Buffets rarely deliver a fine dining experience, but Brazilian steakhouses, or churrascarias, in the Bay Area may be an exception.
Taurinus, located in downtown San Jose, boasts a high-end atmosphere and the price point to match. A dinner buffet with all-you-can-eat meat costs $48.50 for adults, and for those dining only at the salad bar, a buffet meal will cost $29.95. Meats are cooked slowly on rotisserie skewers, wielded by gauchos who slice off portions which diners grab with their tongs at tableside. The self-service salad bar offers hot and cold options. Drinks like the classic Brazilian caipirinha can be ordered at the bar, which showcases the grill, or with the wait staff. If there is still room for dessert after the buffet, desserts can be ordered a la carte.
Diners are given a card, one side red and the other green. The green side up signals to the gauchos that the customer is ready for meat service. The red side up means the diner is taking a break or finished. Out of habit, the gauchos will stop by every table even if the cards are showing red. Service is evenly paced and there is no rush to try all the cuts immediately as there will always be another opportunity to try them during the gaucho’s circulation around the room.
Taurinus proudly offers fourteen cuts of meat, as well as slow-roasted pineapple from their charcoal fired grill. Standouts among the carnivorous bites were the sirloin, filet mignon, top sirloin and chicken hearts. The top sirloin and chicken hearts were particularly tender and perfectly seasoned, with flavors enhanced by slow roasting over charcoal. Beef ribs were also notably juicy and carved off the bone from a portable carving table. Other non-beef options include pork ribs, parmesan encrusted pork loin, lamb leg, and chicken wings—all of which were tasty. Carving the meat tableside allows diners to choose well done pieces from the outside, medium well, or rare pieces from the middle. The warm and sweet grilled pineapple offers a palette cleansing bite between the meats. The pineapple is also available for diners who stick to just the salad bar.
Other than excellent grilled meats, there are two signature items that a Brazilian churrascaria must get right. These are the pao de queijo (cheese flavored bread roll) and the feijoada (bean stew with beef and pork or sausages). Taurinus’ pao de queijo were warm and soft, served at the table with fried bananas and polenta fries. The feijoada was a mix of savory and salty and goes best with the white rice from the hot bar. Other hot foods included a seafood paella with the rice slightly too hard for my taste but accompanied by a nice helping of clams, mussels and sausages. Creamy chicken crepe and salmon with a citrus glaze were also available. Cold items included heart of palm, jicama salad, chicken salad, mango salad, guacamole, Greek cucumber salad, quinoa salad and bow tie pasta salad. All salads were made with fresh ingredients and frequently refilled by staff, although some were slightly over salted on this particular night. Charcuterie meats and various cheeses at the cold salad bar were a popular offering.
Taurinus is popular for large groups, as many people there were celebrating various life events. Pitchers of sangria were also popular for sharing with a group. All 14 varieties of meat regularly circulate through the large, high-ceiling dining room, and diners are sure to get their fill of the top cuts. Of the local churrascarias I have tried, Taurinus has the better seasoning and quality of meat, even if they have fewer offerings. Be sure to try the ribs and top sirloin cuts.
The salad bar is decent, even with fewer offerings than competitors, but what Taurinus does offer provides a good selection. Service is even paced, less invasive, and the least hectic I can remember from a Brazilian steakhouse. I felt neither neglected nor suffocated by the gauchos, which can’t be said of all other churrascarias. The decor and ambiance may be just a notch shy of fine dining but combined with the service, the restaurant is inviting and homely.
167 W San Fernando St,