Some of the best Restaurant Week opportunities have to be the Brazilian churrascarias that offer their usual all you can eat fare at the discounted pricing. We’ve taken advantage of Fogo de Chao’s deal a few times, but our friends Helen and Edmund invited us to double date in Downtown Culver to check out a pretty awesome churrasco joint in our backyard — Libra Brazilian Steakhouse. During DineLA, Libra is rated $$ for dinner – only $35/person for the salad bar, hot bar, endless meat, and dessert!
First, the cheese bread! I love pao de queijo; they are such wonderful little balls of cheese dough that’s crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The ones here, while not quite as amazing as the ones at Fogo, did not disappoint. On to the salad bar! Martin walked right past the entire setup, but I snagged some small portions of shrimp cocktail (chilled and sweet), grilled asparagus (nice char and good to pair with the meat), smoked salmon with creme fraiche and capers (arranged in cute little flavorful bundles), and prosciutto (a bit dry). Somewhere along the way, the salad bar ends and the hot bar begins. We only tried the caramelized bananas, which were literally bananas in a caramel sauce; it was a bit too sweet for us and a different style of preparation than we’re used to. Helen remarked that the “mashed potato wannabe” (mashed yucca) was good, although she got it on two separate occasions and it was a different texture each time… how peculiar.
Finally we all settled back in at our table and it was time for the main event to commence. Flip over the little round cards and green means go! The gauchos stopped by our table one after the other, armed with sword-like skewers of meat. The first few visits were exciting in their own ways, but what really made our evening was that not just one but just about all of the gauchos learned our preferences and favorites and really brought out the good stuff (but more on that later). We had the lamb chop which, while more cooked than rare, was juicy and flavorful with a swoosh of garlic butter brushed on at the end. Martin was most looking forward to the filet mignon. He polishes off three or four whole filets when we go to Fogo. Here they prepare the meat in smaller cubes (similar to Vietnamese bo luc lac) and alternating on the skewer with onion slices. Martin’s eyes lit up when that particular gaucho came by our table. Here’s how it went down:
Martin: “I’d like some.”
Martin: “Mm… I’ll have three.”
Gaucho: “Take four.”
After he was done with those and had stepped away to get more bananas, the same guy made his rounds with a fresh skewer. I knew Martin would appreciate it if I got some for him, so I held out his plate.
Me: “He wants more!”
Gaucho: “See? He was trying to be all fancy asking for only three…”
Me: “How about five more?”
Gaucho: “I like even numbers. Here’s six. He’ll be fine.”
Way to hook it up!
Our server Diego and all of the staff were incredibly attentive. About halfway through our meal, we noticed the distinct lack of chicken hearts and decided to inquire. Not five minutes later, a friendly gaucho came out with an entire skewer of chicken hearts just for us. Martin and I each took about half the skewer, sparing a few for our dining companions to sample. We usually eat chicken hearts prepared yakitori style at Japanese joints, like our local favorite Nanbankan, but the ones here were covered in minced garlic and had a wonderful texture. We shared a second skewer and would like to thank the 50 chickens that gave their giblets for our meal.
As I mentioned earlier, by the end, the gauchos knew what we liked and hooked us up with the rarest beef. We partook in some beautifully rare, barely warm but wonderfully seared picanha that was garlicky, salty, and super flavorful. The gaucho looked so excited about its temperature that I seriously wondered if he ran back to the kitchen and snagged that skewer out of the fire just for us before it overcooked.
Among other items that we tried were the ribeye (juicy as it should be), prime rib (it was a “reject piece” as Edmund called it, so it was too dried out and sad looking), pork ribs (a little dry and as Helen said “not cow”), and the sausage. We were so stuffed but as they say, there’s always room for dessert!
Three of us ended up getting the flan. It was yummy and eggy and arrived in a generous pool of caramel sauce. The flan had a lot of bubbles (intentional?) which added a nice light airyness to the otherwise dense custard. The perfect palate cleanser after that onslaught of meat.
The service was ridiculously friendly. They really took the time to get to know our preferences and favorite meats and (for better or worse) egged us on to keep eating. We will definitely be back for the great value (even during non-dineLA, it’s about $40/person for dinner), the great food, and especially for the exceptional service. Thank you, Libra, for an awesome date night!
Check out Libra Brazilian Steakhouse: librabrazilianbbq.com
3833 Main Street
Culver City, CA 90232
See their Yelp reviews here!