If you think of Seattle as a bastion of seafood and vegan fare, don’t let those kelp salads and flying fish at Pike Place fool you. Truth is, this is a red-blooded, meat-eating town, and that sensibility just got a shot in the arm with the recent opening of Novilhos Brazilian Steak House in South Lake Union.
This isn’t a “theme park” dining experience — The restaurant’s South American roots go all the way down to the ground. Owner Luiz Franco is a Brazilian himself who has owned high-end restaurants in Brazil, Chicago and Bellevue, where the first Novilhos opened in 2010.
At first, Franco was skeptical when an American business associate suggested opening a churrascaria in the Northwest. Brazilian churrasco, or slow-grilling, has long been a definitive staple of the national cuisine, involving piercing and grilling meat chunks over an open flame pit. Beginning in the early 1800s with the country’s gauchos (cowboys), the method spread to all levels of Brazilian society and by the 1970s, churrascarias had evolved from hole-in-the-wall spots into more upscale eateries. Novilhos Brazilian Steakhouse continues the tradition, sharing the bounty of Brazilian culture: dynamic food served with a healthy heaping of razzle-dazzle.
Why it’s special: At Novilhos, the Brazilian gaucho wait staff spend six months or more mastering the grill and learning to wield carving knives in the dining room. The meat is seasoned on an enormous, coal-stocked grill that holds 240 skewers. Once the waiters are seasoned themselves, they don traditional gaucho boots and pantalones and circulate through the dining room with skewered prime meats and knives at the ready.
Each diner holds a coin: One side red, the other green. Flashing the green coin tells waiters they’re ready to sample different cuts of beef, pork, chicken and lamb, which the gauchos carve and serve. Flipping up the red coin tells the gauchos they're replete or busy savoring what’s already on their plate. Consider it a delicious slice of interactive theater.
Vegetarians and vegans needn’t pass Novilhos by — there’s something for everyone here. While the focus is about prime meats, you’ll also find gourmet salads as well as salmon, and soon, even sushi. And don’t overlook their rockin' cocktails. Caipirinha, anyone?
A visit to Novilhos feels like a short jaunt to Brazil. Most of the décor was sourced there, with warm tones, imported tables and chairs, colorful murals and abstract paintings by Brazilian artists.
Franco chose this side of Seattle for its scenic beauty and sense of relaxation. “The South Lake Union neighborhood offers a sort of hidden oasis away from home,” he said. “When people come to South Lake Union, they come for something new, exciting, adventurous and different. SLU brings people together, too, and Novilhos is all about family.”
So bring yours to Novilhos soon…and bring them hungry.
Learn more about Novilhos Brazilian Steak House at www.novilhos.com.
Inquiries for information or private parties to: Elle Barksdale at ellenovilhos.com or 425-351-4869.