When hundreds of thousands of people flock to Brazil in June for the World Cup finals, they won’t, admittedly, have churrascaria restaurants at the forefront of their minds. But, behind football, it’s certainly one of the South American nation’s finest exports. And from previous experience, Chamas (in its original UAE incarnation in Abu Dhabi, at least) certainly does it better than most international outposts specialising in this proudly steak-dominated cuisine.
Anybody familiar with Chamas Dubai’s capital city forerunner will know the modus operandi here: turn the coaster-shaped card provided for each diner from its red side to the green and sit back while numerous “passadores” (waiters), who work the room with various different skewers, slice meat onto your plate at the table. The rest of the evening is up to you: a self-serve salad bar and dessert station cater for all appetites.
After ordering, a little more direction towards the salad bar across the room than a vague arm wave would have been handy for a first-time diner – but, once there, the news was good. Chamas Dubai seemed to have upped the starter/sides standard against its Abu Dhabi counterpart with an imaginative spread that was deeply indebted to the broad church of South American food, alongside leafier salad offerings.
The succulent beef tartare might have added a little to the meat overload, but the same couldn’t be said of magical mini-pots of quinoa with guacamole, croutons, red onion and tomatoes or the tartly tasty scallop and mango ceviche.
Whatever those relative merits, though, if you’re not of a carnivorous persuasion, Chamas isn’t for you. The meaty main course wasn’t without its metaphorical hiccups, however. Though Chamas largely forgoes the a la carte standard of ordering from a menu, we were presented with the one-page food list (as a semi-introductory page to the drinks menu) – and a flaw in the process soon presented itself.
Our request for one jantar (a taster of 18 meats) and one tradicional (the regular passadores-based experience) was muddled. But by the time we realised that we had been handed two of the latter, we were already mid-starters and several cuts into the former’s logjam of meaty rodizio skewers, unaware that this was all that we were about to receive.
In all honesty, it was probably a lucky break for our waistlines. As was the relative sparsity of the skewers carried by the smiling, knowledgeable passadores. It was impossible to find fault with the beef: from rump to sirloin, nothing was too lightly cooked or well-done, with the juices glistening and running down temptingly into the passadores’ drip plates. The lamb chops, too, gained full marks.
It was, however, a slight shame that the only chicken we were offered was in sausage form, a somewhat surreal sight on a skewer.
The dessert counter was full of sugary delights, so we abandoned any calorie-counting ambitions via a scrumptious banoffee tart and a selection of bite-sized treats, the peak of which was a cute, spherical coconut chocolate concoction.
There were few minor niggles over the restaurant’s layout – situating many of the tables-for-two nearest to the live Latin band seemed a touch unthoughtful, unless Chamas is aiming for the yelling, rowing couples demographic – although the general design is full of reassuring, requisite Dubai glitz.
And that’s about the crux of any comparisons with Chamas Dubai’s brother in Abu Dhabi: a tick in the modernity box versus a few rough edges in the ordering that could be smoothed out. That said, if you can see anything at all through beads of “meat sweats” perspiration by your meal’s conclusion, then you’re probably not indulging in Chamas’s carnivore charms in the right way in the first place.
• A meal for two at Chamas, Crowne Plaza Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, costs Dh590. For reservations, call 800 276963. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito