Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bolero: Authentic Brazilian Steak House - Calgary, AB

I will admit right off the bat that I am not a huge meat eater. Don't get me wrong, I love my protein, but only as part of a well-balanced meal that includes a decent amount of carbs and some vegetables for good measure. A Brazilian steakhouse with all-you-can-eat meat, therefore, would not be my first choice for a nice meal out. A previous visit to Gaucho Brazilian Barbeque had cemented this in my mind, as I suffered from meat sweats for hours afterwards from a meal that I didn't even particularly enjoy. Attractive, I know. I thought the meats were dry, overly salty, and altogether unimpressive. But my brother had been to Calgary's other Brazilian steakhouse, Bolero, on several occasions and mentioned it was quite good. Since it was his birthday recently, I couldn't say no when he wanted to go again. I balked at paying $40 for dinner, however, so I managed to talk him down to Sunday brunch at a reasonable $21.95.

When I stepped into Bolero, the first thing that I noticed was that it was dark. It actually reminded me somewhat of a lair, probably because there was no natural light. It took several minutes for my eyes to adjust but when I could finally see again, the decor was pleasant enough, homey and comfortable with a fireplace near the entrance. If you've never been to a rodizio type restaurant, waiters circle with samples of food while you signal yes or no with your colored cylinder, green on one side and red on the other. It's really more of a gimmick at Bolero, since each waiter will stop by your table regardless. Our rotating items featured more than listed on the paper menu, and included caraway seed French toast, garlic bread, lemon basa, top sirloin, bottom sirloin with garlic and parmesan, chicken drumsticks, bacon wrapped chicken, butter roast beef, sausage, pork ribs, lamb shoulder, and grilled pineapple, grapefruit, and vegetables. I am not sure whether I should be proud or ashamed of this, but I managed to try every single thing on that list except for the garlic bread (my #1 buffet rule: never eat a large portion of anything, because you never know what deliciousness will come your way next). My favorite meats were the butter roast beef and the bottom sirloin with garlic and parmesan, which I thought had the best flavor. The pineapple and grapefruit were a great way to break up the heaviness, with their natural sweetness brought out by the grill. Each skewer came around at least 2-3 times during our meal, which according to my brother was more frequent than at dinner. When I wanted to have another piece of the roast beef, I asked my waiter whether it would be coming around again, and he told me he'd make sure it came out soon. Sure enough, it came out within the next 10 minutes.

Cold buffet items
Although you come for the meat skewers, Bolero also has an impressive self-serve buffet with both cold and hot items. There were the standard fruits and salads, but also snow crab, mussels, eggs benedict, and bacon. The snow crab was tasty and not too dry, but I was disappointed by the lack of crab crackers, even when I specifically asked my waiter for one. There were a few pieces that had been sufficiently pre-cracked, but for the most part all I could do was stare sadly at that succulent meat I knew I would never be able to eat. I also noticed that the hot buffet items very rarely got replenished. There was plenty of food when we arrived at 11, but by around 12 or so the crab legs were depleted.
 If the self-serve buffet and the circulating meats still aren't enough for you, there is also a pasta/omelette/crepe station manned by a friendly chef. For the pasta, you get a choice of red or white sauce and a number of vegetables to add. I chose a white sauce with cherry tomatos, portabello mushrooms, and artichoke which was actually quite tasty, with the chef taking care to saute my vegetables with garlic and adding fresh parsley and parmesan to the finished product. I also tried a crepe with bananas and strawberries, and again the chef drizzled it nicely with strawberry and chocolate sauces. The dessert table had an array of standard cakes and pastries, nothing special (I'm pretty sure I've bought that exact cheesecake before at Superstore). With that much other food, however, dessert is really an afterthought at Bolero.

I never thought I'd say this, but I actually had a great meal at Bolero's Sunday brunch. For $21.95, I'd go so far as to say it's a steal (I still don't think I'd ever pay $40 for dinner). Speaking to the waiter, he told me Sundays are usually quite slow, but I don't see why, as the array of meats are almost comparable to what you would receive at dinner and you are guaranteed to leave stuffed and satisfied. Especially compared to Gaucho, Bolero's brunch has a wide array of offerings to satisfy even the pickiest eater. Definitely a pleasant surprise.

Top Pick of the Day: Grilled pineapple and grapefruit


4/5 Erics

Bolero Fire Grill on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Eight of us went there last night - about a $400.00 tab only to be ruined by a shrieking 2-year old. None of the management or staff would say anything to the parents of the infant and it was a TERRIBLE experience. I would equate it to going to Chuckie Cheese. (This was at 8:00 p.m., by the way.) COMPLETELY MISMANAGED by the staff whose goal it should be to satisfy ALL of the patrons. For the $400.00+ that we paid, the food was overdone, the salad bar was mediocre, and I had to ask one of the staff to please check the pile of plates because many of them still had food on them (disgusting). The money would have been better spent at a more professional ADULT restaurant.