In a vast dining room alive with fiery colors and a chattering clientele, a procession of gaucho-garbed waiters tote skewers bearing huge cuts of meats. Dozens of diners eagerly wait in line to sample a bountiful salad bar featuring fresh vegetables, hearty soups and fresh-baked breads. This is Chima—Center City’s red-hot churrascaria serving an all-you-can-eat parade of meat in an authentic Southern Brazilian fashion. Toss in a full bar and an extensive wine list highlighted by South American selections and it’s clear that Chima is a Brazilian steakhouse with something to offer everyone.Read More ...
Philadelphia is no stranger to the classic steakhouse. In fact, it’s safe to say that almost every upscale neighborhood in this town boasts a variety of places where less than $50 can buy you a juicy, 12-ounce filet seared to perfection or a nice-sized hunk of a flavorful, dry aged porterhouse. Center City’s Chima offers meat-lovers something different: a Brazilian steakhouse where a reasonable price gives guests access to an all-you-can eat parade of over 15 cuts of freshly marinated and roasted meats and fish served rodizio–style. In a rodizio-style restaurant, food is brought to diners’ tables several times during a meal, offering numerous chances to sample various items. Chima is also a churrascaria, serving roasted selections of meats and fish on skewers that are cut to order by the wait staff at each table.
In 2008, Philadelphia’s Chima debuted as the fourth outpost of a national chain named after Chimarrao -- a refreshing, traditional drink of Rio Grande do Sul derived from a Brazilian plant called ’yerba mate.’ The signature drink, which symbolizes hospitality and friendship to Brazilian people, is offered daily at Chima.
In 2004, the first Chima opened in his motherland of Brazil as founder Bruno Silva’s attempt at creating a traditional Brazilian rodizio that emphasized the legend of cowboys called gauchos. Legend has it that gauchos once roamed the plains of Southern Brazil, eating meat that was seasoned and placed on skewers before it was slow-cooked over a wood-burning flame.
Dining here, it is evident that Silva has been successful with his vision because the legend of the gaucho is very much alive at Chima. The spirit of the tradition is captured in everything from the black-and-white photographs of cowboys that dominate the walls of the dining rooms to the wait staff that roams the room in traditional gaucho garb (with gaucho pants, white dress shirts, cowboy neck ties and hats).
We enter Chima through revolving doors to find an impressive hostess area with opulent floors, dark wood fixtures, and chic lighting. A friendly hostess greets us as we peer behind long, black, see-through curtains that offer a glimpse into the main dining room..
We arrive a bit early for our reservation and find ourselves drawn toward an after-work crowd at the restaurant’s bar and lounge area. We each order a glass of Benziger Chardonnay from Napa Valley -- a dry, oaky pick -- and take a seat in a sleek booth with high walls on each side, offering exclusivity and a view of the crowded, sleek, and modern lounge area at the same time. The crowd is full of attractive young professionals, but our eyes are drawn behind the bar where fireplaces located inside of the window sills bear blazing balls of light, offering a unique and exciting affect that sets the pace for the evening.
Once our table is ready, we’re lead into a vast and open dining room with sweeping ceilings and dozens of tables dressed in black and white linens. Long, white booths curve around the perimeter of the dining room, which is dimly lit and alive with conversation. Massive oval lighting fixtures dominate the center of the room. One of them hangs directly above the salad bar, which itself is a sight to behold. The salad bar has over 40 colorful options that will satisfy vegetarians as well as meat-lovers and includes fresh veggies, hearty soups, and warm, fresh baked breads.
Our waiter, Matthew, is friendly and personable as he walks us through the process of dining at Chima. First, we head to the salad bar, which is included in the meal price, and find the offerings to be even more tempting up close. One of our favorites is an authentic black bean stew that is served over white rice and sprinkled with spicy yucca flour. It’s hearty and pleasantly textured with sporadic crunches from the flour, which resembles the consistency of breadcrumbs.
Even though we’ll soon be served more meat than we can handle, we can’t resist the salad bar’s selection of Italian deli meats. The salty Beef Carpaccio is sliced thin and accented by green olive-like flavors from capers and sharp flavors from Parmesan cheese.
