Dining out: Tucanos

Published: Friday, May 23 2008 12:08 a.m. MDT

By now many, if not most, Utahns know about churrascaria, the Brazilian barbecue served "rodizio" style, with servers bringing big skewers of dripping, seared meats to the table.

We're lucky to have several options for churrasco here in the Beehive State. They all focus on the same thing: the aforementioned meats, grilled veggies and pineapple; plus a salad bar with American and Brazilian cool and hot offerings. Many also have Brazilian smoothies and lemonades.

So if you're trying to decide on a churrascaria, it really comes down to price and service. My favorite is Braza Grill on State Street a bit north of Fashion Place Mall. The price, under $20 for dinner, is among the lowest for this type of meal, and though the salad bar isn't as mind-numbingly huge as some I've seen, the service is friendly, competent and quick.

The service is similarly good at Tucanos, another churrasco restaurant that's been at Provo's Shops at Riverwoods for several years and is now open at The Gateway. We visited Tucano's because my Midwestern mother-, father- and sister-in-law had never had churrasco, and it's a great way to give the out-of-town guests a memorable experience.

Tucanos has a big, window-lined dining space with the food bar at one end. It's raucous, with a riot of conversation and, occasionally, servers beating drums to celebrate a diner's birthday. There are people flocking around the salad bar continually, but the staff manages to keep it clean and stocked, with cool items nicely chilled and hot ones good and steamy.

The menu offers appetizers, which I find amusing. Probably people get them sometimes, but why? You've got a big salad bar with mounds of food just waiting for you, plus all the meat you can eat. It's like adding extra hood ornaments to a Rolls Royce — needless ornamentation of something that's already pretty lush.

The highlights of our meal at Tucanos were many. I always have a marinated quail egg, partly to freak out my kids, but also because they're tasty little bites. We all agreed that the fork-tender top sirloin was among the best of an impressive array of meats, along with the bacon-wrapped turkey, the glossy brown sugar-glazed ham and the teriyaki beef. And the milky and complex Brazilian lemonade is a treat no matter which flavor you get.

I liked the chewy, intense Portuguese linguica sausage, coiled like a snake on the skewer, but it is among the most spicy linguica I've had, so sensitive palates should beware. The grilled vegetables dusted with Parmesan were delicious, as well, but I just couldn't get enough of the grilled pineapple. I'd pay 20 bucks just for that. Grilling browns the outside and turns it both smoky and sweet, providing delectable contrast with the still-tart insides.

You'd think that would be enough food for anyone, but in the interests of journalistic thoroughness, we forced down dessert, some of which — the flan and creme brulee, for example — are made from scratch on site.

We had Oreo and chocolate ice cream molded into a little cake with cream and chocolate topping, plus a huge slab of dark, but not too sweet, chocolate cake and the creme brulee, a wonderful, light and nuanced example of its kind.

Churrasco lunch for adults $11.95; churrasco lunch for children $5.95; churrasco dinner for adults $18.95; churrasco dinner for children $7.95; appetizers $4.95-$8.95; salad bar lunch $9.95; salad bar dinner $11.95; "Tucanos Tempter" salad bar with bread, fried bananas and limited churrasco selections $10.95 lunch, $16.95 dinner.

Tucanos

Rating: ***

Where: The Shops at Riverwoods, 4801 N. University Ave., Provo (also at The Gateway, 162 S. 400 West, and in Albuquerque, N.M.)

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Closed Sunday

Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no checks

Phone: 224-4774 (Provo), 456-2550 (Salt Lake)

Wheelchair access: Crowded but accessible; salad bar is probably too high for someone in a wheelchair to reach every item


CORRECTION: In my review of Baxter's American last week I typed "400 South" instead of "400 West," which is the correct address. If you've been wandering 400 South looking for Baxter's, my apologies. The correct address is 400 W. South Temple.

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: skratz@desnews.com