Skewered Meats: Rump Steak, Lamb, Top Sirloin with Bacon, Pork, Chicken with Bacon, Chicken Hearts, Eye of Round, Chicken Wings, Pork Sausage, Chicken Breast, and Pineapple; Full Meat Service Buffet: Rice, Greens, Cassava (Yuca), Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Buns), Lasagna, Abobora (Stewed Pumpkin); Passion Fruit (Maracuja) Mousse
Occupation: Mystery Shopper and Homemaker
Location: San Bruno
Favorite Restaurant: Cleo's Brazilian Steakhouse
Reviewed Cleo's Brazilian Steakhouse: Saturday May 19, 2007
When we have plans to go to Cleo’s, we want to think ahead and starve for at least half the day. Trust me, there will be no shortage of food when you get there. We walked in on a Saturday night, and there was a man singing with a guitar, which put us in the Brazilian mood.
We all ordered the full meat buffet, which, in my opinion, is the only thing one should order here. First you go to a buffet area with salads and hot dishes that you have go easy on to save your stomach. There have been some different items on each visit, which is great. I love trying some of the more exotic vegetable dishes here, and the lasagna is great, even though most of the time I don’t have enough stomach room for it. They bring out fried bananas to your table. I have tried many fried bananas and these are my favorite, they are ripe and sweet with a light and crispy batter.
Then the meat starts coming! They bring out a huge skewer of meat to your table, hot from their rotisserie oven. The menu says there are 12 kinds. You choose what piece you would like, and they cut it for you, while you use your tongs to take it from the skewer. On this visit the first one -- top sirloin steak -- came, and then we knew we had to pace ourselves! This steak was cooked perfectly, and they put a flavorful rub on the outside of everything. One after the other, something different came out, and we loved seeing what was coming next. There was tri-tip, bacon-wrapped chicken breasts, brisket, eye of round, pork, sausage, lamb, chicken hearts (I’m always the only one at our table to take these and yes, I actually love them!), chicken wings, and pineapple with cinnamon. So the food kept coming and coming, and of course, you could ask for more of anything, and they were very friendly about accommodating whatever you’d like. I believe the earlier you get there at dinnertime the better, before some of the meat might get overcooked. The pineapple was wonderful, after being on the rotisserie it was sweet and juicy and the cinnamon gave it a great flavor. After we were full -- actually, stuffed -- with meat, we asked for more fried bananas for dessert, yum!
Not only do we really enjoy the food at Cleo’s, but the whole experience is fun and exotic. We like that this is a low-key casual place that the kids love, and the price is right for this outrageous feast. This is paradise for meat lovers, so we love bringing our carnivorous friends here.
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Postrio
Reviewed Cleo's Brazilian Steakhouse: Thursday, May 31, 2007
Having spent every January for the past four years in Brazil, I was excited to go to this churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse), even though it was in San Bruno and not in Rio. When you travel (or are from another country, I suppose), it’s comforting to be able to find these familiar foods and restaurants where you reside.
If you don’t know the area where Cleo’s is, you can miss the place, as we did. It’s on busy Camino Real in San Bruno, next to a Mexican restaurant I’d like to try, and Mr. Pizza Man. We got a parking spot out front, which is always a selling point for San Franciscans. Cleo’s is non-descript. It’s sort of a cafeteria-type environment with nice tablecloths, sans the lunch ladies. The wooden chairs are a tad hard, and the ambience is nice and quiet. There was no wait, which always concerns me, but as our dinner progressed, the restaurant filled up. The staff was very friendly and was receptive to my pidgin Portuguese, so that was an enjoyable aspect of the evening, for me at least. But frankly, the food was mediocre. My friend is more of an entrée kind of gal and ordered Red Snapper: Sauteed with Capers and Lemon Butter Sauce. I tasted it. It was OK, but no great shakes. I, on the other hand, being indecisive and living for the “some of everything” option, AND being versed in the churrascaria experience, went for Door #1: the buffet.
