Xodó Grill: Orange's Half-Cooked Churrascaria

Xodó Grill opened six weeks ago in a space occupied by a dusty old
Italian-American place, in a hard-to-see plaza behind the Golden Spoon
on Orange's Tustin Street. Orange County doesn't have many Brazilian
restaurants, and even fewer por kilo churrascarias, where you pay by the
pound, and so the local food world–myself included–got a little bit

Sadly, the food quenched that excitement.

It started with the cold bar–cold canned corn salad, hearts of palm that tasted unrinsed, pão de queijo (cheese rolls) that had gone gluey because they weren't kept hot enough, and caprese salad that had tiny squares of sliced supermarket mozzarella cheese instead of the traditional slices of fresh mozzarella.

Feijoada is usually its own meal in Brazil, taken as the only food of the day, but Brazilian-American churrascarias serve it on the bar. I love having feijoada, rice, and farofa (toasted cassava flour), even though I know it's heavy, but it's usually delicious filler. Not at Xodó, though. How is it possible to take such flavorful ingredients as pork, beans, and garlic and have them turn into such a bland, soulless dish? My daughter tasted it and said, “Daddy, this doesn't taste like anything.” When the cassava flour has more flavor than the pork stew, you're doing it wrong.

The linguiças–those fat, juicy pork sausages that ought to be considered one of the gateway drugs for former vegetarians–was as satisfying as ever. The alcatra–top sirloin–had a great crust, though I longed for it to be more rare. I asked for a second piece, hoping to get a piece from the pink center, but instead I got another outside crusty piece.

The picanha–the sirloin cap, the pride and joy of every churrascaria–was desperately oversalted, cooked well-done throughout, and trying to eat the fat cap, which is sort of the point of having picanha in the first place, was like trying to cut concentric layers of rubber bands. I left it on my plate.

The worst problem, however, was not the food itself, but watching the staff take skewers of partially cooked meat from the kitchen, unwrap them on the same cutting board used for slicing finished meat, and then put them in the churrasqueira to finish cooking. I'm no fan of the nanny state, but common sense says to use separate boards for that.

It's really a shame the food doesn't measure up, because the staff are solicitous and truly want you to enjoy their restaurant; it never felt like they hovered, but whenever we paused to look at something, they'd explain what it was. The prices are fair–$7.25 a pound for the cold bar only, $8.49 a pound for mixed cold bar and churrasco, $11.75 a pound for churrasco only.

Sadly, Brazilian food in Orange County is still something to be dreamed of. The closest attempt was not by Brazilians or Koreans but by an Argentine, when Jose Piaggio opened Carvão Grill up in Brea's ever-changing downtown. We can only just keep hoping for a kick-ass churrascaria, a Bahia-style restaurant that serves bobó de camarão and moqueca de peixe, and a laid-back comedor where you can eat feijoada and sip caipirinhas in the shade on a hot Saturday.

Meanwhile, give Xodó a pass.

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