Thursday, May 28, 2009

STI: All you can eat meat treats

May 24, 2009

All you can eat meat treats

Despite the economic slowdown, Brazilian-style steakhouses continue to pop up, offering value-for-money buffets

By Huang Lijie 


Churrascarias or Brazilian-style steakhouses are no strangers to foodies here. But more than 14 years after they first appeared on the scene here, newcomers continue to pop up.


In the last few months, no fewer than four such restaurants specialising in Brazilian-style barbecued meats have opened, bringing the total number of churrascarias here to at least nine.


Among them is Viva Brazil Churrascaria, which opened last December at Chip Bee Gardens in Jalan Merah Saga.


Its manager, Ms Kairi Metsaots, 24, says: 'Before we opened we did our market research, which showed that there were only four or five full-fledged churrascarias, and we felt that there was room for more.'


She adds that the churrascaria (pronounced shoo-hus-ka-REE-ah in Portuguese) concept appeals to Singaporeans because diners continue to be impressed by the novelty of having trained servers go from table to table with long skewers of barbecued meats - beef, pork, chicken and lamb - which they carve onto diners' plates.


Owners of the recently opened Fiesta Brasilia at United Square in Thomson Road and Casa do Churrasco Brazil at Katong Village in East Coast Road also cite Singaporeans' love for value-for-money deals as a reason for the opening of these all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants.


The price of a dinner buffet at these restaurants ranges between $36 and $45.


These outlets offer between 13 and 16 types of barbecued meats, with the highlight being the various cuts of beef such as rump, hump, tenderloin and topside.


The trained servers, or passadores (pah-sah-DOR-es), typically bring a new type of meat to each table every few minutes until the diner is full.


Diners also get to enjoy a free flow of greens and hot dishes such as the traditional Brazilian bean stew, feijoada, at the salad bar.


While these churrascarias offer an irresistible deal, the tough economic climate has shrunk the appetites of some consumers.


Brazil Churrascaria, which was the first of its kind to open here in 1994 in Sixth Avenue, spawned a second outlet last June at Gillman Village in Lock Road. Its managing director, Mr Martin Spykerman, 50, says business at the new outlet was 'rather good' in its first six months of operations but it is now 'seeing a slowdown in demand'.


He adds that although its overall business has dropped by about 20 per cent in the last few months, both outlets remain fully booked on weekends and on special occasions such as Mother's Day earlier this month.


For Fiesta Brasilia, its director, Mr S.P. Semmy, 53, says the restaurant's monthly revenue has been increasing at the rate of about 25 per cent month-on-month since it opened last November.


Similarly, business at Viva Brazil Churrascaria has been encouraging and its sales for this month, according to Ms Metsaots, is likely to be about 20 per cent higher than the average takings for the last four months.


Nonetheless, it is looking to set itself apart from the competition. For example, it uses a coal-fired grill even though it is twice as expensive as an electric or gas-fired one. The restaurant's management believes that grilling the meat over charcoal gives it a better flavour, aroma and a juicier texture.


And it plans on adding Brazilian pizzas to the buffet soon, where diners can select their choice of barbecued meats as toppings for thin-crust pizzas.

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