February 6, 2014
I have a general rule of thumb when it comes to new restaurants: wait a few months to give it a chance to work out all the new-restaurant kinks. That is what I intended with the new Brazilian restaurant at Jefferson Pointe – Tucanos, which opened late last year – but I couldn’t ignore the hubbub. Friends and acquaintances were reporting back with rave reviews, and it piqued my interest. I mean, seriously, how could I not be intrigued by exclamations of “meat fiesta” and “meat extravaganza?” Before venturing to Tucanos, my only encounter with Brazilian food was through my friend and fellow food blogger Cynthia Presser, a Brazilian native living in Fort Wayne who helps organize the annual Taste of Brazil event. She taught Jon and me about typical Brazilian seasonings and introduced us to its delicious national drink, Caipirinha, made with sugar cane hard liquor and lime. Beyond that, we didn’t know what to expect.
We visited Tucanos one afternoon in early January, and the place was hopping. Tables were full of families while servers bustled around with skewers of meat and vegetables, creating a lively buzz throughout the brightly decorated former food court space. We chose to sit at the bar which gave us a great view of the dining room and the Salad Festival. Yes, you read that right: Salad Festival. The bartender greeted us, asked us if it was our first visit and explained how the Churrasco (aka meat fiesta) works, which was a bit intimidating only because it was new to us. Churrasco is a term for barbeque that uses a variety of meat cooked over a flame on a spit or skewer. A small tri-colored column at each table is used to let servers know you are ready for more meat. Green means go and red means stop. There is also a sampling of sauces at each seat used for dipping.
The menu is pretty basic. Guests can order the Churrasco ($14.95 at lunchtime, $21.95 during dinner) which includes the Salad Festival, or they may order from a small sampling of appetizers. There are also specialty skewers available that may be added to the Churrasco. Guests may also opt for just the Salad Festival ($10.95 at lunchtime, $14.95 during dinner). We chose the Churrasco in order to get the full experience. Tucanos also has a small selection of specialty cocktails and a full bar. We opted for Brazilian Lemonade with a few shots of tequila added to it, making it the best mixed drink price on the menu.
We began with the Salad Festival, a multi-sided salad bar loaded with fresh veggies and fruit, cured meats, cheeses, soups, breadsticks, deli salads and even sushi, all prepared fresh daily. I wanted to try everything but was mindful of the amount of food ahead. If you aren’t careful, it is easy to fill up quickly. I was thoroughly impressed with everything I sampled, with the exception of the sushi, which I found mediocre (I am pretty snobby when it comes to sushi). The cured meats were especially delicious, and I paired mine with fresh melon for a salty sweet treat. The most interesting item on the salad bar was hard-boiled quail eggs, which, aside from being smaller than chicken eggs, taste just like them, but made me feel adventurous nonetheless.
Once we finished our Salad Festival, we flipped our tri-colored column to green, and the Churrasco began. Waiters came by every few minutes with skewers of meat, grilled veggies and even grilled pineapple. They were knowledgeable about the food, answering our questions and explaining each item. First up was Picalho, garlic Parmesan beef, which was tender and delicious and cooked to a perfect medium rare. Peru, turkey wrapped in bacon, was next out of the kitchen, and it too was tender and flavorful. We also sampled Contra Coxa, a sweet and sour chicken wing; Corazon de Frango, smoky chicken hearts; Faldinha, beef tenderloin; Picanha, top sirloin; Assado, marinated beef brisket; Presunto, brown sugar glazed ham; and grilled veggies and grilled pineapple.
Absolutely everything wowed us. All of the meats were cooked to perfection and seasoned appropriately. We never even ventured into the dipping sauces in front of us because the meats, veggies and fruit were just right on their own. Once we had tried everything, the servers came around with the items we liked best: grilled pineapple and Garlic Parmesan Beef. We may have had three or four helpings of the pineapple, but who is counting? I thought we would need to be wheeled out of there because of the amount of food we ate! Sadly, we didn’t leave room for dessert, but we were pleasantly surprised to learn that all desserts are made fresh daily.
Overall, we were extremely impressed with the experience and the food, and we will certainly visit again.