04, Tel: 6734-9445

Open: 6 to 10.45pm daily

Price: $38++, $19++ (12 to 16 years old; free for those below 12) for 16 churrasco meats and seafood

Samba Brazilian Steakhouse Churrascaria
86 East Coast Road, 01-39 Katong Village, Tel: 6348-8406 Open: 11.30am to 2.30pm (lunch), 6 to 10.30pm (dinner) daily

Price: Lunch - weekdays $13.80+, $6+ (children) for six churrasco meats, Brunch (weekends) - $22+, $11+ (children) for 10 to 11 churrasco meats; Dinner - Mondays to Thursdays $30+, $15+ (children) for 12 to 14 churrasco meats, Fridays to Sundays $32+, $16+ (children) for 14 to 16 churrasco meats

Rio Brazilian Restaurant
60 Jalan Penjara, Queenstown Club; Tel: 6474-7473

Open: 6.30 to 10.30pm daily (churrasco buffet)

Price: $25.90++ for six churrasco meats and seafood; $33.90++ for 11 churrasco meats and seafood; $12.90++ (children aged six to 12), free for those below six

10 Claymore Road, Negara on Claymore; Tel: 6831-6686 Open: 6.30 to 10.30pm daily

Price: $42++, $26++ (children) for 14 churrasco meats and seafood

No comments: