939 4th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
Fri & Sat: 11am-11pm
Extensive wine list
Large party accommodations
I must have walked past this place dozens of times and had no idea it even existed. One of my friends randomly suggested it so we all decided to give it a shot. I’ll start by saying that I’m having a hard time not gushing over this restaurant because it really was an overall amazing experience! From the impressive spread of side dishes and desserts to the attentive service to the warm atmosphere, Rei do Gado really got it right!
Portuguese for king of the herd, Rei do Gado is just that: With a selection of 17 different kinds of succulent meats. Whether you fancy lamb, pork, chicken, sausage, ham, or beef, they are each cooked to absolute perfection and ready to please your palette.
Before I go any further, I should mention that this isn’t your typical restaurant experience; I’ll explain how it works so you’re in the know! Once sat and drink order taken, guests are welcome to enjoy over 40 deliciously fresh side dishes, presented buffet style. They are serving up traditional Brazilian delicacies including Feijoada, black bean stew, and Moqueca, cod in coconut milk and palm oil, along with familiar favorites such as sliced tomato and fresh mozzarella, fruit and potato salads. No balanced meal would be complete without your daily serving of vegetables so be sure to try the roasted red pepper and eggplant salad, marinated mushrooms, and crisp greenbeans. If you’re looking for some surf to go with your turf, smoked salmon, mussels, shrimp, and prawns are all at your disposal as well.
Now comes the unconventional part: In the middle of the table is a chip with a green side and a red side. When the green side is showing, the passador, or meat waiter, will know to come around and offer you one of the many meat selections. The tender cut will be sliced table side right off the skewer and onto your plate. Simply turn the chip over to the red side if you are finished with your meal; or if you simply need a breather!
While you’re waiting for the passador to come around, sip on a nice tall glass of cashew juice? Yes, cashew juice is on the menu. The drink selections contain the usual iced teas, espresso, wine, and soda, followed by some beverages I have never heard of before and certainly haven’t tasted. Rei do Gado is giving customers the opportunity to try some of their traditional refreshments like Guarana, a highly-caffeinated Brazilian soda, papaya juice, coconut water, and Caipirinha, an extremely popular and very potent Brazilian cocktail made with cachaça, sugar, and lime. You probably didn’t think your adventurous side would be tested by a glass of juice, but like I said this is not your typical restaurant!
WARNING! You are about to enter a brief history lesson!
For centuries, Brazilian cowboys (gauchos) would arrange huge feasts for friends and family surrounded by the concept of skewering their meats and cooking them slowly over a fire. The Churracso (Brazilian BBQ) originated from Rio Grande do Sul, the southern regions of the country, and was meant to demonstrate a healthier way to cook meat and of course, bring people together. Now you can bring family, friends, co-workers, or strangers for that same occasion, all together with this truly unique restaurant experience not soon forgotten!
My advice: Carnivores only! Meat lovers unite, and leave your vegetarian friends at home – or send them here instead. I don’t see them having the same respect for skewered meat that comes up close and personal to each diner. As the side dishes are yummy, the dinner price can be a little steep for someone who is just going to nibble on veggies and not taste every mouthwatering meat, the real center of it all. You can also plan to go for lunch if you’re looking for the same awesome spread, without spending as much!
Side note: The images seen above (do not take them for granted) were the only ones taken before I had a hand put in front of my lens and told to stop taking pictures due to “restaurant policy”. You can take as many mental images as your brain can process — but don’t you dare try to snap a shot!
Afterthought: Whether you plan on dining here or not, you should at least check out their web site if for no other reason than to view a weirdly creative display of animated meat and clanking silverware noises. Reidogado.net
By: Tara Imperatore