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Dining

iD Brazil Churrascaria & Restaurant

In recent decades, Nutmeggers have had quite a bit of Brazilian food to choose from—some of it good, some of it not so good. The review for our premiere November 2012 issue was scheduled to be a new Brazilian restaurant on Ninth Square, but I was so disappointed in the restaurant I refused to write about it. Good thing—by the time that issue hit the pavement, the restaurant had closed its doors.

Brazilian restaurants have recently closed in Hartford, Stratford and Old Saybrook; others remain in towns like Hartford, Danbury, Waterbury and West Haven, where iD Brazil Churrascaria on Elm Street has rapidly gathered an avid following. The food is great, the setting modest but welcoming, the service helpful (although drink refills can lag when it gets busy).

Diners at iD Brazil have several options. A number of modestly priced churrascarias around the state feature self-service buffets that charge by the pound. I generally find that Brazilian food doesn’t improve as it sits around in steam trays, but iD Brazil’s buffet ($6.99 per pound) is exceptionally bright-colored and fresh-tasting.

A second option is to order the buffet as allyou-can-eat. For lunch, it’s $9.99 (or $19.95 with three grilled meats of your choice). For dinner, it’s $19.99 and includes a house drink.

A third choice is the rodizio service ($21.95 for lunch, $24.95 for dinner), which refers to a style of dining in which staff continuously bring skewers of grilled meat to the table and shave off pieces of it. Any enthusiastic carnivore who hasn’t experienced rodizio hasn’t fully lived yet. At iD Brazil, you’re given a wooden dumbbell with a green end, a red end and a yellow midsection. Leaving the dumbbell green end up means keep bringing food, red end up means stop, or you can lie it on its yellow side to indicate you’re ready for dessert or the check.

But the irresistible fourth dinner option is the upgraded rodizio service ($29.95), which for just an additional $5 includes coffee, dessert and a house drink. The drinks proved big, strong and colorful, my tablemates passing up traditional mojitos and caipirinhas for a Brazilian Flag, a Brazilian Cosmo, and a Blood Orange Margarita.

Just in case you think only a carnivore could be happy in such a place, my fussy 15-year-old vegetarian daughter elected the first option of weighing her buffet food, and kept filling her plate with sweet fried plantains, guacamole, pico de gallo, rice, house salad, fresh vegetables and fresh fruit, then turning her plate upside down to show she had cleaned it—an uncommon sight.

It’s important to save room for the rodizio, but it’s also tough on a tummy to eat nothing but meat. So all of us were oohing and aahing over the quality of the buffet items, including a lovely macaroni and ham salad, plentiful heart of palm, stunningly fresh fried fish, tender toothsome beef brisket and Brazilian specialties like farofa. Tiny freshly baked “cheese bread” rolls brought to our table were also big hits.

All well and good, but what about the meats?

Our server kept visiting our table with big skewers of meat fresh off the grill, the scent of each wafting to our noses. We would indicate which cut we wanted, he would start to slice it off for us, we would reach out with our own metal tongs and grab the edge of it, and then he would finish slicing it.

The parade of meats offered can vary, but on this visit we enjoyed bacon-wrapped chicken, top sirloin, linguiça sausage, bacon-wrapped turkey, chicken wing, pork loin, chicken hearts, grilled beef short ribs, sweet and sour chicken, and finally, flap steak or fraldinha, a cut from the breast or lower chest of the cow highly prized by Brazilians for its great marbling, juiciness and flavor. Everyone also loved slices of cinnamondusted grilled pineapple, the seeming antidote to all that intensely flavorful meat. We requested the return of certain favorite meats, then reluctantly ran up the red flag.

And finally, there was good strong coffee and a surprising dessert selection, for which we somehow made room. To name but a few of the desserts, there were vanilla, chocolate and coconut pavés, passion fruit and guava mousses, flan, brigadeiro, beijinho, rice pudding and quite possibly the best tres leches cake I ever stumbled upon.

Woody Allen famously said, “Laughter is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” Diners at iD Brazil might disagree.

214 Elm Street, West Haven * 203.932.4000 * idbrazil.com