Also referred to as Yolie’s Churrascaria House of Meats, Yolie’s Brazilian Steakhouse has been a steadfast Las Vegas institution for 23 years, and continues to go strong. Situated on the second floor of the Citibank Center, on Paradise Road, Yolie’s has been turning out delectable uniquely-served grilled meats for decades, making it a time-honored tradition supported by its unerring quality of food. Yolie’s is an introduction to ‘the Brazilian way,’ encouraging guests to linger as they enjoy a long, relaxing meal.
My son and I visit Yolie’s early on a Saturday evening. Once inside, we take notice that Yolie’s interior is formal, yet refreshingly unpretentious. The compact but comprehensive bar sits immediately left of the front door, and the dining room tables are all covered with simple white linens and place settings. The chairs are blonde wood, and adorned in green fabric.
Lenny, our server and gastronomic guide for everything Brazilian, introduces us to this unique menu and style of dining. The meal we enjoy may be described as a dinner show of sorts – the “Yolie’s Famous Grill” meal is served tableside, showcasing seven varieties of herb-marinated mesquite-grilled meats. Servers impressively wield knives and skewers to spear and slice beef, pork, and chicken for all to watch. Our senses are piqued by the seductive grilling sounds and aromas emanating from the kitchen, while a broad pane of safety glass offers us a view of how all these items are thoughtfully prepared.
The mammoth “Yolie’s Famous Grill” includes soup or salad, polenta squares and potatoes, seven grilled meats, vegetables, and rice. And luckily, aside from the soup and salad that are served individually, this banquet is meant to be served family-style.
The feast begins with bread and an aromatic homemade salsa of tomatoes, cilantro, and onions, topped with freshly chopped parsley. Once we sample the bread, we dive into the soup and House Salad. The salad is fresh and crisp, and is simply dressed with a light Dijon dressing. The Black Bean Soup demands attention with its savory and creamy essence. Add some of their salsa, as Lenny suggests, and the soup is transformed into a lighter, summer-appropriate dish. My son also reluctantly agrees to try a Brazilian soda called Guarana, and happily drinks three more throughout the evening. Lenny brings me Brazil’s national cocktail, Caipirinha. With its assertive flavor and very citrusy tang, this cocktail awakens my taste buds on this hot July evening.
Pacing oneself is crucial when savoring the “Famous Grill,” which includes a tremendous variety of food. Next to arrive is the selection of side dishes. A basket containing freshly fried polenta squares and potatoes is placed on the table. The potatoes are dressed with herbs and salt, and are served with sautéed onions. We are also presented with delicately cooked carrots, broccoli, and rice. These accompaniments, although commonly thought of as fillers, were certainly not to be ignored. Each was prepared with the same skill and precision often reserved for proteins.
We now hunger for the quickly approaching meat-portion of the program. A server arrives at the table with a plate of freshly grilled skewers, and hand slices each one for us. The first meat we try is the fat and sizzling homemade sausage. There’s simply no comparison – Yolie’s herbed and grilled sausage is tender, rich and juicy.
Lenny also brings us a small dish of another salsa, with the caveat that it is habanero-based, and very hot. This salsa is quite spicy, and does warrant the tiny tasting-size spoon that accompanies it. Try it – the complex flavors are worth the fire.
Next, we are served what turns out to be the surprise favorite of the evening: marinated, grilled, and skewered turkey cubes wrapped in bacon. This meat is tender, fresh, aromatic, and easily the most interesting turkey I’ve ever eaten. The bacon holds everything together, and keeps the turkey juicy. The seasonings are also fresh, savory, and bright.
Our unending festival of food continues with fresh-off-the-skewer young spring chicken thighs. The server presents us with an entire row of chicken thighs on the skewer, and places one on each of our plates. The chicken meat falls from the bone with ease and melts in my mouth.
As a short reprieve from the meat-centric courses, Lenny brings us bananas fried in a caramel sauce. The bananas are soft, tender and hot. The caramel sauce is silky, and also provides a stunning sweet/savory contrast when combined with the still to arrive grilled meats.
In fairly short order, we are served the tri-tip of beef, followed by the beef sirloin. Our final two proteins to arrive are pork tenderloin and leg of baby lamb. The pork is delicate, soft and tender, and the herbs gently stand out. The lamb has a mild, earthy flavor.
As if there might be any room left for food, we are presented with dessert – a Crème Brule. The sugar on top is hard and crunchy, and the bottom is cold to the point of being nearly frozen – it’s the most refreshing dessert I could have ever had.
Yolie’s also has a substantial menu completely separate from the Churrascaria (barbecue) meal. However, when going somewhere with such a specialty like The Famous Grill, why not try what they are known for best? The food at Yolie’s is fresh, unique, and fun. The quantities are more than generous, and totally suited for those saddled with the truly hungry.