A FEW hours and a couple of weeks make a big difference at Lapa Brazilian Barbecue.When the Chook dropped by for lunch a while back it was more sombre than samba; kind of like Ash Wednesday at the end of Carnival when everyone’s worn out their quota of enthusiasm. But after sundown last week it was back to Rio in full swing; maybe not the eye-popping parade, but there was samba and party in the air. Herald foodies Emmie Dowling and Steve Grant get a taste of Lapa’s day and night offerings.
BORN to eat meat my partner Pablo, who hails from South America, ushered me to Lapa for churrasco—Brazilian barbecued meat similar to Argentina’s asado.
The High Street restaurant is packed when we arrive at 8pm. The obvious choice on the menu—and the only option for groups of six or more—is the rodizio endless feast ($50 per person). We’re told to flip over a cardboard coaster, from the green side to red, when we are done eating. How convenient.
Food comes out fast. Waiters file out from the kitchen like a line of ants.
So much meat—16 different types and cuts, to be exact—is presented to us on long skewers and platters. We say yes to numerous offerings. Down go the linguica (sausages), coracao de frango (chicken heart), bananinha frita (crumbed banana), salada jardineira (garden salad) and maionese de batata (potato salad).
“In Argentina, potato salad is called ‘ensalada rusa’—Russian potato,” Pablo comments. We’re both disappointed with the bland, green chimichurri sauce. Accustomed to Pablo senior’s chimichurri which has a good kick to it, we think Lapa’s recipe has been tamed down so much it tastes more like pesto.
Our attention shifts to a samba dancer who manoeuvres around the tables, picking a few people to mirror her fast hip movements. There’s a full 10 minutes of fun—a welcome break from the feast. Shortly after, we flip our coasters over to red. We’re happy, and ready to go like a well-done steak.
by EMMIE DOWLING
LUNCH is the “Lapa Rush”, but with just a smattering of customers taking up the stools in the bar eatery out front, the name seems a little out of place. There’s no music and with the back of the restaurant closed off but visible, we’re left wondering where all the action is.
Brazil is second only to India in cow numbers but Brazilians are happy to revere them while they slowly turn on a spit
It was good to see an excellent cut of beef—the picanha—come in our mid-sized tasting plate of six meats. The flavour was rich and the flesh tender.
The sausage was also tasty, but sadly the others lacked oomph. So did the salads, with one of my dining companions dismissing them as “lacklustre”. Mind you, no-one ever travelled to Rio to discover their inner vegan.
We finished off with a couple of tasty sweets from the cabinet.
All up, lunch scraped through as ok and only just value for money, and I’d almost warn others from rushing there, except for one thing.
The Chook’s heard that an inexplicable decision by the owners to steer clear of Brazilian staff has backfired and they’ve now employed a few with the experience to demand “é o jeitinho brasileiro” (it’s the Brazilian way, which is apparently a useful phrase when traveling there).
As a result, more food is now cooked in-house and techniques have been fine-tuned to bring out some real barbecue flavours.
We’d visited just as this transition was taking place, which might explain why Emmie’s later dinner experience was so much more on the money.
by STEVE GRANT
Lapa Brazilian Barbecue
96 High St, Fremantle
Open every day and night