Captain Hook isn’t just a pirate from the famous Peter Pan stories; he’s also the head chef at the Rodizio Grill at the new Liberty Center. On a VIP night he came to my table with his curled up mustache and eager attentiveness to inquire about the assessment of his food by my wife and me. It was a packed house and the girders of political and economic support behind West Chester and Liberty Township were there as the restaurant owners smartly wanted the buy-in of the community’s leaders before opening to the public. After two soft openings just ahead of their grand opening—a VIP dinning experience where everyone in the new restaurant was on a full court press to impress put their best foot forward and they were eager for some input. So what did I tell Captain Hook, I’ll save that for the end? First you’ll want to know what Rodizio is, why it’s unique, and why having it cuddled away inside a very intimate part of Liberty Center is excessively important to the continued economic development of the region.
Rodízio (pronounced [ʁoˈdʒiziu] in Brazil) is an all-you-can-eat style of restaurant service in Brazilian restaurants. In most areas of the world outside of Brazil, a rodízio restaurant refers to a Brazilian style steakhouse restaurant. Customers pay a fixed price (preço fixo) and the waiters bring samples of food to each customer at several times throughout the meal, until the customers signal that they have had enough. In churrascarias or the traditional Brazilian-style steakhouse restaurants, servers come to the table with knives and a skewer, on which are speared various kinds of quality cuts of meat, most commonly local cuts of beef, pork, chicken and sometimes exotic meats. While not as popular, there are other rodízio style restaurants in Brazil, such as ones serving pasta or pizza, where various pizzas and pastas are brought on trays. Rodízio style sushi restaurants are also common in Brazil.
Most rodízio courses are served right off the cooking spit, and are sliced or plated right at the table. Sometimes they are accompanied with fried potatoes, fried bananas, collard greens, black beans, and rice (served buffet style).
In many restaurants, the diner is provided with a colored card, red on one side and green on the other. Accordingly, the servers will only bring more meat if the card is flipped to the green side.
Rodizio Grill, The Brazilian Steakhouse, offers over a dozen rotisserie grilled meats, perfectly seasoned and carved tableside by Rodizio Gauchos. The grilling process is traditional to the Southern part of Brazil, specifically in Sao Paulo. The Rodizio Gaucho, in dress and our carving method, is what you would find if you were dining in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
As a result of the slow roasting and seasoning process, the rotisserie grilled meats melt in your mouth, satisfying even the most discriminating taste buds.
It was a pouring rain at the end of Gibson which migrates into a roundabout in front of Dillards, Pies and Pints and the entrance to the indoor portion of the Mall called The Foundry. We didn’t care if we were getting wet in a late October rain as leaves fell off the trees and littered the pavement. Liberty Center is an adult playground and my wife and I had been playing hard. She had just found a nice outfit at American Eagle and was very happy about it, so we entered the Rodizio Grill to a welcome best foot forward effort that was admirable. Of course the hostesses were friendly and all the managers were there to greet us. They were working hard to make a great first impression and they were successful. But as they took us to our seat my assessment was that the true test of the place would come many months later after the hype had died down—if they still exhibited the same energy. A VIP night is one thing—having the same passion every other day is quite something else. So I was skeptical as we took our seat and said hello to half a dozen other people also invited to the event that we knew.
For around $33 per person you get the all you can eat deal which is what Rodizio is all about. Our waitress explained it to us so we were excited to begin at the gigantic salad bar located toward the back of the room in the middle of the action, just ahead of the kitchen. At the window behind the bar were a small army of Gauchos getting fresh meat off the grill to hit the dinning room. My wife and I filled our plate and headed back to our table impressed with the massive selection of options that had so far been presented.
At Rodizio they put a block that looks like an hourglass, green on one side and red on the other at the end of your table. When you are ready for the Gauchos you flip it over so that the green side is up. When you want them to stop coming to your table you flip it to red. When you are done for the evening, you put it down on the table on its side. Very simple, yet there is a feeling of excitement in flipping it over to green because it’s like turning on a faucet. You really don’t know what’s going to happen, what meat the Gauchos will present first or who will bring it. We had five Gauchos assigned to our table, so there was a bit of randomness about the dinning experience that was certainly exciting. With a bit of a laugh we turned the block over and the Gauchos launched as if poised like snakes from the corners of the room and rushed to our side.
