Probably the most popular dining trend to come from South America is the churrascaria, the Brazilian barbecue; and nowhere is it done in better form then Tucanos Brazilian Grill in Boise. The concept is simple; you order your drinks and take a trip to the salad/side dish bar for your beginnings and then wait for your meat. At the table, you have a little colored marker, with red signifying wait and green meaning yes, bring me meat. Sounds simple, yes?
The salad/side dish bar dominates the center of Tucanos. To call it a salad/side dish bar does not do it justice, however as it is much more. Soup is available, including a nice Lobster Bisque that is slightly spicy and filled with nice chunks of succulent lobster. Many types of salads are there for the taking including a cucumber onion salad, marinated mushrooms, baby greens and more. A corn salsa is also a very tasty start. This isn’t just greens though, there are cheese, ham and other choices too. On the seafood side, there is a delicious ceviche, a marinated seafood salad with a bright fresh taste. And for the shrimp lover, there is plenty of cold peel-and-eat shrimp to enjoy with cocktail sauce.
The best way to enjoy the salad bar is to fill your plate, meanwhile leaving the marker red side up. Upon finishing the salads, it is time to return to the salad/side dish bar. This time, help yourself to a bowl of Feijoada, the black bean dish that is the national dish of Brazil. Fill a small bowl with it, top it with farofa, a toasted topping and you are set. Of course, you can also grab a small bowl of Brazilian Stew while you are up there. Finally, grab a dish of the popular fried bananas.
Once you’ve returned to your seats, it is time to turn the marker green side up. This starts the parade of servers to your table. Most come with the traditional Brazilian sword and a sharp carving knife. When the first shows up, they’ll offer you what they have. It may be a skewer of Picanha, nicely grilled top sirloin. Or it could be beef tenderloin, a Contra Filé (New York Strip), beef brisket or a bacon-wrapped center sirloin. Whatever you choose and to what degree of doneness you want, they will carve it off while you grab it with tongs and put it on your plate. From there, you can enjoy your first taste of churrascaria.
Every few minutes, a new server comes to the table. Besides the different cuts of beef, they may have a skewer with turkey-wrapped bacon; Linguiça, the delicious Brazilian sausage; pork loin or a Coraçao de Frango (spicy BBQ chicken thigh). As other servers stop by, you’ll be offered grilled vegetables, cooked seafood or a luscious grilled pineapple sliced in front of you. More meat servers come by, ready to satiate your appetite for the many choices of meat. If there is something you really like or don’t see, ask a server and it will be sent over to you. All in all, there are usually over 20 types of skewers in circulation.
Meanwhile, the green marker is taunting you to eat more. The servers keep coming around and soon you’ll be only getting your favorites from what you may have had before as they come around again. When you have had your fill of the skewers, just turn the marker to red and the servers stop visiting the table. With your hunger satiated, it is time to consider one of many desserts available at Tucanos. The desserts are an extra, along with many custom skewers you can order eas well such as shrimp, scallops and also appetizers such as fried onion straws with mango sauce and Brazilian Buffalo wings.
But what about all that meat that is brought to your table? In a word, it is delicious. Many of the Brazilian grills heavily over-salt their meat, but the chefs at Tucanos seem to know how to season theirs perfectly. The meat is cooked perfectly too, everyone at the table seemed to be happy with the degree of doneness they requested. The beef in particular was crusty on the outside and still juicy when you bit into it. Beef is the star; and Tucanos knows how to grill it just right. With so many different types, it is interesting to notice how different they are, from the texture to the beefiness of flavor.
The Pork Loin was juicy too, a nice alternative to the beef. The bacon wrapped turkey was a chunk of seasoned, moist decadence. The grilled pineapple was caramelized perfectly, hot off the skewer, tart and sweet. Pieces of Mango Fried Fish that were brought to the table in a serving dish also had just the right amount of sweet and sour flavor to the delicately crisped fish.
Tucanos also hit the mark with their cocktails. The traditional Brazilian drink, a Caiphirinha, made from cachaça, a Brazilian spirit, was tangy from the lime and just lightly sweetened. A Strawberry Daquiri was tall, sweet and delicious. The drinks are refreshing and go well with the Brazilian food. They have a full bar with a nice selection of craft cocktails as well as beer and wine.
Service too is on point, with servers showing up constantly to make sure there is plenty of meat for you. For vegetarians, there are plenty of options on the salad bar, plus you can order unlimited grilled vegetables and grilled pineapple. Kids are not forgotten either, there are several options for those 7-12 and children 6 and under eat free with a paying adult. Lunch specials are also available during the week. Pricewise, Tucanos is exceptionally reasonable for the quality and freshness of the food they serve.
Tucanos is a nice place for a date, but it is an exceptionally good place for a group or party. The interactivity with the waiters, the guessing of what is on the next sword winding its way to the table and the lively atmosphere make it great for a group of friends or an office party. Tucanos really is a great place to go, have a good time and enjoy as much meat (and everything else) as you could possibly want too.
Tucanos Brazilian Grill
1388 S. Entertainment Ave.
Boise, ID 83709
Phone: (208) 343-4300
All photos by Ed Simon for The Boise Beat