Monday, February 26, 2007

Em Chamas

While driving around town one Friday AM, I caught a few minutes of the Walt Bodine Show, a long running radio program on our local NPR station. On some Fridays Walt has some local food critics in to review restaurant news and reviews. I caught a caller mentioning a new Brazilian churrascaria was recently open. Sensing a new dining experience, I talked Michael into taking me there for my birthday.

A Brazilian churrascaria is a steakhouse with an interesting concept. Waiters called Gauchos pass through the restaurant carrying the large cuts of meats and present them to the diners. One signals via a coin placed on the table. When it is on the yellow side, the meat machine is turned on and the gauchos descend. You choose how much you want from each wood grilled cut of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, sausage and turkey. It is a fixed price of $29 per person with drinks and desserts extra. A salad bar with salads and some hot dishes is included.

“It’s a lively atmosphere, like carnival all year round, " said the owners in an article.

Not quite. If anything is missing at Em Chamas (Portuguese for "In Flames") it is atmosphere. The place is new, opened only a couple of weeks and is in a newly built development that has more open spaces than filled. Unfortunately even the restaurant seems a bit unfinished. The overall tone is dark, but not paneled library dark. Stone, wood and brushed chrome, some hideous artwork and a large but not imposing fireplace are the main ingredients of the decor. The salad bar was oddly placed in a corner and looked almost as an afterthought. The big windows look out on the empty spaces of the development. The tables are plain but large and comfortable.

The service was great and for the most part the gauchos left you alone when the coin was turned off and appeared promptly when on. They were friendly and knowledgeable about their wares.

The buffet, besides being oddly placed was a bit of a disappointment. The salads were interesting but not spectacular. The hot items included a decent paella and rice and black beans that you have separate or mixed together as the Latin Americans are fond to do. Cold selections included an interesting corn, brussels sprouts and artichoke salad, some OK pasta salads, and a tasty seared tuna and spinach salad. A small dish of excellent mashed potatoes were brought to the table as was a caramelized banana to cleanse the palate.

The roasted meats were good but uneven. The sliced boneless rib was perfection, the medallions of beef and garlic were tasty but a bit fatty, the Brazilian sausage was wonderful and the smoked bacon wrapped turkey was excellent. The lamb, some of the beef cuts and pork ribs were not so good. The lamb tasted ok but was a bit dry and over cooked, the pork ribs way too fatty. A prime rib was nothing special as was a second helping of the boneless rib which was not as succulent as the first and somewhat over cooked. Some of the beef cuts were awfully salty. Despite being advertised, we saw no fish served table side. When asked, we were told the seafood was on the buffet. I guess that meant the aforementioned seared tuna on the spinach salad and the seafood paella. Only one chicken dish was offered, small smoked legs; I passed.

Michael is the wino among us so he selected a nice Argentinian Cabernet. It was excellent but M said the wine selection was ok and bit high priced. We also had a Caipirinha, a mojito like drink made from Brazilian Cachaca liqueur. Cachaca is more potent straight as I have had it served that way before. This drink was a bit sweet and fluffy for my taste.

Interesting concept and is much like the Fogo de Chao chain that is heavily advertised yet much more upscale (read expensive). I am left wondering if Em Chamas could not have went a bit more upscale and made for a more impressive experience.

Even for a Sunday, the place had a good business but once the newness wears off, I wonder how it will fare. I would go back, but to see if the place improves.

The best thing of the whole evening was a clothing store next door called "La-De-Da", I wish I had thought of that!

Em Chamas Brazilian Grill
6101 NW 63rd Terr (just off MO 45 NW 64the St aka Tom Watkins Parkway)
KCMO 64151


Anonymous said...

Have you been back? I too thought they were not what they should be when they opened; and reviewing a restaurant 2 weeks after opening is a bit unfair isn't it? Service is flawless, the gourmet bar has 30 or more salads, hot dishes, soups and many different types of meat. I encourage you to pay another visit! As far as the vacant shops around them, they are still there and the Tuileries Plaza or whatever its called needs to get on the ball!

Don said...

No I have not been back, and that has not been because I was not totally impressed with the place. I do intend to do so, this was a special occasion and as one would imagine, this place is hardly inexpensive.

I hope the place is doing well and maybe I can entice a friend to take me there or go with me once again.