The Gauchos cut off various cuts of steak, chicken, pork, fish and even glazed pineapple which was amazingly delicious—much more so than I would have expected. It was all very exotic and obviously prepared with a lot of meticulous care. There were even cuts of glazed ham prepared in the same way as the pineapple—it was a carnivores dream. That was the first thought I had about the place, eating all that meat of different types invoked in me my inner T-Rex which is a nick-name that a lot of people who don’t like me often use to describe my temper. Sometimes during business you want to invoke that T-Rex and some red meat is good for bringing that kind of attitude to a deal you’re working on. That was the first thought I had about having power lunches at Rodizio, is that it puts you in that carnivore mood—which is good when that kind of mindset is needed. The endless supply of the meat is another aspect of that carnivorous rapture. If I had that much steak at a place like Jags in West Chester it would have cost $500 dollars. If you like to eat steak, and good steak at that, it’s hard to go wrong at Rodizio. When you are trying to close a deal or accomplish some difficult business endeavor, I can easily see a need to have lunch at Rodizio either with the people you are working with, or by yourself just to put your mind in the right condition. A little trick I use when I’m under pressure is I purposely eat red meat on the rare side, and Rodizio had several skewers of meat cooked just that way. It was delicious and invoked in me that T-Rex spirit that is often very helpful under pressure.
That’s when I had the next thought about Rodizio–it was essentially the perfect place to have a power meeting with clients. Often when dining with potential business partners, adversaries in business, or associates there are awkward pauses that are persistent with people who have little in common with each other but the project they are working on. For instance, I hate those meetings because I hate small talk. I love to go on and on about giant heady subjects with great enthusiasm, but not everyone is like that so I often have to turn off the afterburners to the point where I get really bored with the people I’m eating with. Not good when you’re trying to do some team building. Usually at these types of meetings you conduct small talk before you order drinks, usually it’s about sports. Then you order some appetizers and continue talking about sports. Then you order the entrees and are about done talking about sports because people usually have different teams that they like and you’ve exhausted all the topics that are safe without making them mad by that point. At Rodizio they have a natural solution to that problem. When you turn the block to green, the Gauchos flood your table side forcing the interaction of all your clients. Customers have to help pull the meat away as the Gauchos cut it, not in an awkward way, but one that is engaging and those awkward moments of silence with clients is filled with activity—constantly. If you want to talk about a serious subject to close a deal or make a point, turn the block to red, throw your issue on the table, then turn it to green again to get the action moving again while they simmer on your proposal. Rodizio has the ability to be a very powerful alley in the world of business, and I hope that area sales reps use it fully. Rodizio is your friend, trust me!
I watched Captain Hook, which was the actual nametag he was wearing, carefully tend to all the cooks in the kitchen and inspect the Gauchos as they worked the room. He paced around the salad bar making sure that everything was just perfect, and it was. So when he asked me what I thought about his food I told him that if he put the kind of love and care into the food that he had on this VIP night, he’d have a hit that this area would spectacularly support. Getting food of that quality in those quantities coupled with the ambitious service is an experience people will pay a lot of money for. Hook clearly had by natural inclination an understanding of the Metaphysics of Quality making me very excited about the dining experience at Rodizio not just for the VIP meal, but the future of Liberty Township. Clearly the appeal is a primal one cultivated into refinement. What’s not to like about endless supplies of meat cooked over an open fire? It’s good for romance, its good for business, its good for a mind in need of a primal charge. And Captain Hook was there to make sure everything stayed on the upside of quality. A good chef is the key to a restaurant, and the Rodizio at Liberty Center had one, and his name was Captain Hook. When you go, make sure to tell him what you think, because he cares.
The cost of the meal for two was around $100, which wasn’t bad for a quality experience. It’s about $66 for the meal, another $30 for drinks. Then there is the tip and the deserts which were so good I would think seriously about going there just for a drink at the bar and some desert even with Graters right around the corner. Their deserts were on the upside of good in comparisons to other deserts around the city of Cincinnati. I’d put them on par with the best so they are worth the expense if you can muster the room in your stomach—which at the point where you put the block on its side to call it quits, there won’t be much room for more food. If you take your time to eat, likely you might manage some desert which is advisable. But don’t try to cram a trip to the Rodizio before a movie. Make sure to make the dinner at Rodizio the feature attraction of your day, because that’s what it deserves. Go after the movie. It takes time to appreciate the food, and to give your body time to enjoy it all. I happen to know that the tickets at the new theater are very reasonably priced for the luxury setting, so a night at the movies and dinner at the Rodizio will stay under a few hundred dollars—which is perfectly reasonable for a destination environment that might only be experienced on an out-of-town vacation. Of course the Cobb Theater at the other end of Liberty Center has their own fine dining options, which is why their ticket prices are so reasonable. But be sure to plan a trip to Rodizio often, not just a few times a year. I saw nothing but positives—a lot of ambition, a great product, a psychologically primal supplement and a bargain even at an above tier restaurant experience—which is what is expected at Liberty Center. I was invited to the VIP event to say nice things about the place, but it’s not hard to find enthusiasm for it. All I had to do is look at Captain Hook and witness how the rest of the staff fed off him—and it was obvious that Liberty Township had yet another fine treasure—not from a pirate, but a hell of a good chef. I will go back many times, but the most effective visit will be those business oriented dinners—because Rodizio has a setup that will make some of the most unpleasant meetings team building exercises constructed around the primal need for meat and the satisfaction of it cooked over an open fire while surrounded by luxury.
Rich “Cliffhanger” Hoffman