The only fine dining lil' sis really appreciates is steak and lots of it. So for her birthday, my brother wanted to try Fogo de Chao. He had heard me rave about my experience several years ago at the Fogo de Chao in Dallas. Actually it's technically in Addison, Texas.
If you're not familiar with a churrascaria, it's basically a Brazilian barbecue with lots and lots of meat. According to its website, gauchos (Southern Brazilian cowboys) pierced large pieces of meat and slowly grilled them over open flames. Fogo de Chao elevates the "all-you-can-eat" buffet to a fine dining experience with whirling parades of waiters dressed in gaucho attire weaving between tables with sword-like skewers of various meats.
But here, why don't I just show you.
I think these particular meats were just for show, but it gives you an idea of what I mean when I say large pieces of meat on sword-like skewers.
The lighting in the restaurant was a little weird. Too muted, with an amber glow from the lights and the setting sun, so apologies for the poor photos.
That glass display in the center that reaches up to the second floor is their wine selection. I didn't have any that night, but I'm sure there's lots to choose from.
And there's the salad bar. I felt a little too self-conscious to snap photos up close. But the salad bar is high quality. Marinated artichokes, hearts of palm, gigantic asparagus spears, endive, arugula, tabbouleh, roasted peppers, oh, I can't remember it all.
Let's begin, shall we? Each person gets a disc with green for go and red for stop. Ready to eat meat? Yes please!
This is one of my favorite cuts. The picanha is prime sirloin seasoned with sea salt and garlic. Each person gets a small pair of tongs to grab the meat as the waiter slices off a piece.
I also like the filet mignon, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, alcatra (seasoned top sirloin), fraldinha (seasoned bottom sirloin), beef ancho (seasoned rib eye), and lamb chops. I think those meats are the best seasoned and juiciest. And the most expensive. I gotta get my money's worth!
I pass on the pork loin, pork ribs, leg of lamb, beef ribs, chicken legs, chicken breasts wrapped in bacon, and pork sausage. Rather dry and not as flavorful compared to the other cuts.
Just take this plate and multiply it by three. :P
We also got a Brazilian version of Chimichurri (Argentinian Green Sauce) with all the herbs and a thousand island-ish cream sauce, horseradish, chili peppers, and something else I can't remember. We had multiple refills of the chimichurri and chili pepper sauces so you know those were good.
Since this is Beverly Hills and not Addison, Texas, service was considerably better. Considerably. Well, actually, service bordered on hovering. The minute we sat down and placed our drink orders, we immediately had appetizers placed on our table. Very cool. Except after a while, it became a whirlwind as our sides were replaced before we even ate half the plate. Only one fried banana left? Here, have another plate with three fried bananas. Now, I love my fried bananas, but even I can't eat that quickly! And part of me hopes they're not recycling those appetizer plates onto other tables. Ewww. And the other part of me hopes they're not simply throwing food away because that's such a waste too!
The black beans were good. The mashed potatoes were incredibly smooth. I loved the fried polenta. Obviously the fried bananas were a hit. The farofa I just couldn't get behind. That would be the plate in between the fried polenta and mashed potatoes on the far right of this photo. Made of toasted manioc flour, sometimes seasoned with bacon, it tasted like salty sawdust with Baco Bits. Um, yeah, it was as tasty as the description sounds.
This light and airy-looking cheese puffs are pao de queijo. Think of them as slightly cheesy popovers.
Another lamb chop for moi. If you think lamb is gamey, then you should definitely try Fogo de Chao's. My first time in Addison, I had a little mound of lamb chop bones. They were that good. So succulent. Lil' sis insisted she didn't like lamb either until I made her try a piece of mine.
No thanks! That's enough meat for me.
I made a brief stop at the salad bar so I could get my greens for the day.
And since it was lil' sis's birthday, she got a birthday flan. It was soooo creamy and smooth.
We also ordered their papaya cream for $10. Tasted like papaya pudding. Served so prettily, eh?
So how much will this set you back? Dinner is $52.50 a person for the meats and salad bar, desserts are extra. Just think of it this way, the meat is comparable to other steakhouses. At least here, you get unlimited sides. Other Brazilian churrascarias might have the same concept, but definitely not the same quality.
Starve yourself all day and treat yourself for dinner. Lunch is $34.50, but I'm not sure if you get all the same cuts of meat. I know other churrascarias save the good stuff for dinner, but I've only been at Fogo de Chao twice in my lifetime so I can't say for sure. And for me, it's all about the lamb chops.
September 13, 2010 Update:
Gosh, those original flash photos taken with my Canon SD110 look awfully harsh. Ah, the things I've learned and haven't learned about photography in the meantime. Not that the Canon SD1000 is so much better, but at least I learned not to use flash. And the restaurant's lighting at night is still too dark and weird.
I went back to Fogo de Chao in October 2008 courtesy of an invitation from FoodDigger, a restaurant review site that matches users with similar taste buds. If you have the time to fill out the info for each restaurant, I've heard it's actually good for pairing you up with others who like the same food, or for recommending other restaurants for you.
As usual, I tried to get my fill of lamb chops. Alas, dining with strangers made me more self-conscious and I didn't gnaw the meat off the bones. I'm sure Aaron of Destination Eats, who sat across from me appreciated my more refined eating habits that evening. Ha!
The FoodDigger folks also brought several bottles of wine for the occasion.
And treated us to dessert on top of dinner. This time I chose the creme brulee.
Thanks FoodDigger for the lovely dinner!
In February 2010, I was back again for lunch during DineLA with lil' sis's best friend and Gourmet Pigs. The normally $34.50 lunch was $28 during DineLA AND included dessert since the participating restaurants had to offer up three-course meals. Desserts are normally $10. We had full access to the salad bar and all of the meats I've enjoyed before so, even without dessert, it was still a great deal.
I chose key lime pie, which just tasted like every other key lime pie I've ever eaten. But it was nicely plated, and in all honesty, I was still too full from all the meat to enjoy it anyway.
Gourmet Pigs and lil' sis's best friend chose the papaya cream, which is also supposed to help you digest. And after all that meat, I felt like I should've stuck with the papaya cream too.
Anyway, DineLA is coming up again October 3 to 8 and 10 to 15 so if you've been wanting to try Fogo de Chao, I highly recommend it. Dinner, which is normally $56.50 will be $44 during DineLA. Fogo doesn't do lunch on weekends.
The only difference I noted was that service was much, much better during my normal dinners than during DineLA. Side dishes and sauces were generously given and replaced rapidly. During DineLA, I had to ask for refills. So service wasn't bad, just not as attentive.
I told lil' sis and she couldn't wait to try it again. And oldest nephew has never eaten Brazilian barbecue.
Seems like oldest nephew hasn't tried a lot of things, said my brother. That's because he's spent his whole life in Portland and Seattle, I said. We didn't try all these different cuisines until we moved to SoCal either. :)
Who else ate at Fogo de Chao?
Gourmet Pigs blogged about our DineLA meal and as she puts it $34.50 + $10 dessert = $28.
Other Brazilian restaurants:
Taste of Brazil - Los AngelesFogo de Chao
133 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Saturday 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Sunday 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.