By Suzanne Parker
As anyone who has spent any time here knows, Queens can lay claim to innumerable good restaurants, and maybe even more than its fair share of great ones.
There is, however, one category of restaurant that we hold dear in a very special way: The Find.
The Find, while having a somewhat imprecise definition, includes — like the Spanish Inquisition — an element of surprise. You walk into an unassuming little joint and are offered outstandingly delicious food at unbelievably low prices. If you’re really lucky, all this occurs in attractive surroundings with friendly welcoming staff.
Well, we found one!
You can check all those boxes for Aroma Brazil on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights.
It is in a style of eateries popular in Brazil, the comida a quilo or “food by kilo value,” a buffet where food is paid for by weight. When you think about it, this is a very green way to dine. Unlike at all-you-can-eat buffets, there is no incentive for you to make a pig of yourself. At least theoretically, the portion size should always be just right. Less food waste. Score one for sustainability.
Start with the meat. Three kinds of beef are on offer: sirloin, top sirloin, and roast beef of indeterminate cut.
On Thursdays skirt steak is added, and on Fridays beef ribs. They heft a skewered hunk of meat from the grill, and ask, with knife blade in position, how large a piece to cut. Once that is determined, they cut your portion into smaller strips.
We asked for, and received, in all three variations, exquisitely rare marinated beef, deeply browned on its exterior.
Other barbecue options include garlicky, succulent sausages of either pork or chicken, and various chicken parts.
Moving on to the buffet, there is a prodigious selection of comestibles. The selection changes from day to day, but certain Brazilian staples are always available.
There is farofa, a grainy powder made from cassava flour used by Brazilians as a topping, condiment, or side dish according to preference. Of course, there’s hot sauce. Then there’s vinaigrette, a lime-infused chopped salad of tomatoes, onions and peppers, used as a meat and all-purpose topping, but quite delicious on its own. Make sure you grab at least one pÃ£o de queijo, a small, chewy, cheesy roll.
The buffet table on the left is filled with a variable array of substantial dishes. If you’re lucky, you’ll find feijoida, the meat and bean filled stew that is the national dish of Brazil. The only dish we would recommend steering clear of is coxinha, a Brazilian conical chicken croquette that is not done any favors by marking time on a buffet.
The second buffet table houses various vegetables and salads, both Brazilian and conventional.
At this time, Aroma Brazil offers no alcoholic beverages. They do have some interesting soft drinks including Guaraná Antarctica, a carbonated beverage made from guarana berries, and cashew juice. Who knew that along with the nuts we’re all familiar with, the cashew plant makes a fruit that produces a delicious tart-sweet juice?
Dessert is not overlooked here. Depending on when you dine, you may find flan, passion fruit mousse, tres leches cake, or something else.
The Bottom Line
If you love good food, appreciate wallet friendly prices, and aren’t looking for elegance in your surroundings, you won’t be disappointed at Aroma Brazil.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at qnsfo
75-13 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights
Price Range: Combo of meat and buffet: $6.99 per pound, meat only: $7.99 per pound, buffet only: $5.99 per pound.
Setting: Small, cheerful
Service: Self service
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7-days-a-week
Alcohol: License pending
Parking: Street, if you’re lucky
Children: Good option
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: yes