I'll admit a certain level of fascination with the variation on the buffet concept at work at Carnaval Bar & Grill, a Brazilian restaurant I reviewed this week.
Unlike the more familiar, higher-end churrascaria service style of unlimited portions and theatrical, table-side delivery of the various meats (as seen locally at Fire of Brazil), Carnaval offers a more modest, self-directed experience. You take as much as you like, the cashier weighs your loaded plate and your check is tabulated by the pound (as pictured above, with a friend going through the drill).
This was the same style employed by Brazil Latino Restaurant in Gretna, which closed recently after one of its owners, the former New Orleans Hornets forward Marcus Vinicius Vieira de Souza, was traded to the Houston Rockets. That left Carnaval in the dominant position of bargain lunchroom and de facto clubhouse for the area's Brazilian population, which certainly seems to have swelled since Katrina.
It would seem that without a parade of waiters waving giant skewers of glistening meat under your nose every few minutes – as per the usual churrascaria routine -- one fully-loaded plate of food would be quite enough for a man's lunch. But it never worked out that way for me. Every visit I made to Carnaval included at least two trips through the buffet and to the service window where the grill man tends and serves his array of beef, pork and chicken.
Maybe it's a will-power issue. Or maybe it's just the tacit challenge implied by the mere presence of a buffet. I know I'm paying by the pound. I know that the possibility of "all you can eat" doesn't necessarily mean I must have all I can eat. But mountain-climbing isn't a logical undertaking either. Some men have Everest. I have seconds.
- Ian McNulty