David's birthday dinner at Braza Churrascaria, Darling Harbour & The Victoria Room, Darlinghurst (12th January 2012)

Today is David's birthday and I've booked the family (and me, of course) in for dinner at Braza Churrascaria located in Darling Quarter this evening. I had previously asked David if he had a favourite cuisine and his response to me was that he trusted my judgement. Well, you probably guessed right how Braza ended up being the place of choice - no contention that it was for my own selfish needs :P Since I discovered the Brazilian BBQ house's existence when Jono and I were in Darling Quarter having coffee one day, I've been dying to check it out but we just never ended up doing so. David's birthday dinner makes for a great reason to come here (it's more fun to go to a churrascaria in a group) plus Jono's family probably haven't had Brazilian BBQ before so it would be a fun experience for them too :)

We arrived at Braza in time for the 7pm booking but were told we were booked in for 5pm. "We have here a table for 7 at 5pm," said the maitre d', tapping his forefinger on his appointment book. Er, no - I booked in a table for 5 at 7pm. Somehow, they managed to get my booking mixed up but fortunately didn't give me further dramas and seated us immediately (phew, for a moment there I was worried we had to go elsewhere for dinner!). The restaurant had a beach house theme and was already quite busy with diners when we first arrived, the outdoor seating all filled so we were seated indoors. Male
passadores (meat waiters) can be seen serving up cuts of meat at tables while the waitresses dealt with taking orders on their PDAs. We had a bubbly Brazilian lady who served our table for the evening. "Is this your first time to a Brazilian BBQ?' she asked with a smile. She proceeded to explain how things work in the restaurant - at $47 per person, the restaurant offers an all-you-cat-eat buffet of Traditional Churrasco (skewered meats slow roasted over the wood fire and charcoal rotisserie grill) served at your table, and side dishes are available on request. Each person has a small wooden indicator that is painted green on one end and red the other - leave it sitting with green on the top and the meat waiters will continue to offer you food. 

We started off with a round of assorted side dishes as suggested by our waitress as well as a 1 litre pitcher of Original Lime Fortified Caipirinha for the table. Jono and I weren't sure if Cheryl would enjoy the dinner much given she's not very adventurous when it comes to food - we were surprised when she said yes to the Brazilian waiter who came to serve us Coracao de Frango (chicken hearts)! And they were yum! Our table was very soon filled with a variety of side dishes served in small portions for sharing: Vinagretche (tomato salsa), Viajo na Maionese de Batata (potato salad), Pao de Queijo (cheese rolls), Mandioquinha (cassava chips), Salada Dois (rocket salad with Brazil nuts, orange, beetroot and blue cheese), Salada Tres (tomato and palm heart with black olives and white balsamic), Farofa (roasted cassava flour), Arroz da Vovo (rice) and Feijao Preto (black beans) - the last three are some of my favourite Brazilian food. I'm totally in food heaven right now! The Brazilian meat waiters continually turn up at our table, each time bringing us a different cut of beef (including picanha, the top sirloin cap), chicken or lamb, all cooked to perfection, so tender and juicy (I'm salivating as I'm writing this!). The waiter would start slicing a bit of the meat and then ask you to hold on the to cut end with your tongs (everyone has one - it's part of your cultery) then continued slicing the meat off the skewer so you can put it on your plate. There were also chorizo, grilled haloumi and garlic bread served by the waiters. Lots of delicious food to sample :)

Everyone was having a great time, drinking caipirinha, trying out the different food, chit-chatting and having a laugh about all sorts. We ordered another pitcher of the caipirinha as it was disappearing quite quickly. I could tell Cheryl really likes the drink, asking David to top up her glass whenever it got low hehe...Yes, even the the caipirinha was amazing. We also had another round of side dishes, this time ordering the crumbed banana and polenta fritters, and more salads, rice, black beans and farofa. Most people would think churrascaria is all about meat but I reckon we've had quite a good mix of meat and non-meat items. "Ooo, pineapple!" I exclaimed when I saw the waiter serving it at another table. I hope there's enough for the waiter to come over and serve it to us! The Abacaxi or pineapple is coated with brown sugar and cinnamon, and grilled on the skewer - served warm, it makes a great finish to the BBQ. I ended up putting in a request 
with our waitress for the waiter to serve us first as we never got to sample any - the pineapple kept running out before the waiter got to our table! Mmm, nice sweet pineapple, juicy and warm...

