International Dining 2011: Churrasquiera Bairrada

imageChurrasquiera Bairrada
Jericho Tpke, Mineola
Portuguese Rodizio

Welcome to the real deal, packed wall to wall with all walks of life Portuguese restaurant. The waiting area is adorned with equal parts big screen TVs, local plaques of distinction and ceramic roosters. And wait you will if you show sans reservation. We had 30 minutes to study the unsuspecting roosters one random early Sunday evening. Rumor has it this is fairly typical almost any time Bairrada’s doors are open, so plan well.

This is an everyman place—diners’ footwear is your tell: A surreptitious glance at the floor will yield everything from flip-flops (male and female, old and new), loafers with and without socks, sneakers, golf shoes, ballerina flats, glittering high heels…well you get it. It’s the kind of place that serves birthday cake with a unique sax rendition of “Happy Birthday” while onlookers clap and sing along.

Crusty peasant cornbreads and olives make their way to the table right behind you. And country salad (iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and onion shreds in simple white vinegar) is close behind.

Stars of the menu are Chanfana à Bairrada (oven roasted kid goat marinated and cooked in a pot for a full day) and Leitão Bairrada (suckling pig roasted for at least three hours on a spit). Both hail from the region that gives the eatery its name, and both are prepared in minimum supply (1-2 of each per day) rendering them unavailable at 7pm on the Sunday in question. Note to the wise: Arrive early.

Green soup is a creamy, light, white base with collard greens and smoky ham chunks. Rodizio is the parade of meats you’d expect at any such “Latin grill;” here the eight various samplings are supremely succulent and finger licking good red meats, chicken and pork. Febras de porco (pork loin) is three simple fillets with a lemon wedge grilled just to the point of firm tastiness. Accompaniments are complete and don’t have to be requested. Black beans, French fries, white rice with carrots and peas and one fried banana, steamed carrots and broccoli, chopped onion completed by vinaigrette that is like a sweet, chunky salsa. Beware: Hot sauce is as billed—hot. And the flames continue to grow. The food is as fresh as can be and it’s served up in more or less bite-sized portions. And before you know it, there’s none left.

From here, there’s only one place (or two) to go. Molotoff is an enormous, sky high, egg white and sugar molded sculpture in a meringue like concoction. Natas-do-céu is a vanilla cream with cookie crumbs, heavy crème, egg whites, caramel and cookies.