Tucanos is a pretty ridiculous place, as even its motto suggests. Posted by a hostess stand that's seemingly always surrounded by at least 15 people, it promises fulfillment of "even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests."
Apparently, then, I'm secretly a sucker for a sideshow, because that's what the restaurant does best. There's a manic energy to the colorful dining room that's sort of attractive at first, but quickly exhausting. A central salad "festival" acts as the hub; around it swirl parents loading plates, greeters seating pairs, skewer-sporting servers venturing forth to carve with conviction, others pitching diners with gusto, drink runners, bussers with black tubs, and earpieced managers in collared shirts.
Anticipating the emotional response, servers immediately seek to soothe with opening greetings that offer repeated promises of a real easy, real cool time. Meanwhile, the house music thumps overhead; bodies go whizzing by; and in the corner, some poor patron's birthday results in at least seven servers clapping, shouting and singing while shaking maracas and tambourines.
It's as if the restaurant fears a slower pace might let people notice they're paying a lot for food that's not entirely worth it.
The idea is to buy an all-you-can-eat meal of meats ($13.95/lunch; $20.95/dinner), most skewered and delivered table side churrasco-style, and then complement that with the vegetable offerings. It's a decent deal, considering the salad bar on its own is between $11 and $14.
Though big, it essentially offers your typical lettuce post — complete with dressings, beets and bacon bits — and additions like a mediocre lobster bisque, standard meat and cheese bits, and OK bean-salad and pasta options. On the other hand, the mango sushi's not as mushy as it looks, the crab salad's actually great, and the fried banana chunks are everything you'd want in hot fruit goo.
But it feels superfluous, considering meat's the master here.
So, by manipulating a green-for-go, red-for-stop tabletop cue, you control your interactions with streams of servers buzzing by with whatever they've got. In our visits, this included some sticky pork loin; overly chewy beef tenderloin; disgusting mango Alaskan pollock that finished like fish candy; greasy, button-mushroom-sized chicken hearts; basic sugar-glazed ham; and a skewer of undercooked bacon-wrapped scallops (an additional $10.95) that had the texture of wet scrambled eggs.
There's some good, even great, though: the garlic-Parmesan beef, and its crisped, chewy edges; the shredded, if salty, brisket; some saucy hot wings; honey-barbecue chicken thighs; good Xingu beer ($5.50), like a lighter 1554; and smooth, cloudy, cachaça-heavy caipirinhas ($7), which taste similar to margaritas with the sweet-and-sour dialed all the way down.
Among other things, dessert offers a thick, 8-inch-long piece of very sweet, very dense chocolate cake ($7.95). Appetizers were forgettable: the calamari ($8.95) chewy and boring; the nachos ($6.95), with salty shredded beef, nice enough; and the Taste of Brazil ($7.95), six golf-ball-sized rounds of gummy fried dough filled with different meats and cheeses, just bad.
So, go once — there's certainly something to be said for a spectacle. Just count on an expensive, uneven time with variable food, and service that ranges from overenthusiastic to apathetic. Take one server's response to a question of what the pale-orange mayonnaise-like goop was on one appetizer plate: "It's just a sauce," she said. "I have no idea."