Ok, I think that's enough food for me, don't think I can go on...I headed to the washroom to freshen up and when I returned to the table, one of the waiters had just pushed out a trolley with a roasted suckling pig and was carving the meat. "It has been on the roast the whole day so it's really good," winked our Brazilian waitress at me as she started to clear away some of our dishes. I couldn't help it and tried a small piece when offered - the skin was crisp but the meat inside was so tender. Mmm! :) I highly recommend Braza - with their excellent selection of food and friendly Brazilian service, this is a great place for a fun, laid-back group dining. And they don't have a two-hour seating limit so you can stay as long as you like - take a breather, loosen your belt and eat some more! Photos taken at Braza Churrascaria here.

Cost us $321 all up for the buffet and drinks - slightly expensive but worth every cent. 
I'm really glad Jono and his family enjoyed the dining experience. I definitely did and am looking forward to coming back again soon!

Braza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We left the restaurant around 9pm and took a short walk to Darling Harbour to check out the night view before heading to Town Hall train station where we bid the parents goodbye for the night. Jono, Michelle and I then headed to Darlinghurst to meet up with Matt, Amanda and another one of Jono's colleagues for drinks at The Victoria Room on Victoria Street. We couldn't find the cocktail bar on our first attempt - it was nestled a strip of cute restaurants/bars and cafes, and didn't have an obvious entrance. Unless you were shown the place, you wouldn't know it was there - turned out, we had walked past it twice!

Heading up the broad flight of stairs, I was surprised where we ended up. Lavishly decorated in opulent British Raj style, hues of gold and dark brown were illuminated by the soft lighting. Very chic and inviting. "James would love this place," I said to Jono and he agreed. This place has the same style and feel of the cocktail bars in Wellington such as Hawthorne and The Library - definitely on my list of cool bars to bring visitors to :) Interestingly, there was a trapeze set up on the ceiling beams and I wondered if shows were held here on certain nights of the week. It wasn't too busy for a Thursday night, only a few couples sipping cocktails in the lounge seats and one having a late dinner in the dining area that was sectioned off by decorative screens. 

We found ourselves a vacant lounge area for the group and were shortly joined by Matt and gang. "Let's order some drinks," said Jono and everyone busied ourselves looking at the bar's extensive cocktail menu that lists the cocktails by continents. Jono had the Corn N' Oil from the South America and the Caribbean page which was a mix of Goslings Black Seal Dark rum stirred with House Velvet Falernum (almond, ginger, cloves & lime syrup), Angostura Bitters and fresh lime, while I went for the the Desert Daisy (this is from the North America and Mexico page), a cocktail with Ocho Blanca Tequila shaken with Angostura Orange Bitters, white grapefruit juice, agave water, orange blossom water, cucumber and cracked pepper. Michelle had the East Indies Iced Tea 
(Ketel One Citroen Vodka stirred with St Germain Elderflower Liquer, lemongrass and ginger tea, fresh lemon and raw sugar syrup) from the Europe cocktail list - for $60, you can have this cocktail served in a teapot with matching teacup which you can take home with you. Cost us $20 each for our cocktails and I think Michelle's one is the best (refreshing and you can't really taste the alcohol). Jono's was potent - just one sip and you could tell it was a stiff drink. I didn't like my Desert Daisy very much as it left a bitter after taste with each sip :/ 

We chatted and laughed over our drinks, with lots of catching up with Amanda and Matt whom Jono and I have not seen since before Christmas (the were away for the holidays). Around 11.30pm, the group decided to call it a night and we left the bar to catch a taxi home. I totally ready for bed after all the alcohol and full belly... 


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