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Havens for Hard-Core Carnivores

With the opening of Texas de Brazil in Regency Square in December, Richmond has a total of two churrascarias — traditional South American restaurants where meat is king.

Out on Cox Road in Henrico County, Ipanema Grill is often filled with groups of men who work nearby and keep the skewer-wielding gauchos busy carving beef and sausages in the bright, open dining room.

It's an entirely different atmosphere at Texas de Brazil, which poured $5 million into the design and installation of its local restaurant, the 10th in a chain scattered from Dallas to Chicago to Aruba. Intricate wood and metal detailing, glowing red and gold walls and bar, lively music and private party rooms give the space a clublike finesse.

The chain's Wine Spectator awards reflect a serious interest in wines, and bottles range from moderate to extravagant. Diners can watch as 15 meats are grilled on open flames and choose from a bounty of salads, sushi and vegetable dishes displayed beneath towering tropical floral arrangements. Owners are positioning the place as a destination restaurant; Taubman Centers offered a sweetheart deal to secure the upscale tenant for Regency Square.

Both restaurants operate on a prix fixe system. Customers use red and green placards to signal the gauchos to carve more meats tableside.

New Year's Veggie Evolution

Chef Jannequin Bennett, Richmond's vegetarian cooking authority, will prepare a vegan dinner at the Jefferson Hotel's Rotunda, Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m. The Vegetarian Society of Richmond hosts the event as a fundraiser for its outreach activities, such as the city's annual vegetarian festival, chili cookoff and Healthy Child Initiative.

The evening begins with a spread of raw and cooked Middle Eastern mezze; entrees are seitan marsala, shiitake croquettes, and wild mushroom and tempeh cazuela with noodles. A winter salad and fruit-based desserts are also featured. The fee of $45 for members, $50 for others includes beverage, tax, gratuity, door prizes and piano music by Marcia Perkins. Call 344-4356 for information.

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