Meat lovers will be in hog heaven at Brazil Express, a casual Brazilian steakhouse at 1045 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg, that can get customers in and out for a fairly quick lunch or let them linger for a lengthier and more leisurely dinner feast.
Ana and Mario Vitelo opened the restaurant after immigrating to the northwest suburbs from Brazil. They put in more than 10 years in the hospitality business as servers, kitchen assistants and hosts before deciding to invest their life savings in their own restaurant.
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Brazil Express1045 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg, (224) 353-6315, brazilexpressgrill.com
Cuisine: Brazilian steakhouse
Entrees: $12.99 to $26.99
Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday; 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday; 2 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday; lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday and Friday
Their pride of ownership and hands-on approach become evident instantly once we walked through the door, where we were greeted promptly and given a choice of tables. Friendly and attentive service continued throughout the meal.
We began by sampling the bountiful salad bar, which contained an array of cold salads and hot soups and stews. The tangy black-eyed pea salad was especially refreshing, as was the bean, carrot and sesame salad. I'd also recommend the chicken salad spread, although I'm not fond of mayo.
Plainer vegetables are another choice, including dishes of freshly prepared beets, broccoli and corn. They were nicely cooked, but all of them could have used more seasoning.
All prix fixe meals come with hot sides like cheesy muffins, sautéed plantains and buttery mashed potatoes accented with bits of scallion and melted cheddar. The saltiness of the muffins paired wonderfully with the contrasting sweetness of the plantains.
Protein lovers will certainly find bliss here, with eight to 10 cuts of high-quality meat and poultry from which to choose. All are grilled over charcoal and sliced to order from long skewers that waiters bring to tables on request.
Small dishes of three dipping sauces contain chimichurri (an herb sauce made from olive oil, vinegar, and finely chopped parsley, oregano, onion and garlic), horseradish cream and a very hot chipotle salsa. I found the meats to be so flavorful that I didn't need the sauces.
All of the beef choices were outstanding and could be served from rare to medium-well, depending on where on the skewer you chose your slice. I chose all of mine medium-rare and was not disappointed. The top sirloin was especially luscious; other choices at lunch are prime sirloin, bottom sirloin, garlic steak, chicken leg, chicken breast wrapped in bacon and Parmesan pork tenderloin. At dinner, filet mignon and filet mignon with bacon join the rotation.
The chicken leg was equally delicious, juicy and chargrilled to perfection, however the sausage was overly garlicky for my palate, and the bacon on the bacon-wrapped chicken breast was not crisp enough. A slice of grilled pineapple did provide an ideal palate cleanser.
Ana Vitelo noted that little seasoning, other than sea salt, is used, due to the natural flavoring provided by charcoal grilling. "The seasoning is from the grill, which seals in the juices," she explains.
After indulging quite heartily from all of the above, we were offered dessert and coffee. Deciding there is always room for dessert, we chose to share the papaya cream, made in-house by simply blending fresh papaya and ice cream. We heeded our waiter's advice to have the kitchen add a splash of crème de cassis, which made this light and fluffy dessert especially ethereal.
Other desserts were house-made flan and crème brûlée, as well as triple-layer chocolate mousse cake, New York cheesecake, Key lime pie, tiramisu and vanilla ice cream that were not made in-house. Those will have to wait till another repast.
The regular coffee was just fine, although pricey at $3.50 per refillable cup. Brazilian coffee liqueur made with rum and Bailey's Irish Cream is another house specialty that we declined. Brazilian and other tropical cocktails and a full bar also are available.
Locating Brazil Express in its strip-mall spot is a bit tricky the first time, so bring your GPS. If you're really hungry for some excellent protein, served in a lovely white tablecloth atmosphere, this restaurant is well-worth your time.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.