At the front door of the glass-exterior restaurant in Boeung Keng Kang I a mannequin in colourful carnival costume welcomes a mix of local and international diners to sample and savour a variety of Brazilian-style meats.
While Amigos Brazilian Steakhouse boasts a nice decor with clean and comfortable seating it’s the 15 kinds of meat on offer that sets the churrascaria apart.
Amigos was founded by the two Brazilians friends, Michel Peter and Daniel Lira, who have worked in Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Laos before settling in Cambodia.
When thinking about what to name the restaurant, the founders thought about friendship and the hardships they have gone through together.
They were also looking for something simple that people could easily comprehend and recognise. Amigos is Spanish and means “friends” in English and “pouk mak” in Khmer.
They opened Amigos last year following the success of their other Brazilian restaurant, Samba, which is now under new ownership.
“We were the first and only Brazilian steakhouse at that time. But our first one was called Samba in Toul Kork. Then we opened another one near Independence Monument.
”For Amigos, we only have one in Cambodia and it opened last November.” says Peter, 43.
The restaurant is a two-storey building decorated with comfortable tables, chairs and sofa around the buffet stations.
It also has a few private rooms for private gatherings and special occasions where diners can enjoy personal space with their family and friends.
Amigos serves organic, high-quality, selective meats imported from the US, Australia and New Zealand.
Peter, as an owner and chef, says he follows the same concept as Brazilian culture steakhouses he has worked in – buffets and grills.
He says he designed the atmosphere to make customers feel like they are in Brazil. The quality of the taste, especially how they cut and serve the meat, which is cautiously cooked by him and his partner, Daniel and another chef from Brazil.
The restaurant focuses on the meat while the buffet is just a compliment. And patrons flock to enjoy various meats because they know it will taste delicious.
“Because we’ve been here for quite long, we’ve gained the trust of our patrons. We have our regular customers. They have tried other restaurants but they tell us they come back because of the quality and service,” Peter says.
The food is not 100 per cent Brazilian but mixed with a bit of Asian and Western meaning the ingredients can be easily sourced here.
More than 60 per cent of their diners are local customers who come for the beef rib and the US and Brazilian cheese bread.
A tender steak from the rib, for example, has a marbled texture – various amounts of intramuscular fat – that yields a great taste.
Brazilian cheese bread is a small, baked cheese roll made with tapioca flour, milk, eggs, olive oil, and cheese.
“It’s a popular snack and a breakfast dish in Brazil. The taste is elegantly fine and just right for Cambodia,” Peter says.
But Peter says international clients prefer more for western-like steak dishes. He stresses the importance of cutting and serving steak that is unique to the authenticity of a Brazilian restaurant.
“While the customers have their buffet, the staff comes around frequently to each table holding a stick of various meats and describing the names of the cuts for each customer,” he says.
Amigos is open for lunch with a $9.95 per person meal and dinners starting at $16.50 each.
The price of a meal depends on how many types of meat a customer wants, but also includes a buffet of hot dishes, salad, cold cuts, desserts and fruits. Prices range from a $9.95 set with six grill types to $29.95 with 15 types.
Grill types are Beef Rib, Beef Hump, Rump Steak, Sirloin Steak, Garlic Steak, Beef with Chinese, Smoked Duck Breast, Smoked Pork Ham, Chicken Wings, Pork Sausages, Dory Fish Fillet, Chicken Heart, Lamb of Leg, Shrimp Bacon and Pork Char Siew.
Co-founder Daniel Lira, 36, says: “Every week we change the menu so customers can come and have something new.
“Before Covid-19, we averaged around 2,000 customers per month. It’s a tougher situation now and we average around 200 customers.”
To keep them coming, the founders have tried to be more cautious of hygiene and they have done some promotion, including making Facebook videos to gain trust.
“We want to improve by adding items – more salads, desserts and seafood so that the customers know they have more choices,” Peter says.
Still, the biggest challenge is understanding the wants and needs of their patrons.
“It was hard for us to maintain the quality and consistency of food. Some can say it’s a bit salty, others sweet. Last time it tasted good but now it doesn’t.
“Therefore, we tell our staff to go around and check. Sometimes we will join them to ask about the food, the lighting and the temperature to make sure customers are satisfied. If not it will be corrected immediately.
“We have trained our local staff to be more professional and authentic to what we did in Brazil. That they should not just simply say the meat when the customers ask, they need to tell them what it tastes like,” Lira told The Post.
The friends plan to open another restaurant next year with the same concept but a broader space in the same neighbourhood. The name of the restaurant will be Amigos Prime.
The partners say many customers have requested a bigger space that can accommodate up to 200 people for events like weddings, company parties, or birthday celebrations.
For now, Amigos offers catering service for events in Phnom Penh and other provinces.
Contact: 078 853 441; 081 956 220; and 078 853 441
Amigos Brazilian Steakhouse is located at 245CEo, Street 63 corner with Street 400, in BKK1, Phnom Penh. Contact number 078 853 441; 081 956 220.