The Gaucho's Lament: A churrascaria aficionado gets wind of Brazikat — and weeps

Slideshow: Inside Brazikat Brazilian

The Gaucho's Lament: A churrascaria aficionado gets wind of Brazikat — and weeps
Jennifer Silverberg
A skewer of Brazikat's picanha, a traditional Brazilian cut of beef.

It was bitterly cold when I left Brazikat Brazilian Steak & Seafood House, and I wanted nothing more than to retire to the warmth of my living room, a glass of bourbon in hand, my faithful dog curled at my feet. So preoccupied was I with this scenario that I didn't notice the old man standing in my path. I write "standing," but truly, he was hunched forward at the waist, and that only with great effort. What's more, his shoulders were stooped and his head curled so that he appeared to be studying a spot at the center of his sunken chest.

He looked like nothing so much as a living comma splicing the darkness. He wore a red vest over a black shirt. The flared cuffs of his black gaucho pants revealed that he wore no socks under his dress shoes, which themselves were poor specimens, the leather cracked, the soles uneven. A miasma of mesquite smoke lingered about his person.

"I'm sorry," I said out of habit. "I don't have any cash."

Mixologist Rich Thierry making The Pomegranate. Slideshow: Inside Brazikat Brazilian
Jennifer Silverberg
Mixologist Rich Thierry making The Pomegranate. Slideshow: Inside Brazikat Brazilian
Brazikat in Clayton next to The Ritz in Clayton. Slideshow: Inside Brazikat Brazilian
Jennifer Silverberg
Brazikat in Clayton next to The Ritz in Clayton. Slideshow: Inside Brazikat Brazilian

Location Info

Map

Brazikat Brazilian Steak & Seafood House

172 Carondelet Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63105

Category: Restaurant > Brazilian

Region: Clayton

Details

Brazikat Brazilian Steak & Seafood House
"Feast of Meats" (per person) $39.95
"Seafood Feast" (per person) $49.95
"Surf n' Feast" (per person) $59.95

Slideshow: Inside Brazikat Brazilian

172 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton; 314-727-1007. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri., 4-11 p.m. Sat., 4-10 p.m. Sun. (Bar open till 11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 1 a.m. Fri-Sat.)

"I do not want or need your charity. Indeed, I have something to give you."

I saw now that in his hands — skeletal, palsied — he held some papers, three or four sheets ripped from a loose-leaf notebook. These he pressed into my own hands, saying, "Take these and read. If you think my story worth sharing, do so. But soon. There is not much time."

Should I have politely accepted the papers, folded them into my pocket, dismissed them as the ravings of a madman? Perhaps. But curiosity has always gotten the better of me, and as I walked back to my car, by the light of my cell phone, I began to read.

Even before I finished the first of his pages, I knew I must go back and find the strange old man. But by the time I returned to where I'd seen him, he had gone. The only trace was the faint scent of mesquite, now just a warm hint in the icy wind. And then I saw, beyond the restaurant, at the far end of the street, dancing along in the whipping winter wind, an empty pair of black gaucho pants.

Those were his pants. This is his story.

So very far have I traveled from the Serras de Sudeste, where as a child I gamboled with my older brothers over the rolling grasslands, weaving paths amid the pleasant, docile cattle (though not their omnipresent dung), while my mother patrolled the herd, proud, regal, on horseback, as her father and his father before him had done. (My own father chased the rumor of fugitive Nazi war criminals into the rainforest and was never seen or heard from again.)

I thought myself destined for a life on the pampas; indeed, when I came of age and my mother presented me with my very own pair of gaucho pants, I wept with joy. Yet fate had something else in store for me: a woman, a beautiful tourist from America who caught my eye and then, as we lay beside a roaring campfire, while the cattle lowed in eerie unison, perhaps at the majesty of the evening, or perhaps because I was roasting the rump of one of their brethren on a spit above the campfire, captured my heart.

She told me not to follow her back to the United States, yet I could not resist her ravishing red hair and muscular buttocks. When I called her from the airport, she said she couldn't see me...she had a husband, our time together had been nothing more than a fling. I wandered the terminal in despair. I had no money. I had nothing but the clothes on my back (including my beloved gaucho pants) and a copy of the in-flight magazine. I paged through this out of desperation, and there I found fate's true message: an ad for Fogo de Chao, a churrascaria.

Thus began my long career as a waiter in Brazilian steak houses, where thanks to my skill with the blade and my ease of manner with guests, I came to be known simply as the Gaucho. I traveled this great country from coast to coast, helping to open new churrascarias, instructing novices in the Way of the Gaucho (and bedding the occasional hostess). Even as time caught up with me, as my gaucho pants sagged around my ever-frailer form, I could not resist my calling — which is how I came to Clayton, Missouri, in November of last year to help open this Brazikat. The owner, Sam Barakat, owns a churrascaria in Valparaiso, Indiana, but I thought my experience could benefit his establishment.

I did not know the half of it.

Where to begin? With what I know the best: the Way of the Gaucho. The young would-be gauchos at Brazikat are not swordsmen. They banter about their ninja-like prowess, but one cuts a piece of top sirloin so clumsily that the entire hunk of meat falls from the skewer onto the diner's plate, splashing its juice on the table. Another has a knife so dull that he can't separate a single pork rib from its rack and abandons his work, telling the diner, "Why don't you just take the whole thing."

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