Update: Spain Restaurant no longer offers the churrascaria, but we continue to enjoy their regular offerings.
Spain Restaurant is beyond compare for lunch. With several filling lunch specials at $6.95 each, it’s a great value. Given that fact, and given the fact that we had been to this restaurant for dinner before and been very pleased, we decided to head out on Saturday night after we heard that they had added a churrascaria – a Brazilian steakhouse where servers come to your table with meat on skewers and cut it right onto your plate.
We had been hearing that another churrascaria had just opened up shop in town, and had been wanting to try it. Given that we had good experiences with Spain Restaurant previously, we decided to try it there before heading out to the chain restaurant.
Spain Restaurant is located in a Best Western on East Dublin Granville Rd (Rte 161), near Giant Eagle. Because it is in a hotel, it’s pretty hard to find — you need to keep an eye out for the sign, and go around to the back of the Athletic Club attached to the Best Western to park. We had made reservations previously, and when we came in at 9PM the dining room was packed.
The ambiance was typical hotel restaurant, fitting for the type of food but nothing impressive. It neither added to or detracted from the experience. We were immediately seated, after which it took 10 minutes for a person to approach us to get our drink orders.
All three of us in our party decided on the churrascaria, at $21.95 a head. It was billed as including side dishes, and advertised linguica, filet mignon, pork tenderloin, chicken, and other meats as being offered. After ordering, they directed us to a salad bar – which was sparse in its offerings. It consisted of several obscure dishes, like calamari salad, mussels in tomato sauce, asparagus in vinaigrette, potato salad (obviously store bought), rice and black beans, and a terribly lonely looking and near empty bowl of mixed greens. To say we were disappointed with the salad bar would be an understatement, but at the time, we thought it was just that – a salad bar. It wasn’t until later that we found out that the salad bar WAS the side dishes.
On to the meat. Delivery was fairly slow but acceptable most of the time. It seemed as if they took longer to bring out the more expensive cuts of meat, which is a common complaint among most churrascarias in the US. The quality of the meat and the cooking was uneven and mediocre. The lamb was super-fatty and almost inedible. The linguica (sausage) was excellent on the first pass, undercooked on the second. The bacon-wrapped filet mignon was acceptable, but I feel that the bacon may have been there to hide a multitude of sins due to bad cut – filet should never be tough unless they are cutting from the chain or failing to remove silver skin. The medium rare top sirloin melted in my mouth – there is a reason that Alton Brown sings the praises of medium rare steaks – they are both flavorful and tender at the same time. The well done top sirloin could have resoled a boot. The pork loin was dry on the first pass, tender and flavorful on the second. The barbecued chicken breast was wonderful, but we only got one pass of that. The absence of side dishes during the meat carving was very obvious, though. After we had our fill of meat, we decided on dessert.
Unfortunately, they were out of their wonderful tres leches cake, so instead, our party got both the chocolate cake and the tiramisu. Neither were anything exceptional, and the tiramisu was very dry.
The high point of the night was my husband’s discovery of his new favorite drink – the caipirinha, a muddled mix of superfine sugar, chacaca, and limes.
Overall, we were disappointed. At almost $22 a head, we expected more and better. I think that next time we go for dinner, we’ll order from the regular menu and avoid the churrascaria. Needless to say, next time we won’t avoid the caipirinha – it made a bad meal almost acceptable.