Note: The Tribeca branch of Churrascaria Plataforma closed at the end of 2013 (the midtown branch is still in business). As of September 2014, the space is chef Floyd Cardoz’s new restaurant, White Street.
Churrascaria (choo-rah-scah-REE-ah) is the name used to describe a restaurant that serves meat, mostly grilled, and Rodizio is a method of serving the different cuts of meat that originated in the south of Brazil in the early 1800’s.
The concept is to serve a wide variety of different cuts of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, etc., in succession, to each diner individually right at their table, thus there is not a traditional menu. The restaurant features a fixed-price continuous tableside service.
A TriBeCa branch opened 2½ months ago. According to the maitre d’, it’s smaller than its uptown cousin. The high-gloss decor keeps up with the Joneses on a street that has Montrachet just to the north, and Bouley just to the south.
The young lady who escorted us to our table initially took us to a spot at the back of the restaurant, up against a wall. “I’m not supposed to do this,” she said, “but would you prefer a better location?” Of course we would. She next showed us a table adjoining the kitchen, which didn’t seem to be an improvement. Finally we got a table with a great view of the appetizer bar, the live band, and the sommelier’s station. Why didn’t she just start with that?
The maitre d’ brought two coaster-sized plastic discs, which he placed in front of us with the red side facing up. He explained that dinner starts with the appetizer bar, but he cautioned us not to fill up, because there are 18 main courses after that. When you’ve finished your appetizers, you flip the plastic disc onto its green side. That signals the servers to bring on the meat and fish courses, and they’ll keep coming till you turn the disc over once again.
The appetizer bar was hard to resist, offering a range of salads, cheeses, sushi bites, and seafood. Tuna tartare was perhaps the most memorable of the bunch, but there were many I just had to ignore, knowing that the 18 main dishes were the reason we had come. You could go home well fed if the appetizer bar were the whole meal, but of course it is not.
The main courses arrive faster than you can eat them, but not in any kind of order. Generally they come on skewers (a few are wheeled around on carts), and the server cuts off as small or as large a piece as you want. They tend to offer small portions, which is sensible considering there are 18 of them. Anyone who can try them all must have a prodigious appetite. I could not.
No single dish makes the meal, and indeed they are uneven. Ribeye steak and filet mignon were mouth-wateringly tender, and two different lamb dishes were done to perfection, but a chicken entree was leathery, and pork ribs stubbornly clung to the bone. Yet, the overall impression is so favorable that one hesitates to criticize the occasional item that fails to work. For fish-lovers, Plataforma offers salmon and sea bass, but don’t make the trip unless you’re a carnivore.
Plataforma has no menu, so you’re never sure what you haven’t seen yet. By the time beef ribs and suckling pig came along, I was simply too full to give them a try. Had I known they were on offer, I would have made sure to leave room. If you happen to know that you’d like a particular dish, the maitre d’ will have it brought to you. But you don’t always know what you haven’t seen.
A menu would also help clarify in advance what the $45 prix fixe actually includes. It turns out the appetizer and main course are in, but dessert and coffee are not. I didn’t feel the least bit overcharged at $7 for a piece of cheesecake and $2 for coffee, but when you’re told “fixed price” you might reasonably assume it includes everything but the liquor.
Churrascaria Plataforma is a fun night out. I stumbled home several pounds heavier, but satisfied.
Churrascaria Plataforma (221 West Broadway between White & Franklin Streets, TriBeCa)