Monday, August 20, 2018

birfday linner/dunch at Chima

My brother David took me out to Chima, an expensive Brazilian eatery in Tysons Corner, for a birthday lunch today. (My birthday's actually on August 31, but I'm leaving the States this coming Thursday.) I've been there a few times before, and the food is always magnificent. We have rodizios in Seoul, but they don't hold a candle to Chima, which truly is some fine, fine dining (and without demanding the whole suit-and-tie thing).

Here's an establishing shot:

The card you see below lays out our set-menu options; we had a choice between the sumptuous $35 menu or the even more extensive $49.90 menu. "We're going for the $49.90 one," David proclaimed, and I wasn't about to fight him, despite the damage I knew this would do to his wallet.

If you click on the image, you'll get a magnified view that will show you in detail what the fancier option entailed.

While David and I were raiding the super-extensive salad bar, the servers brought our appetizers: yucca fries, cheese bread, and turkey spread, which worked well as a dip for the fries. The fries were incredible, as was the cheese bread. The trap, of course, was that eating too many carbs at the beginning would mean not having enough room for meat later on.

That said, I wasn't modest with my salad-bar selection. There was a pomegranate-and-peach salad, a garden salad, and a seafood salad. Along with that, Chima's salad bar also offered an assortment of deli meats and cheeses, along with Brazilian standbys like farofa and feijoada, which David went for.

Here's a pic of David getting a serving of Brazil's most famous cut of beef: picanha ("pih-KAHN-yah"), or top sirloin with a healthy fat cap. This bit of muscle sits at the top of the cow's ass, right at the base of the tail, and right next door to the beef tenderloin, which runs along the cow's spine. When I looked up the picanha cut, I discovered that most American butchers tend to remove the fat cap and divide the muscle group into three subsections: the rump, the round, and the tri-tip (see here). For Brazilian chefs, the fat cap is essential, and I can see why.

One server came around with beef rib, which proved to be as tender and juicy as a well-cooked brisket. Amazing:

The sides arrived while we were digging into our salads and initial meats. Below, you see some incredible polenta fries:

Next, some amazing fried bananas:

Finally, a small dish of whipped potatoes. These deserve a bit of commentary. When I first saw them, I was worried that they would be over-whipped into a pasty glue, but the cooks managed the nearly impossible trick of getting the potatoes just shy of over-whipped. The tubers were buttery and delicious, and their texture almost made them seem appropriate to use as the world's carbiest dipping sauce.

Here's a shot of David's salad-bar selections. The dark-brown food is the feijoada; just above it, looking a bit like couscous, is the farofa.

One of my faves of the afternoon was flank steak:

Next: minty leg of lamb. After this, I stopped taking pics of the meat because it just kept coming and coming. There were two versions of garlic beef; there was also bacon-wrapped chicken and pork sausage, plus several other cuts of beef. It was a barrage of succulent proteins, and I never needed to accent the meat with salt and pepper.

The next phase, after a brief pause, was dessert. David had quietly let the servers know that this was a birthday celebration, so along with the desserts we ordered, there came a lovely tiramisu-style cake with a dark-chocolate sign on it that said "Happy Birthday!" in tasteful gold-leaf cursive:

David got the cheesecake:

I got the chocolate cake:

In all the chaos, the servers had forgotten to give us the traditional cinnamon-coated roasted pineapple, but they brought it over as soon as we mentioned it:

By the time the afternoon meal was over, I was stuffed but not explosively so. I thanked David profusely for an unforgettable birthday meal, and we drove back to his place, digesting happily.

Chima comes highly recommended, but know that meals are normally closer to $70 per person: this just happens to be "Restaurant Week" in northern Virginia, so participating restaurants are offering all sorts of specials. Still, even at $70, the food represents money well spent. Chima is as much an experience as it is a meal.

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