The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, December 16, 1999

Acqua debuts
Brazilian barbecue

ACQUA was late to the party when it opened in 1995. By then, the Pacific Rim revolution was approaching its eighth year and anybody who was going to be anybody in the Hawaii movement had already shown up.

Oh, Acqua tried to be different by adding Pacific touches to a Mediterranean menu, but it wasn't enough of a difference to lure foodies away from established favorites.

The beginning of a new millennium calls for change, however, and this time around, Acqua looks like the life of the party, daring to be the first in bringing Brazilian churrasco, or barbecue, to Oahu.

The Rodizio Experience at Acqua


Bullet Address: Hawaiian Regent Hotel, 2552 Kalakaua Ave., third floor; $2 validated parking
Bullet Hours: 6 to 10 p.m. nightly
Bullet Price: $27.95 per person
Bullet Call: 24-0123

A Brazilian menu is something I've often requested here, but it wasn't until Acqua owner Kal Uezu traveled to South America earlier this year to witness firsthand the rodizio style of dining that what I had been saying all along came clear, for a couple of reasons.

First, the Pacific Rim revolution has grown repetitious and we natives are restless, searching for the next big thing.

Secondly, and perhaps wrongfully from a nutritionist's viewpoint, Hawaii diners love meat. We love no-carb diets! We love back-yard barbecues! Acqua simply moves the barbecue indoors into a pleasant, darkened room that's unremarkable save for the waiters scurrying about with large carving knives and two-foot skewers, no, make that swords, filled with meat. I'd tread carefully around this place. Our waiter claimed not to have stabbed anyone yet, but the new menu has only been in place since Dec. 1.

"The Rodizio Experience" serves up fun at $27.95 per person, with unlimited portions of eight kinds of rotisserie-roasted meat that is sliced and served at your table. Side items include fish of the day, polenta, black beans, yucca (mushy), yucca powder, salsa, fried plantains and the Salada de Acqua, a cousin of the Caesar salad.

Eight "entrees" doesn't seem like a lot to sample, but it's plenty, even if you stick to one portion -- about 5 ounces -- per item.

I preferred the more exotic-flavored Frango (garlic-cilantro roasted chicken) to the less flamboyant beef -- Picanha (sea-salt rubbed sirloin cap), Maminha (tri-tip roast) and plain Filet Mignon.

You can't go wrong with Linguico, the zesty, pint-sized Brazilian sausages or Carneiro (leg of lamb). Lombinho (roasted pork) was dry, but got an assist from an accompanying slice of pineapple, and improved more with small spoonful of salsa.

Also offered was a tender Turkey Breast Roulade Wrapped in Bacon and Salmon in a light dill sauce.

If this is not enough food, Acqua offers a la carte appetizers such as Grilled Guava Barbecue Prawns ($9.95) and button-sized Shrimp Crab Cakes ($8.95) , relics of the old menu that are only exciting in anticipation of the meal to follow.

The Rodizio Experience menu does not include dessert, but you can request more of the fried plantains with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Good enough.

Other restaurateurs please note: The churrasco is only one aspect of Brazilian cuisine. There is much more to explore.

See a listing of past restaurants reviewed in the
Do It Electric!

section online. Click the logo to go!

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

-- excellent;
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- average;
-- below average.

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