NOT MUCH HAS changed in decor or format since this address’s last venture as Piatti, an all-you-can-eat Italian spot. CopaCabana’s visual elements remain funky, comfortable and airy, and an identical ordering system using table cards lets the hungry control when and how much they want to eat.
The differences lie in the details and in the execution of service —and of course in trading Italian classics for grilled Brazilian meats.
High ceilings, marble detailing, open bar with eyecatching teal blue backsplash, stunning chestnut-coloured hardwood floors with inlay, mirrors, white padded leather wall panels and relaxing chairs pulled up to wooden tables give the room a modern feel.
A continuous stream of passadores dressed in black carry sharp knives and various spits of sizzling meats from the kitchen (a dining style known as churrascaria de rodizio) offering slabs and slices to every table displaying their Fire It Up! card.
This unlimited approach contrasts with our regular server who, although friendly, is hardly ever available. Meats are CopaCabana’s forte (mostly imported from the U.S.), and if you’re a hard-core carnivore, this place might be for you. As many as 19 different cuts are available for weekend dinner.
Best of the bunch tasted is buttermilk top sirloin, savoury and impossibly tender and just plain wonderful. Other top-notch slabs sampled include boneless beef ribs, picanha Brasil and soysalty rib-eye.
Organic chicken thigh and boneless leg of lamb both disappoint, the first being dry and hard around the edges, the second torched to well past medium. Although we never had the opportunity to sample the likes of turkey wrapped in bacon and suckling pig, among others, our experience hints that the kitchen does best with red meats. Bowls and plates of cold salads, charcuterie and grilled vegetables, such as eggplant, line the all-you-can-eat harvest table.
Dapplers dip into such salads as beet, carrot, cucumber, tomato-onion-feta, tuna and cold pasta.
Potato salad brags of blemish-free bite-sized morsels with skins on, but the starchy mound gets mushy in its deep pool of oily butter. Better is whole mushroom salad with marinated buttons cooked to a T.
Next in line: three pastas posing in pans over hot plates overflow with colourful bow-tie noodles in tomato sauce, fettuccini in cream sauce and tricolour rotini in pesto with green peppers.
Flavours are straightforward and simple and toothsome, but too much inactivity in open air has rendered them cool and sticky.
Interesting breads wrapped under cloth napkins strive to stay fresh. Bowls of salsa cruda, olives and pickles; hot plates of rice and dark refried beans; plus condiments, such as horseradish and Parmesan, round out the offering.
Ratings are on a scale of one to five stars