We return to our table and Matthew brings out some starters (which come standard with the meal price) presented in little white dishes to accompany our meal. The Cheese Puffs are doughy and packed with a smooth cheddar cheese flavor and a light hint of butter. The Fried Plantains, which look like miniature bananas, are a superb mix of crunchy and soft textures with a hint of sweetness. The whipped mashed potatoes are a favorite because of their creamy texture and ultra-buttery flavor.
Then, we’re ready for the meat. As directed by Matthew, we flip the instructional disc that is provided for each table to the side that says ‘yes, please,’ and suddenly the gauchos start coming out. Each brings a different selection of meat or fish on a long skewer that they’ve marinated and roasted themselves. The gauchos carry large knives with them to assist in cutting whatever sized portion of meat diners request.
The first gaucho offers us a taste of the Filet Mignon and asks us how we’d like it – rare, medium, or well done. We choose ‘medium’ as he slices through the meat like butter, bearing a cut of meat with a slightly pink, very juicy center. The meat is succulent and tender, especially when paired with a velvety glass of Bodega Tamari Malbec. A few visits to our table later, we’re offered an enhanced version of the filet – a filet wrapped in bacon. This dish offered the same tender cut of meat with a single layer of smoky-flavored bacon wrapped around it.
Piping hot skewers of Chicken wrapped in bacon also come to us eventually. The gaucho simply slides a fist-sized hunk of free-range, white meat chicken onto our plates. The chicken is very juicy, even more so than the filet, which is a pleasant surprise; and the bacon is not too crunchy and not too chewy with the same light, smoky taste.
Experienced in the kitchen, we think that roasting is the best way to cook pork loin to keep it from drying out. It’s clear after tasting the Parmesan Encrusted Pork Loin at Chima that preparing it over a grill is an excellent way to do so. The meat is moist and slightly sweet. The Parmesan crust adds a nice slight crunch and salty, cheesy component that blends well with the sweetness of the meat.
While the temptation to stuff ourselves silly with meat is strong, we manage to save room for dessert. We flip our discs to the “no thank you” side to alert the gauchos that we’ve had enough for now and we take a look at the dessert menu.
The Crème Brulee is a delicate, creamy dish with sweet hints of vanilla contrasted by a crunchy top layer of caramelized sugar. The Mango Cream dessert is a vibrant dish with exotic passion fruit flavors and a smooth texture. It’s exciting to look at, let alone taste, with the bright orange-colored cream served in a sundae dish and a hunk of real mango fruit in the center. The deep, roasted flavor of an espresso offsets the light components of both desserts nicely.
Dessert is done and we sit and bask in our total satisfaction. As we take another glance around the massive dining room with a dozen gauchos buzzing about to please diners, there is almost a theatrical aspect to dinner at Chima. If nothing else, the polite, Brazilian cowboys add an authentic touch to this dining experience. Matthew comes to our table with the check and tells us to take our time. We seriously consider letting a bit digest before we flip our discs again, beckoning another delightful parade of meat. Instead we decide we’ll wait until next time because we will most definitely be back.
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The staff was very friendly. My reservation was ready as soon as I arrived. I would recommend this restaurant to my friends and family!
My family really ejoyed our dining experience. We have already made plans to visit again. Keep doing a GREAT JOB and it will keep us coming back for more.
Definitely have a big appetite cause the food is great
Service was A-ONE can't wait to dine there again. I like the idea of the tab system turning over to take a breather and digest your meal. Love the salad bar, and the costumes the wait staff were wearing.
Went to Chima on 6/12/2010 with another couple to celebrate both of our wedding anniversaires. The food, atmosphere and service was excellent. I would recommend this to everyone.
The restaurant was very good in terms of service, atmosphere and food.
The food and service at Chima was very good. We dined with another couple and between the various cuts of beef, chicken, pork, salmon ans tuna along with two bottles of wine a great meal. Service and atmosphere also very good. I will and have recommended Chima to all of my friends.
Food was good - not great. Tough to compare to original but Ok - high priced for Philly. Go to Portuguese section (Ferry Street) in Newark. Much better value and food