Well, for starters, I suggest dressing business casual at Chima Brazilian Steakhouse, which I did not learn until it was too late. It was like when a family decides to change their game plan from T.G.I Friday’s to a more upscale restaurant but does not realize the different dress code expectations and thus allows their kids to wear their uniforms from soccer practice. Let’s just say I was the underdressed child, and my friends were the parents trying to hide their embarrassment. This is a bit of a dramatization, and I by no means want to depict Chima as a stuffy, unwelcoming establishment — quite the contrary. I did not want the meal to end and was actually emotionally affected when my friends said it was time to leave — again, I was the child of the group.
Chima follows a certain style and structure of eating that is unlike most restaurants in the city. It has a sort of buffet format, but instead of offering mostly greasy carbs and otherwise unidentifiable dishes, it features a “salad bar” (quotations to be explained shortly) and a fine selection of meats that would get even a vegetarian’s mouth watering. That being said, it should not come as a surprise that the only drawback of Chima is the price; it is typically a $50 flat rate. Luckily, I had the chance to visit during Restaurant Week. However, do not immediately sign Chima off as overpriced and wallet-exploding.
To begin, before we could even approach the “salad bar,” the waiter served the table with what looked like miniature cornbread muffins, but they were actually light Parmesan rolls. And I say light because I was able to eat at least six of them. What’s more, they came with a pureed turkey and chive spread. Although I avoided it at first (it just sounds unappetizing), my friends eventually convinced me to try it, and it was a perfect complement to the mild taste of the rolls. The waiter also brought fried plantains, which turned out to be the only thing I did not enjoy, and fried bananas that were perfect palette cleansers for the meat feast that was to follow.
Once we taste-tested these hors d’oeuvres, we conquered the “salad bar.” This was no typical salad bar. Granted, there were a few options that were by name salads, like calamari salad, arugula salad and endive salad. Aside from these, the other sides included rice, fresh mozzarella balls, cheddar cheese with fruit, roasted red peppers, asparagus, Gorgonzola mousse, corn mousse, beef Carpaccio, rice, soups, and a zucchini-shaved cheese-pumpkin seed salad that I want to highlight because it had such an interestingly mild yet unbelievably tasty flavor. Needless to say, I visited this “salad bar” (too) many times.
Now to the main course, or rather, main event of the night: the protein. In short, there was practically every type of meat available for carnivorous consumption. Additionally, the serving of the meat is what gives Chima its special structure. Instead of ordering, or rather settling, for one dish, diners are encouraged to try any meat they wish. We were simply given a chip that informed the servers whether or not we desired more to eat. The orange side signified the need for food and caused an onrush of eager servers. The black side represented the need for a break, either to eat the food covering your plate or to allow the food once covering your plate to digest. Even the method of serving the food was unique. Each waiter carried a rod packed with a certain kind of meat, which he — I noticed they were all male — sliced with a skewer or knife (and we then needed to use a small pair of tongs to retrieve the sliced meat, another neat aspect).
As mentioned earlier, the selection of meats is overwhelmingly expansive. For some sort of organization, I will present them according to animal (to any vegetarians, vegans or animal-rights activists, I mean no offense, but this must be done). For beef there was sirloin (with or without garlic sauce), filet mignon, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, rib-eye, flank steak, and beef and barbeque ribs. For chicken there was boneless and, better yet, wrapped in bacon. For lamb there was leg of lamb and lamb chops marinated in a homemade sauce (the table agreed on a trace of mint). For pork there was Parmesan pork loin (the parmesan was a bit overpowering) and pork sausage. To finish, for fish there was salmon with a passion fruit sauce and swordfish with a cilantro pesto sauce. All in all, come hungry.
Then, if you have room for dessert, there is also an immense array of it, including cheesecake, key lime pie, chocolate lava cake and apple strudel. To be honest, though, you may not reach this point in the meal unless you have impressive self-restraint. If you believe that you do have such control, then I urge you to visit Chima and put it to the test. And if it turns out that you are like me and submit to your gluttonous desires, do not feel too bad. Chima is at 19th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, so (in terms of my concept of exercise) it is a decent walk away from campus!