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At Brasil BBQ in Petaluma, meat is king

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When I want to make my husband the happiest about our choice of what to eat for dinner, I need only say Brasil BBQ and he is smiling from ear to ear. If eating lots of protein for lunch or dinner is what sparks your interest, look no further than the Rodizio ($36) at Brasil BBQ. Rodizio is like an unending meat buffet that comes to you.

There is a small buffet of cold items such as salads, as well as homemade soups and great black beans available to start your meal. While everything on the buffet is well made, especially the homemade soups, we almost always skip over this course and get right to the main event, the meat.

Every meat is cooked on a skewer over an open flame, turned often to cook it to just the perfect degree while keeping in the juices, and then rushed to your table by the gaucho (carver) who slices off as much as you desire from the skewer. Each diner has their own set of tongs, and you are expected to take your tongs and transfer your portion of meat to your plate as it is carved.

The choices of meats generally include beef top sirloin, garlic sirloin, chicken breast wrapped in bacon, Italian sausages, boneless skinless chicken thighs with garlic, and Parmesan pork loin. Sometimes there are other meats than these listed, so be sure to save room as you rotate through the different choices. They will keep coming back until you say “uncle,” and often seem disappointed when you are too full to accept just one more carve. Towards the end of your meal they usually bring pineapple cooked on the skewer in the same manner, to be carved tableside.

Do not let the term BBQ dissuade you from trying the rodizio. There is nothing associated with it that we would think of for a barbecue. It really is simply grilled meat on a skewer, turned and cooked over an open flame. They do serve two different sauces on the side, one is a kind of housemade barbecue sauce and the other is a fresh green chimichurri sauce. The tables also have a few bottles of their made-on-the-premises hot sauces, so if you happen to like heat, they will provide all you need.

When you order the rodizio you get to order as many sides as you wish. The list included Brazilian cheese bread that is not to be missed. These are small puffs, made with manioc flour so they are naturally gluten-free, and served freshly baked and piping hot.

If you have never had roasted okra, this is the place to try it. It is served with a few sliced cherry tomatoes for color, and there is definitely some garlic in this delicious dish. Another vegetable that is very traditional as a side with Brazilian food is shaved collard greens. They are quickly sautéed in olive oil with a bit of garlic, and are crunchy and addictive, even if you think you don’t like green things.

One caveat is that since rodizio is an all-you-can-eat affair, you are not allowed to share with others at your table that might not be having the rodizio, and you may not take leftovers home, so you should only order what you can eat.

What if all that food sounds like too much for you, or you prefer seafood or something else? In many other churrascarias (the term for a restaurant that specializes in rodizio) ordering the rodizio, or getting the salad bar are your only choices. But happily that is not the case at Brasil BBQ, where there are a number of dinners, and even a la carte choices for you to order.

You should note that the rodizio is only available at dinnertime, after 5 p.m. At lunch you will need to order from the other portions of the menu. And speaking of menu times, from 3 to 5 p.m. every day of the week they offer “happy hour” pricing on beer and wine, and special prices snacks.

On a recent visit we ordered six other items in addition to the rodizio, so we could try a number of dishes and share with you our suggestions. We tried the spicy prawns with rice ($13.80), which lived up to their name; the two fish dishes we tried, moqueca ($9.50) which is fish stew with tomatoes, onions and coconut milk and the saute basa ($11.50) which is fish with mushrooms, spinach and cream sauce were both perfectly cooked and very fresh fish. All the seafood was so delicious; you would think you were in a restaurant specializing in seafood rather than meats.

We also tried the chicken stroganoff with rice ($12.50), and the feijoada ($12.75) which is considered the Brazilian national dish – beef and black beans, slowly cooked into a very flavorful stew, served with rice, collard greens and manioc flour cooked in bacon fat. Trust me on this one; the feijoada is something you have to try. We also checked out one of the a la carte menu items, the top sirloin ($9.75), and the generous portion was cooked perfectly as ordered.

Among their desserts our favorite was the doce de laite mousse with chocolate jimmies on top. This caramelized milk is a traditional dessert, but whipping it into a mousse makes it a bit more modern. In any case, call it delicious.

One of the main reasons for our visit was that we had heard that Brasil BBQ had obtained a beer and wine license, so we wanted to check out what they had to offer. Their list was a bit of a disappointment, but when we found out that they primarily got the license so that their guests who had been visiting the local wineries could bring their own bottles in to enjoy with their food, we were thrilled.

When I visited with Cristina and Anthony about this, they told me they are not even charging corkage, at least for the time being, because they just want people to be happy. Not much could have made me any happier.

Their website does need some updating – the prices of the specialties listed on the front page don’t match up with current menu prices, and there are a number of broken links, so be sure to call ahead to verify any information if that is important to you. The restaurant is accessible, clean, not fancy, priced right, and the service has you feeling like you are a member of their family. You will be happy eating here.