For a handful of years, our company would stay at the Mirage - still one of my favorite Las Vegas hotels - during the annual Consumer Electronics Show. The past couple of years we have rented a large house that has turned out pretty nice in terms of comfort and accommodations. It's better to go back to a home at the end of a long day than to go to a hotel. One evening, one of our manufacturers asked us if we'd care to join them for dinner at Samba, a Brazilian rodizio-style steakhouse that I'd walked by numerous times when we stayed at the Mirage, but had never been to. Always up for a free meal from a manufacturer, I joined a group of about 16 people for dinner at Samba one evening.
I've gotten to the point that if we're in a group of more than 10 people at a restaurant, you can pretty much be guaranteed that the food and will suffer. So I went into our meal at Samba without a lot of hope that the food that evening would be all that great. At least compared to the steaks that we got from Larry's Great Western Meats that we had at our rental home a couple of nights. At right are a couple flat pans of beef tenderloin filets that I cooked for our group of 14 guys one evening.
At Samba, if you wanted to get beef tenderloin filets as part of the never-ending revolving selections of meat they serve you, it would have cost $49.95 each. If they didn't serve you the beef tenderloin, it would be $39.95 per person. We didn't want to appear to be rude to our hosts and we declined the beef tenderloin option. As my colleague Ian said, "I'm guessing they wouldn't be as good as the ones we got at Larry's." Even though Larry's supplies steaks to a number of restaurants in and around Las Vegas, Samba appeared not to be one of those types of places.
The interior of Samba isn't all that large. It featured a colorful motif with accented lighting around the walls and into the ceiling of the space. Evidently, you were to get the feeling that you were in a Brazilian rain forest with the decor in the place. There was a small open kitchen in the main dining area with a modernistic bar off to the side.
We were seated in the back of the place at a long table to accommodate our larger group. It was sort of cramped with guys seated along a wall and those in the middle having no way out except for making others along the way move out of the way in case they needed to get up and use the restroom. One of my colleagues actually crawled under the table to get out rather than make three or four guys on either side of him get up so he could go to the restroom.
We had a pleasant middle-aged lady as our lead server that evening. She was sort of sassy and had a good demeanor for putting up with 16 conventioneers. My boss decided that he wanted to have good wine for the meal, so he made a deal with our hosts that if they bought the meal, he would buy the wine. And he stepped up to the plate in a big way by ordering multiple bottles throughout the meal of the 2012 Jordan Cabernet.
Samba was much different from other Brazilian steakhouses that I've been to - it didn't have a salad bar. That's a staple of many Brazilian steakhouses - they want you to load up on the salad bar as part of the prix fixe meal so you don't eat as much meat. The first thing they brought out at Samba was a Caesar's salad and some small soft rolls. Now, the salad was pretty nondescript, but the rolls - with a spicy olive oil dipping sauce - were pretty good. I was pretty hungry, not having any lunch that day since we were busy in our suites for the show, so the rolls were pretty tasty with the dipping oil.
After finishing the salads and most of the rolls, some servers brought out bowls of rice with black beans, some mixed veggie dishes, plantains, and - interestingly - some guacamole on the side to go along with the meat. I wasn't really interested in that stuff all that much. From there, the meat started to come out. Well, it sort of started to come out. The first thing that they brought out were small bacon-wrapped turkey filets. I was expecting more meat to come shortly, so I only got one little slice of the turkey. And it sort of sat there forlorn looking. My colleague Matt was seated next to me and he dished out some of the rice and black beans onto my plate so the turkey wouldn't be so lonely. I just sort of laughed and had to take a picture of the sparse amount of food on my plate. I did try some of the rice and black beans and they were actually pretty good.
A few moments after that, more meat came out to the table. It was like six or seven guys came out all at once with different types of meat. Some of the meats they brought out were sirloin steak and pork tenderloin. The sirloin looked promising - it had a nice rare color to the steak. But it was tough and chewy. The pork was overcooked and tough to chew, as well. The turkey was all right, but I'm not all that big on turkey. I think they only brought six different varieties of meat to the table - the sirloin was the only beef. I was kind of waiting for some other types of meat to be brought to the table, but they kept bringing the same stuff - turkey, sirloin beef, Portuguese sausage, grilled lamb, pork loin, and small chicken thighs. I may have tried some of the lamb, but I wanted more beef. Once I figured out that this was all they were going to serve us, I resigned myself to that fact and concentrated on drinking more wine.
Because of the close quarters, we were close to other tables in the back of the restaurant. There were two couples seated at a table right behind me and I could hear one of them complaining that the grilled salmon that was served to her was terribly overcooked. I heard a male voice behind me say, "Sorry, guys. This was a bad decision on our part."
Other than the excellent Jordan Cabernet that we had with the meal, there wasn't much good to talk about with the meats we were served at Samba. I just thought it was rather strange that they didn't bring out more varieties of meat - especially beef - like other Brazilian rodizio-style steakhouses I've been to. The service was fine, but the food was not all that great. I went into the meal not expecting all that much, but I was even more disappointed with what I was served that evening. Call me a grilled-meat snob, but I know what I like and I didn't like Samba.