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Saturday 30 July 2011

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse Edmonton, AB - Lunch with swords, meats.. and more meat!

Rating Service 8/10 Food 7.5/10
On a super rainy afternoon, we found some awesome parking spots close to the Grandin LRT station and dashed through sheets of rain to the Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse... welcoming with its large open dining area decorated with punches of warm reds, ochres and golds amidst its dark tables, white tablecloths, a glass and metal buffet table affair, and glass paneling.

The menu is fairly straight forward - at lunch there is rodizio - a fixed price menu ($21.95 for lunch, $44.95 for dinner) of continuous table side service of five types of skewered meats roasted in Pampa's indoor version of churrasco - traditionally long skewers of meat driven next to a open wood fire... Pampa serves the meats on a sword like skewer table side after being pulled out of a charcoal-fired rotisserie grill imported straight from Brazil. Advertised as a meat haven for meat-atarians, Pampa's "salad bar" provides a surprisingly large assortment of vegetables, pastas, salads with a touch of seafood and fruit to balance out things.

the rodizio and vino
The wine list has a nice selection from Argentina, Canada, Chile, United States, and Uruguay.  If you want extra sides like polenta or fried cavassa, thats available too.  Desserts are made inhouse, but we'll leave that for later because we're not sure if we'll have the room to eat dessert after the rodizio, as we see the master grillers are going from table to table fairly frequently.

A small red and green double sided disk is used to signal the grill masters - green side for yes meat please! With the red side for a pause in service or if you're stuffed full of meat and can't eat another bite.  The first meat was a Parmesan pork cutlet - unfortunately dry, but has a hint of salty Parmesan cheese, with the second meat a cumin scented pork sausage link - dense and juicy, the pork sausage had a hit of pepperiness that worked with this savory sausage.  Just remember to use the small metal tongs provided to help the waiter remove the meat from the sword-skewer and not your fingers!

The third meat was a skewered chicken leg, seasoned with a touch of seasalt and roasted to a glorious caramelized golden brown with crispy skin and succulently moist and tender meat. Mmmmm.  My piece of chicken is sitting on a bed of blanched asparagus spears, and a olive oil vinaigrette dressed romaine heart salad I assembled at the buffet salad bar.

The salad bar is included in the rodizio, and its not just salad. Amongst an array of raw salad veges and assortment of dressings, vinaigrettes and sauces, there is a good selection of pasta salads (there was a very tasty roasted/sundried tomato penne), a charcuterie platter with thinly sliced air dried salamis and meats, a few platters of cooked vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower etc), marinated seafood (marinated calamari, scallops, fish fillet salad) and a big platter of roasted pineapple layered with thinly shaved ham.

The pineapple is lovely with a sprinkling of cinnamon at the edges - the roasting brings out the sweetness of this already ripened fruit, and the thinly sliced piece of ham readily picks up the sweetness from the pineapple.

One of my fellow foodies piles up her plate with a selection of olives, romaine lettuce and spinach greens dressed with a vinaigrette, pickles, a baby potato salad, thinly sliced fresh mango in a lightly spicy marinade, fruit salad (cranberries, fresh grapefruit and orange wedges), roasted pineapple and marinated scallops. The scallops were tender and perfectly cooked, with a touch of refreshing acidity.  There was some calamari in the marinated seafood mix as well - nice and tender-crunchy.  The blanched asparagus was just well, blanched, but you can season it easily with a touch of salt, butter or any of the multitude of dressings and sauces at the salad bar.  There was a loaf of freshly baked white bread instead of dinner buns.. fluffy and tender.. mmmm.. I love freshly baked bread!

The fourth meat was a Pampa specialty. Initially, we all thought, seriously.. the rump?! In Canada, we usually see that as an inferior meat, and it usually turns up as ground beef. However, we were proven wrong as the "rumpsteak" is actually the picanha - a flavourful cut of top sirloin. Seasoned only with coarse sea salt, it emphasizes the natural flavour of beef. It is also a surprisingly silky tender cut of meat - provided you like your meat leaning towards the rare end. It is considerably less tender and drier as you head towards medium. 

The grill masters usually ask what end of the spectrum you like your beef cooked, and kindly swing by next time with your preferences in mind.  For our table, we liked our beef blue to rare. The picanha has a layer of fat crisped to a golden brown that bastes the meat as it cooks and seals in all the flavor... beef bacon anyone?> Go now

The fifth and last meat served churrasco style was a sirloin steak seasoned with a touch of sea salt. While the sirloin had a deeper rich beefy flavor, it had a slightly grainier texture and didn't compare to the picanha for its silky texture.  As the sirloin is a structurally long piece of meat, it's skewered lengthwise, so its more difficult for the sprinkling of sea salt to be evenly distributed - some pieces were perfectly seasoned, while some were a bit on the bland side or oversalted.  Its also  more difficult to get a piece that's more on the rare side rather than medium to well done, however, one of the waiters came by with a gently seared piece just for our table... Mmmm!

After eating through several rounds of meat, meat and more meaaaaat, along with several trips to the salad bar to leaven out all the meat, we all sat back with bulging bellies. Good natured teasing ensued from the waitstaff at our disks flipped over to the red side, and a few of our companions were able to have a few more servings of the pichana. We chatted, sipped on coffee as we digested. We made a heroic effort to have dessert, but even looking at the dessert menu made us feel fuller, so we had to pass.

Overall, a great place to have a leisurely lunch with friends. The atmosphere is a curious mixture of fine dining and buffet. Squelch the urge to eat copious amounts.. sit back, and slowly sample your way through the "salad bar" and graze on the five churrasco style meats at lunch, or 10 meats at dinner.  Reservations are recommended for dinner on the weekends, especially if you have a larger table. Free parking is available on the first floor of their heated-underground parking (access on east side alley of building) Mon-Fri after 6 pm, and all day Saturday and Sunday. Pampa... I believe we have a date for dinner!

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse
9929 109 Street Northwest, Edmonton, AB
Phone (780) 756-7030
Hours Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-1:30pm, Dinner Mon-Sat 5-10pm
Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse on Urbanspoon


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