Thanks to @DanJacobs81 for the guest blog. Follow him today!
Meat is a religion, and M Grill in Koreatown is the reason I’m anti-Semitic against vegetarians.
A friend of mine had an e-mailed discount from Yelp.com, and with this firmly entrenched in his soon-to-smell-like-meat hands, I went with him and another friend to the aforementioned all-you-can-eat Brazilian churrascaria. Authentic Brazilian food in K-Town? This I had to see taste.
For those who’ve never been to meat heaven, a churrascaria is a Brazilian-style meat buffet where waiters bring out long skewers of meat to shave off and slap on your plate. Over the course of the night, about 15 different cuts of cow, pig and chicken, all cooked and deliciously seasoned, will be brought to your table. That’s right, a buffet that comes to you. God bless Amer…Brazil.
M Grill was quietly tucked away on the second floor of a tiny strip mall in Koreatown on Wilshire Blvd. and St. Andrews, behind a giant chocolate brown door with the letter M on it. We were seated immediately, thanks to our 7 p.m. reservation, and the U-shaped eating area was barely a quarter full. This would change very quickly throughout the night. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who knew about this hidden beacon of Brazilian meat in a sea of Hangul.
The waiter came over, and we gave him 3 fingers, the universal signal for “we don’t care about the specials, just keep the hot meat flowin’!” He must have liked our swagger, because the first cut came out a few minutes later.
In life, when intense events happen, it’s common to only remember what happened, not the order of events. When eating traumatic amounts of beautiful meat, I can’t tell you what we got first, second or even last. I can only tell you that each slice we got was a fork-full of deliciousness.
Their house special is picanha, which is the cap piece of top sirloin. Please allow me to say “OMFG,” as it was so hearty and succulent that I’ve been reduced to the vernacular of a Gossip Girl. These tender slices required some intense tong use as the waiters sliced away thin slices of awesomeness.
The bone-in beef ribs, which are called costelao, were so moist and juicy that they practically fell off the bone – everything a well-made rib should do. These take 6 hours to roast, and I’ll happily spend a quarter of my day in a waiting room reading Highlights Magazine if it means I can have them again.
Filet mignon, perhaps the highest quality cut on the cow, left little to be desired. It was so soft that these chunks of cow just melted in our mouths. We needed at least two more rounds of this because the filet was just so scrumptious.
The waiter must have really liked our swagger, because midway through our meat-fest he simply came over and asked us if we liked lamb chops. And lamb chops aren’t even on their regular buffet menu. These had the right amount of smoky char cooked into them, and because they were a little rough, they pleasantly reminded me that our dear Lord gave us our canine teeth for a reason.
The chicken thigh was probably the weak link in terms of quality. Thighs tend to be the fattiest piece of the chicken, and while the skin was good, I have never really been a fan of this piece, Brazilian or otherwise. We turned down our waiter when he brought thighs out again.
What we didn’t turn down, however, was the garlic beef, which were circular cutlets that were marinated in the one ingredient you can never have enough of. I believe my compadres had two more rounds of this throughout the night.
M Grill also serves Brazilian sausage and smoked Polish sausage. Both were excellent, however, I would only recommend ordering them if you really like sausage – I didn’t taste any seasonings that would have made the Brazilian sausage truly unique, and to be honest, it was a little soft. The Polish, though, was perfectly cooked and way juicy.
One surprise that I would highly recommend to the pork-guzzling unvegans was marinated chicken wrapped in bacon. Each piece was about the size of a racquetball, and if you like pork, and you like chicken, but have always complained about the lack of chicken that tastes like bacon, M Grill might be your new hangout.
Another surprise was grilled pineapple covered in cinnamon and sugar. Much like the other carnivorous options presented by our waiter, the pineapple is sliced off and put on your plate. One detail I noticed was that the juices stayed inside the pineapple slice, so when the slices were cut off, and even when it was put on the plate, juices didn’t drip everywhere. The result was uh-MAZING juicy pineapple . It was so sweet, it almost could have passed for dessert, and the cinnamon/sugar/citrus combination was a welcomed palate cleanser based on what we’d devoured thus far.
While engorging in meat, there is a fine line between “too much meat” and “waaaay too much meat.” Thanks to the great service and attentiveness of the wait staff, we fell in the latter category. At Fogo de Chao (the gold standard of Los Angeles churrascarias), the staff was equally attentive, but due to how busy and large that place is, they always seemed in a rush to answer questions we had about the food. M Grill was probably about a quarter of the size, so with a more intimate setting, the waiters were primed to talk meat.
Because one cannot live on meat alone – though this unvegan has certainly tried – we paid some credence to the salad bar, if only a little. The most foolish diner at the table got an actual salad with lettuce, carrots, crumbled blue cheese and grown up adult vegetables like beets. The rest of us got local Brazilian cuisine for our sides. Mashed yucca was like the illegitimate love child of mashed potatoes and grits – creamy in texture but with ground -up chunks of yucca. The fried plantains were about the size of a pinky finger – Kirstie Alley’s pinky, not yours or mine – and sweet enough to be a dessert, especially if you added some ice cream. Perhaps a new dessert would be fried plantains a la mode?
Ultimately, M Grill is a great value based on the price. At $39.99, the buffet includes an awkward amount of succulent meat, and the salad bar. By comparison, Fogo de Chao is $65 for the same deal. Full disclosure – my one experience at Fogo was during Dine L.A., so I paid $45 for the buffet, salad bar and dessert. M Grill was paid for partially on a Yelp discount, so with tip, the meal cost $32. But sticking to the true value, based on retail pricing, while Fogo has a wider variety of buffet meats, a bigger salad bar and a trendier ambience, the extra 25 bucks just isn’t worth it. Next time I’m choosing between the two, M Grill in K-Town, is my choice for a protein overdose.