Via Brasil Steakhouse

We’ve had a number of Brazilian steakhouses/churrascarias in Las Vegas over the years, and about the only thing most of them have had in common, besides a loose (some looser than others) interpretation of the concept, is that most have been in the tourism corridor.

I’m definitely not one of those locals who says, "Oh, we never go to the Strip," because there are some world-class restaurants there, and why should we let tourists have all the fun? (Besides, most of us locals know more than a few secrets for circumventing Strip-area traffic.) So here’s a bit of heresy, as far as the gospel of Heidi goes: If you’re looking for a good churrascaria, skip the Strip and head for the white-bread ‘burbs — in this case, the Summerlin area.

The spot is called Via Brasil, and it’s impressive in a number of ways. First, it’s large, especially for a suburban restaurant. It’s roomy and airy, with big windows, and there’s a good-sized patio for when the weather isn’t too hellishly hot. Service is excellent and, most importantly, so is the food ($42.95).

If you’re familiar with the concept, you’ll know that it’s about meat, meat and more meat (poultry and seafood as well). There are side dishes, too, either passed family style or, more commonly, served buffet-style, and depending on the place, they may be little more than an afterthought.

That that isn’t the case at Via Brasil is obvious just from looking at the buffet. It’s a large table of sleek design, sort of floating over the floor atop a stylized V, and there are V-shaped ice blocks behind many of the dishes. There’s an extensive selection, of salads, yes — green salads and mixed salads — but also such things as hearts of palm, cubes of imported cheese and a well-executed beef carpaccio, plus hot dishes such as an excellent ravioli in mushroom cream sauce. We were a little bemused when our waiter cautioned us not to fill up at the buffet, but it turned out to be good advice, because it would be easy to stop there.

And if you did that, you’d miss the main event. Those would be the meats, of course — 18 varieties, a larger number than we’ve seen before, which are brought to the table on skewers of Three Musketeers proportions. Some are sliced off onto your plate, while in other cases, you assist by plucking the meat with the little pair of tongs at each place setting. There’s a stop/don’t stop medallion at each place, so you can signal whether or not you’re ready for more, and as long as the green side is up, the parade continues.

What do you know? This is the first time I’ve had bacon-wrapped turkey served this way that wasn’t dried out, but was juicy and flavorful. And garlic picanha (top sirloin) that was truly garlicky. Leg of lamb that was juicy and with a flavor that was distinctive but not overwhelming, which was the case with the lamb chops as well. Sausage that practically spurted juices as we cut into it. Flank steak that had been marinated until it was tender.

While two sauces — a vinaigrette and a chimichurri — had been brought to the table, some of the meats were accompanied by additional sauces, such as the well-balanced (sweet-to-sour) mango with the salmon, and a choice of a slightly smoky barbecue or creamy, earthy mushroom with the pork loin. We didn’t get to sample all 18 meets — we missed the prime rib, and the rib-eye and a couple of others — but it was only because we know our limitations.

And the meats and buffet weren’t the only components of our dinner at Via Brasil. A basket of delicate hot cheese-filled rolls also had been brought to the table, as were beans and rice and mashed potatoes and broccoli.

Just as we surrendered, a dessert cart rolled up. The desserts were very tempting, but were they kidding? Coffee was about all we could handle — coffee and the last of our bottle of wine (from a selection of a number of labels that are half-price on Monday and Tuesday nights).

Via Brasil is definitely an indulgence of diet-destroying proportions. But what a way to go.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or e-mail her at hrinella@reviewjournal.com.

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