Unlike traditional venues which serve churrascaria, the menu at Brazilian restaurant Piqueos comprises dishes other than the usual meat market which would make a vegetarian turn for the hills.
Extremely helpful, the restaurant agrees to open half an hour earlier at 5pm to accommodate the underage members in our party – however it’s not advised to bring small children as there’s not much to entertain them in the way of distractions.
Piqueos is a simple place, defined by its food and unpretentious in decor.
I commence with the Ostra Con Leche de Tigre: a single oyster filled with soy, fish roe and tiger’s milk.
I’m simultaneously repelled and entranced by the idea of consuming the bodily fluids of a big cat, until I discover the latter is the Peruvian term for a marinade made from citrus that cures the seafood in a ceviche dish (raw fish cured in citrus juices).
Tingling the senses, the oyster contains lime juice, sliced onion, chillies, salt, and pepper as well as the natural juice of the oyster.
The Don Juan Chorizo is heady in flavour, giving off a sourness with vinegar soaked tomatoes which permeates the flesh.
The meat has been charred to perfection, dark around the edges with a smoky resonance.
The pork belly has been well marinated to leave it slightly sweet with a soy base, but not so much as to make it overpowering.
The skin has been crackled to a well-done crisp, however the overall delicacy of the flavour comes across as more Asian compared to other barbecue flavours.
The meat has not too much fat on the skin, making it slightly less sinful than usual.
The Lomito is a dish comprising lamb loin, which has a gorgeous hit of thyme and falls apart without much effort thanks to its pillowy soft texture.
Although slightly underwhelming in size overall, the accompanying sauce has a slight piquancy which goes well with the ruggedness of the meat.
The Tira de Asado is the seeming hero of the menu – slow cooked for 48 hours, these BBQ beef ribs are slathered in a traditional Brazilian sauce called chimmichurri, which is prepared specially for grilled meat.
It contains a mix of herbs: finely-chopped parsley, minced garlic, sunflower oil, oregano, and white vinegar which imparts a burst of sourness that disintegrates on the palate and bubbles around the mouth.
The softness of the meat is evident by the slow-cooking, resulting in charred, robust flesh with a smokey flavour, with almost strategically placed, tiny slivers of fat around the bone area.
The combination of preparation and superior quality of meat makes this a dish worth remembering.
Piqueos certainly does not disappoint in the flavour stakes; although the menu is heavily reliant on non-vegetarian fare, there are a few options for the vegetarians and the health-conscious with quinoa, palm hearts, corn croquette and provolone cheese.
The establishment also specialises in Brazilian cocktails, which pack a cheeky punch to the palate when paired with the sourness of the grilled meat dishes.
Piqueos is located at 298 Rathdowne St, Carlton North, Melbourne.