Churrascaria Plataforma in Manhattan? Eh.

Once in a while, I put up a Brazilian steakhouse story here to gather reader opinions on the best such restaurants in the United States. This particular establishment has served as a taunt for literally years now. “Oh,” friends would say, “[Brazilian steakhouse] Fogo de Chao is great, but Churrascaria Plataforma in Manhattan is the best.” As a fan of rodizio and churrasco – the endless cavalcade of grilled meats brought to your table on skewers and cut off by the slice to your liking – this was torture for me. It was (nearly) like being told that you hadn’t experienced your very favorite food ever until you went to this one special place – on the other side of the country.

So since I just happened to be in town anyway, I went there with my cousin and his wife – a vegetarian – to experience what was billed by friends as a premium-quality all-you-can-eat dinner and dessert experience, with filet mignon and an incredible cart full of exotic desserts (“I’ll take 3,” a friend claimed he’d said, before receiving them) as the anticipated highlights. Unlike Fogo, which is typically crowded and quiet, Plataforma was crowded and loud, smaller than I’d imagined, and yet not as cozy. A good but not astounding salad bar was there for my cousin’s wife. At the start of the meal, as is custom, we each received a card with green and red sides: green meant “keep bringing meat,” red meant “I’m pausing.”

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Let’s just say that Fogo de Chao (now in Beverly Hills, Chicago, Atlanta, two cities in Texas, and Brazil) doesn’t have anything to be worried about. If Plataforma once served filet and all-you-can-eat desserts, and had exemplary service, they don’t any more, which we learned the hard way after discontinuing our meat service early. After two of us had eaten roughly $10 worth of meat – and not in any sort of boorish, loud, or crazy way – that process was hastened along by a waiter who walked by and pocketed two of our red and green cards without explanation. We found out that filet is not served, and dessert is now a la carte at around $7 a plate. When the check arrived, we were also charged for a $40 bottle of wine we’d neither ordered nor received. This charge was almost incidental given the size of the bill.

Generally, what we were served was good, but not special. One of our three desserts – chocolate mousse – was amazingly rich and delicious, while the other two were finished without comment and not finished, respectively. And not because of full stomachs. The meats and salad bar were almost forgettable, especially by comparison with Fogo, which consistently serves staggeringly tasty cuts of beef, regardless of grade.

It was a lot of hype without delivery, the sort of thing that so often makes me indifferent (or worse) about Manhattan. Apparently this is a recent problem, and with restaurants, I’ve now learned that I should check recent reviews before getting too excited. Thankfully, the company was good, and made the experience worthwhile, but I’m glad I didn’t come all the way here for this. Anyone else try Plataforma? Thoughts? Comparisons?

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