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Samba Brazilian Grill

In a word: MEAT! for those who like MEAT!

The specs: #0582  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at QSC, Dane101Madison Dining Online, City Search, Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Eat Drink Madison, The Culinary Adventures of Jahboh and Tossy, The Forked Tongue, Central Madison Living, Isthmus mentions: 1/4/08, 4/9/08, 4/22/08, 11/14/08; TDPF; official web site, Samba Brazilian Steak House on Urbanspoon

Latest Samba Brazilian Grill news and reviews

Amanda, JM and Nichole ate the brunch buffet.
Nichole also had a Bloody Mary.
The bill was $53, or $18ish/person, plus tip.
Amanda and JM gave Samba Brazilian Grill an A-; Nichole gave Samba Brazilian Grill a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Samba has served brunch and dinner in an opulent setting for a while now; as Madison's only Brazilian steakhouse it generated quite a buzz when it opened in the historic Women's Building on Gilman. Rather than reiterate the ordering and eating concept behind Samba, we'll refer the uninitiated to the able, resting blog of Jahboh and Tossy for a rundown.

Back? OK. Brunch started with a spicy Bloody Mary.

Bloody Mary

Our personable server invited us to begin at the salad bar straight away.

Salad bar fare

The salad bar is incredible. There's enough variety and breadth to make a meal. The only failing we sweet-tooths noted is the relatively small number of sugary items for brunch, which was pretty much limited to small danishes and banana bread. We grazed on nuts, including fancy Marcona almonds and Brazil nuts that were either smoked or tossed in bacon fat, a cheese plate, cold sweet potato salad, anise-spiked pickled beets, tart Cippolini onions, steamed green beans, granola and yogurt, tapenade and tiny toasts, cut fruit, fresh tossed salad and fixings, cool crisp chimichurri, plus eggs, bacon and potatoes from three huge chafing dishes, and more stuff we can't remember. Nichole made a face with her food (before the Bloody - she was born this way) and weeks later still finds herself wishing she'd wrapped more of those figs in that bacon.

Then there were waffles made to order. Almost as big as a plate, served with choice of chocolate, fruit or plain, they were light and soft. According to our server, the chocolate chips were Ambrosia (no relation to Gail) out of Milwaukee, and the mix of macerated strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries obviated the need for syrup.

Meat plateThen there was meat. And meat, and meat, three kinds.

And grilled pineapple crusted in cinnamon and brown sugar. The pineapple paired incredibly well with the pork options, which were 2/3 of the day's selection. The linguica sausage was the star - snappy skin, spicy stuffing, and a sweet glaze were very good. The ham slices were dry and Dubuque standard. The third meat was a very juicy flank steak. While you'd hope the meat would be the very best in town, it probably isn't. However, when you want a decadent amount of decent meat, then there's only one place to turn.

A parting word to the wise, from Amanda: Don't taunt a server who has a sword.

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We had the salad bar at dinner once. We thought it was good - but not spectacular. The big exception was the chicken salad (I think it's curry chicken salad, actually). They serve the same stuff down in the Cabana Room in a wrap. Now *that* is spectacular!!

One bit of advice when eating at Samba. You will be tempted to fill up at the salad bar, but don't. Graze lightly on the veggies, or hell, just skip them altogether and take in the meaty goodness.

We ate at the Samba Grill for dinner for our anniversary. For dinner it was quite pricey ($35/person plus drinks plus dessert) yet it was a very fine meal for a special occasion. All the meat options are available at dinner (beef tenderloin in sake-soy marinade, a real star; pork tenderloin; couple other beef choices; lamb; chicken). If you are feeling both well-heeled and carnivorous, it is a clear choice over the standard steakhouse, just due to the variety. But likewise, it's not a "leftovers" place, so if you like to take half your Tbone home with you, this is not that place.

you know, this place really shoots itself in the foot when it cuts its service and only serves cheap cuts of meat during Restaurant Week and heavy Groupon weeks. We've been both times, as well as during "normal" weeks, and it really ticks me off. On the one hand, I can understand why they'd want to do it because otherwise, they'd take a bath - but on the other hand, even $25 seems steep for what they serve during these "special" weeks. And I've known several people who've only visited Samba once - and that was during one of those "special" weeks - and they've claimed they'd never go back again because there's no way they'd pay $37 for that. If they had their regular service and served their "normal" fare, like beef tenderloin and prime rib, they may pick up a few new regular customers. And isn't that the point??

Prime rib, beef tenderloin, and that wonderful linguica were all among the offerings on the night we went--it was the last night of the Groupon promotion, and it was a bit of a rodeo to get ahold of someone, but the meats were populous and juicy. Except the pork. That was bad.

they had the linguica when we were there (Thursday), but not the prime rib or the beef tenderloin. The server said they didn't have them because of the "volume of people". If you were there the same night, maybe they had them earlier that evening? Not sure. I ran into a couple of other people I knew and we were all a bit ticked....

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