By Donna Ward
Where can you go in Northeast Philadelphia for a great Brazilian steakhouse? Picanha! Located at 6501 Castor Avenue, Picanha is open seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and offers a wonderful buffet and array of Brazilian foods. Having been open for about two years, Picanha has seen a steady increase in clientele and many returning diners for this $21.99 per person feast. At this all-you-can-eat buffet and steakhouse, you are sure to leave satiated and content.
Picanha offers a very lax and informal dining experience. The restaurant is kept relatively clean, and the food is warm on most counts. The décor could use a little help, as it looks a bit aged but overall not tacky. Parking is not always easy to find, as it is usually on the street. The staff seemed friendly, and many could speak Portuguese fluently.
The salad buffet was delightful and fresh; the greens were tossed and still crisp. Though I was not certain of the names of all the toppings I tried, I did enjoy the flavors and textures of most. There were various authentic Brazilian toppings offered, along with dressing and some of the old favorites like tomatos, radishes and carrots. The cooks have various kinds of meats on steel skewers that they carve off at your table in specified amounts.
This is definitely not a place for vegetarians. The lamb and beef I sampled were wonderful. Well known for its flavorful, meat Picanha earned a five-star ranking from me for quantity and quality on this dish. The beef was cooked medium-well without burnt patches and was juicy and warm. There was not too much fat on the piece, but enough to help it baste properly in cooking. You are given about a pound of carved meat, and the servers take their time and do not rush you through your meal. There were also various skewers of fish and chicken that were prepared and served in a similar style.
The popular Brazilian soda I sampled, called Guarana, had a different, scrumptious taste — a bit sweeter than sodas I was used to, but very delicious. The restaurant also serves Pepsi and Coke for the less adventurous. For dessert, I had the rice pudding, which was prepared nicely. Not to dry or runny, the pudding was blended nicely with a hint of sugar and cinnamon.
Overall, I enjoyed this Brazilian eatery. Though the décor is lacking a bit in upkeep, the tables and silverware were kept clean, as were the dishes and glasses. The meat is wonderful and warm, with its flavored spices cooked to perfection. The cooks and servers were friendly and attentive. The price was very reasonable for the amount of food served. You will not be leaving Picanha hungry, as the portions are very large. This quaint steakhouse is a great place for meat lovers who enjoy a relaxed, unpretentious environment. Picanha is a great neighborhood restaurant that brings a bit of Brazilian culinary to the NEast.
Food For Thought is a NEast restaurant review column written by Donna Ward that runs every other Thursday.