It was difficult to shake images of the Brazilian barbecue scene from Bridesmaids out of my head as I anticipated my lunch at M Grill. (If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I’ll spare you.) I had never been to a Brazilian barbecue restaurant before so I had no idea what to expect, other than the notion that I would probably be eating an inordinate amount of meat.
Unassuming from the outside, M Grill is tucked into the second floor of a small shopping center occupied by a motley assortment of stores. Once I stepped into the restaurant though, I completely forgot about my surroundings as I took in the beautiful photography on the walls, the modern and sleek décor, and of course the main focal point, a huge charcoal pit full of all kinds of meats, slowly roasting on spits.
M Grill is an authentic Brazilian churrascuria, or steakhouse. Diners pay for a prix fixe menu, giving them access to a plentiful salad bar brimming with fresh vegetables, cheeses and cold cuts, as well as a hot buffet offering traditional Brazilian dishes including stews, rice, black beans and yucca. The main attraction, however, is the magnificent selection of meats, which are brought to your table and carved by “gauchos.” Every place setting comes equipped with a small card. The green side indicates that you would like more meat, and the red side means “put on the brakes.”
When I first sat down, I was served a basket of steaming hot rolls, which looked like little cream puffs but were filled with cheese. It was hard to have the resolve to not eat the entire basket, which I could have easily done. Before plucking up the courage to flip my card to the green side, which would begin an overwhelming flow of food, I visited the salad and hot food bars. One could easily make an incredibly satisfying meal out of cheese rolls and buffet items, but again, I had to have some self-control and save room for the meat. I made a nice little plate of grilled asparagus, fried yucca, spicy pickled peppers, tomato and mozzarella salad, collard greens and more, which were all very enjoyable. The fried yucca was especially tasty –I wish I could replace fries with fried yucca all of the time. I sampled a few of the stews as well, my favorite by far being the seafood stew. Mussels, shrimp and calamari float in a heavenly broth that I could have consumed by the gallon.
I braced myself for sheer gluttony and flipped my card over, and was soon gifted with offerings of hot, tender grilled delights. My palate was graced with Polish and Brazilian sausages, bacon wrapped chicken, garlic chicken, garlic beef, beef short ribs, Brazilian steak, leg of lamb, top sirloin and skirt steak. I was inundated with flavor and food, and it was beautiful. There was not a single thing that I didn’t like. The garlic chicken was the most divine piece of chicken I have ever had. All of the beef dishes were wonderful, and the leg of lamb was also a delicious highlight. I even tried the chicken hearts, a Brazilian delicacy, which are available upon request, and they were actually one of my favorite things.
I dipped into the small pot of chili sauce that sat on the table to provide a bracing heat to the richness of the meat, and I also enjoyed occasionally punctuating the meat with the tangy pickled peppers.
Now and then, a gaucho will bring by the only non-meat item from the grill: cinnamon pineapple. The grill imparts an amazing flavor and caramelizes the pineapple, making for a lovely sweet treat to complement the abundant spices.
At times I had to take a break and flip my card to the red side, which let me enjoy at a pleasant and leisurely pace. Brazilian barbecue is not a sprint; it’s a marathon, and you have to be careful not to get burnt out too quickly. The excitement I felt at the beginning of my feast gradually gave way to a euphoric, food-induced comatose state. I could no longer think clearly and make responsible eating decisions, so the meat kept coming and I kept eating until I just could not keep it up any longer. I can’t decide if I stopped eating because I was too full or because I was too exhausted to lift my fork again.
Despite this, I still managed to find the strength within to have dessert. I had the pleasure of trying two different plates: manjar (Brazilian custard) and flourless chocolate cake. The manjar was flavored with coconut and topped with a plum sauce, and it was a lovely and light way to end a meal. Of course I didn’t stop with lovely and light though, because I also had to try the chocolate cake. It was a rich, fudgy, sinful slice of heaven and I relished every bite.
Fortunately, my visit to M Grill was a far cry from the disaster scene in Bridesmaids. After almost two hours of feasting, I finally left with a full belly, a lazy smile and a promise to come back and do it all again in the not so distant future. M Grill is more than a restaurant: It’s an experience, and an incredible one at that.
M Grill is located at 3832 Wilshire Blvd., #202, Los Angeles. For more information and to make reservations, visit mgrill.com or call (213) 389-2770.
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