Saturday, July 16, 2011

Brazilian 'churrascaria' in Abu Dhabi - is it really?

Chamas (Portuguese) = Flames (English)

That might be true everywhere else in the world, but not at Chamas Churrascaria & Bar, located at the Intercontinental Hotel Abu Dhabi.

The flames at the so-called Brazilian ‘churrascaria’ are definitely not burning. In fact, I believe they have been put off for good!

I headed down there yesterday with a couple of friends and couldn’t have left more frustrated.

Ok. The concept is there. I give them that. For a fixed price, you have unlimited access to a salad bar and different types of meat served in skewers and carved right at your table.

But that’s where the similarities end.

Here are a few reasons why…

The popular Brazilian good humor and hospitality are undeniably missing. During the almost two hours we spent at the restaurant, we did not see a single smile and questions were unenthusiastically answered by the grumpy waiters.

In addition, it seems to me that the staff urgently needs to undergo some basic training since they do not seem to grasp the meaning of the green and red cards at the table (green side = more meat / red side = no meat).

‘Samba’ (a Brazilian dance/musical genre with roots in Africa) and 'Bossa Nova' (another style of Brazilian music) are recognized everywhere as a symbol of Brazil. In addition, since Brazil was discovered by the Portuguese on April, 1500, the official language of the country is Portuguese, not Spanish.

So can someone please explain to me why in the hell does Chamas have a latin/salsa band?

The ‘caipirinha’ (alcoholic beverage traditionally made with ‘cachaca’, sugar and lime) is there. But where is the ‘Guarana’ (delicious soda made from a plant found in the Amazon region) that we Brazilians miss so much? What about the juices made from tropical fruits like ‘caju' or ‘maracuja’?

When we go to a ‘churrascaria’ in Brazil we enjoy delicious entrees before we head to the salad bar or release the carnivorous beasts inside us. We get: ‘pastel de queijo’ (cheese pastry somewhat similar to the Arabic sambousek), fried ‘polenta’ (made from cornmeal), ‘aipim’ (manioc)… At Chamas? A crummy-looking plate of fried bananas and fries – and only because we kept asking for it!

Salad bar
While at Chamas we have to settle for basic salad and Arabic dips like moutabel and hummus, in Brazil we satisfy out taste buds by savoring not only the green leaves, but also all sorts of seafood, cheeses, carpaccios (meat, salmon, tuna) and even Japanese food! Oh what a difference!

I don’t even know where to start. This is the most exasperating part of the experience. I mean, when you go to a ‘churrascaria’ you might enjoy the entrees and the salad bar, but what you really look forward to at the end of the day is the meat and the meat and more meat. Right?

In Brazil you have to beg the waiters for a bigger interval between the skewers they bring to your table in order to allow you more time to eat the enormous amounts of meat you have on your plate.

At Chamas things happen slightly different. You have to supplicate the waiters to bring the meat to you - over and over and over again. 

We were told they serve 14 different types of meat. Well, maybe on paper. Or perhaps the meat was devoured by a lion on the way from the kitchen. Truth is only five or six kinds of meat reached our table. And no sign of chicken, or lamb, or chicken heart, or sausage (it could even be a halal one!)…

The reality presented by Chamas couldn’t be further from the truth and it really bothers me because people do believe this is the typical Brazilian ‘churrascaria’. NO IT’S NOT!

First thing I’ll do when I get to Brazil next time? Go to a real ‘churrascaria’ and try to cure the trauma caused by Chamas.


  1. Dear Mariana,

    Let me introduce myself first. My name is Christophe Hobeika and I am the E-Commerce Executive at the InterContinental Abu Dhabi.

    I have shared your Chamas experience with our management team at InterContinental Abu Dhabi and we appreciate your points of concern and suggestions. We do agree with you on some points where there is a room for improvement. We are also sharing your concern with our Chamas team as we value the opinion of our guests and we hope you will have a better experience the next time you visit us.

    Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any further questions or concerns.

    The management of InterContinental Abu Dhabi.

  2. Dear Christophe,

    Great to hear from you and to know you have passed along some of my thoughts to the Chamas team. I was actually trying to figure out who I should send my feedback to at Intercontinental.

    I truly believe you have the basis to create an extraordinary experience for your guests. But as of now, unfortunately, this is not happening.

    If the Chamas team would like to get in touch with me for any additional information or feedback, please feel free to pass my email ( on to them.



  3. Dear Mariana :
    Very adequate your comments about the concepts of "churrascaria" and the very professional reply of Mr. Hobeika. I still remember a wonderful dinner I had this year with my family in Abu Dhabi in one Italian Restaurant ... to my surprise, a superb italian cuisine. I hope next time I go to Abu Dhabi I will find an authentic Chamas Churrascaria.

  4. I will tell the reality. They use to have a lot of brazilian staff and even a brazilian band,but the reality is that they pay peanuts and offer only single status jobs, so the people vanish for better jobs.Only the poor indians and pakis around there and no clue how to serve a real Churrasco. It was really good when the Chef and manager were Brazilians,and waiters as well.
    Talking about Abu Dhabi,we should talk about Etihad as well. They used to be a nice employer for us pilots,but now they are a cheap outfit ,using a terrible way to manage.

    As the Indians say : What to Do!!

    By the Way great Blog . Let´s Enjoy the Winter times in AUH!