Yolie’s is, you might say, the old Vegas version of the churrascaria.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of churrascarias, they’re also sometimes called "Brazilian steakhouses," and they specialize in the rodizio style of cooking. They have a loosely Brazilian theme (some looser than others) that generally involves men coming out of the kitchen bearing long swordlike skewers on which various types of meat have been grilled. Each one goes to each table in turn, slicing off a chunk on request.
Yolie’s actually was our first experience with the concept, lo these many years ago. Since then, we’ve dined in a few that were of the old school, a few of the newer breed and even a gosh-darned-genuine one in a Brazilian neighborhood that came complete with Brazilian dancers who awed us with their ooo-he-almost-kicked-that-guy-in-the-head coordination. And, as it turns out, Yolie’s is most like the one in the Brazilian ‘hood.
For example: Many restaurants of the newer genre have come up with more and more cuts of meat to be served by the sword-bearers, from a dozen on up. That seems like a good idea on the surface — who, after all, wouldn’t want a bigger buffet? — but it can get confusing. Eighteen cuts of meat does provide a lot of variety, but what if you’re really craving the bacon-wrapped turkey and that one never gets to your table? And the little red-light-green-light tokens that those places use sort of interrupt the flow (and hence the variety) if you put up a red light because you’re in need of a break.
At Yolie’s, the churrascaria ($34.99) is limited to seven meats, which turned out to be just fine, especially since we like all of them and because the servers were diligent in ensuring that all of the cuts made it to our table. The bacon-wrapped turkey did, and was wonderfully moist. Equally moist but much more flavorful (such is the nature of the meats) were the leg of lamb, beef tri-tip, top sirloin, sausage and pork tenderloin; we passed on the chicken, because after all, how much meat could we eat?
The newer places have side dish and salad buffets (again, some more extensive than others), but Yolie’s does it the old school way with family-style service of crisp-fried polenta cubes, fried potatoes, carrots and green beans and rice.
Oh, and just in case that’s not enough food for you, dinner starts with salad or black-bean soup. Both of us had salads, and they were crisp and reasonably well varied, though the Zesty House Dressing tasted an awful lot like basic honey-mustard.
The reason we skipped the soup was because only one of us had the churrascaria; Yolie’s offers other options, including the Brazilian staple Feijoada ($16.99), a dish of seasoned black beans with ham hocks and sausage and spare ribs that’s inherently pretty messy. So we mostly ate the beans and sausages, piled onto the rice from the communal bowl, and it was just dandy.
Oh, and a starter of shrimp scampi, which was really good but pretty skimpy for $10.99. That was odd, considering that the price of the rodizio is considerably lower than those of the new genre; maybe Yolie’s is trying to discourage appetizers.
Service throughout was a mixed bag. We had a reservation, but because we arrived separately, they wouldn’t seat the one who arrived first (despite a restaurant that at that point was empty and accepting walk-ins), forcing an awkward lingering interlude in the front lobby.
Our waiter, who was not Brazilian but I think Eastern European, was pretty good, too, but he seemed to be overburdened, as did the rodizio servers, which led to waiting periods that were much longer than they should have been. Yes, it was busy because Yolie’s is a National Finals Rodeo kind of place, but they should have been prepared for that.
Because who else, after all, has a healthy appreciation for all things meaty than cowboys?
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.Review
Yolie’s Brazilian Steakhouse, 3900 Paradise Road; 794-0700
Pluses: Simple, true-to-its-roots rodizio.
Minuses: Too many service lags.