A server comes around to your table and offers you slices of different kinds of meat, one at a time (12, according to the web site) from a skewer, but all the meat I tried was tough and way too salty. In Brazil, the meat served at the churrascarias is juicy and tasty and not overly salty. The pineapple (with cinnamon) was a tasty treat, but it showed up on the bill as an extra $3 -- no big deal, but one would just think that it was included. The buffet was OK, but not fabulous. (Rice, greens, cassava, pão de queijo -- Brazilian cheese buns -- lasagna, yummy stewed pumpkin -- abóbora). There were several items I couldn’t eat because they contained dairy.
The restaurant, except for the wonderfully friendly staff, was somewhat of a disappointment. Was it because I’ve been to the real thing in Brazil, where the buffet was 4x the size and had tons of variety including sushi? We sat a couple of tables away from the kitchen as someone on Yelp.com had suggested -- not at the first table because then you get the outside of the meat, and not too far because then it’s cold by the time it gets to you. But all the cuts tasted the same to me (dry and salty). The price of the buffet ($19.99) was alluring especially since the churrascaria in San Francisco, that I have not been to, charges $35. The homemade Passion Fruit (Maracuja) Mousse was to die for -- light and fluffy and not too sweet. It was PERFECT. (There’s cream in it, but I made a concession and ate some; I did some Hail Mary’s first. Don’t tell my rabbi.) I’d drive back down to San Bruno for the dessert in a second. Hell, I’d drive to San Jose. That’s not true. My friend had a glass of Chardonnay which she said was no big deal, and my glass of fresh abacaxi (pineapple) juice was refreshing and wasn’t weighed down with too much sugar. As we waited for the check that didn’t come, I fondly remembered the Brazilian custom of not bringing the customer the check until s/he asks for it. It’s laidback, and you don’t feel rushed, but if you don’t know about it, it can make an American antsy and impatient. I find it novel; it transported me back to Brazil without the long flight.
All in all, except for shooting the breeze in Portuguese and wading in a nice, plump wine glass of passion fruit mousse, Cleo’s needs some culinary improvement. Please! I really wanted to love this place.
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Old Port Lobster Shack
Reviewed Cleo's Brazilian Steakhouse: Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Meat, Meat, Meat, Meat, Meat, and Meat! Attention carnivores! Get your fix inside a Mr. Pizza Man? When I first read of Cleo's Brazilian Steakhouse's location on their webpage, "next to the Super 8 Motel inside Mr. Pizza Man," I was a bit concerned. What had Check, Please! Bay Area gotten me into? However, it was pleasant surprise when we arrived. The Mr. Pizza Man had definitely been upgraded with new tile, fresh paint, and quite a nice bar. While no means highbrow, the interior was quite pleasing.
This Brazilian BBQ joint follows the same formula as nearly all churrascarias that have been popping up around the country over the past ten years. For a fixed price you get unlimited trips to the salad/hot bar and loads of freshly skewered and rotisseried meats. At Cleo’s, it's all about the meat. At our visit, the salad bar was a bit daunting. There was a bit of limp salad and some crusted-over casseroles, but I jumped in and found a few delicious items. The stewed beans, as expected, were quite good, as was the broccoli gratin, and some sort of salad made with what appeared to be a dried, shredded meat with peppers and golden raisins. Don’t know what it was, but it was excellent and the only thing on the salad bar I went back for extras on.
But Cleo’s isn’t about salad. It’s about the meat, and it was executed quite well. For your $16.99, you get TWELVE kinds of meat, brought fresh off the grill and carved off the skewers, tableside. The menu list rump steak, lamb, top sirloin with bacon, pork, chicken with bacon, chicken hearts, eye of round, chicken wings, pork sausage, chicken breast, and pineapple. Honestly, I have no idea how many of these we actually sampled, after six courses of MEAT, I went in to a bit of a food coma. It was, however, very good grilled meat, perhaps a bit salty, but the marinades and rubs married well with the meat. My personal favorites were the sirloin and chicken wings.
Cleo’s is a very good restaurant, and the service is friendly and efficient. I would not make it a destination restaurant. However, it could make for a very fun dinner for a large crowd, as we were leaving, a group of about 15 men, each with a bottle of wine, sat down, and they seemed to be having a blast. I recommend it for those at the San Bruno/Daly City area or those needing a meat fix. Not recommended for vegetarians and cardiologists.