Much talk has been going around about the new Brazilian steakhouse (or Churrascaria) which sprung up a couple of weeks ago in the Back Bay. Fogo de Chao (pronounce 'shoun') began in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1979 and has since expanded its concept and dining experience throughout the US. Unlike many of the other restaurant openings we are highly anticipating in and around Boston, Fogo de Chao opened on time, as planned and with no glitches. Truly professional service and delicious meat await anyone who enters this establishment.
On Friday evening I was accompanied by 3 friends to experience Fogo's 'Gaucho-style' of preparing meats. The space is huge and open, and I was amazed at how busy they were (and at how well they handled it).
Luckily, we had a reservation, and I would certainly recommend one. Before sitting down, I went around to check out some of their other amenities, like their wine cellars containing 3000 bottles of wine from all over the world, or their incredible salad bar complete with fresh mozzarella and a huge barrel of Parmesan brimming with excitement. As difficult as it may seem, I suggest you go easy here — there is so much more to come.
Once we were seated, our waiter came over and gave us a run down of the fogo show and got us started with some drinks. Despite their impressive wine list, I could not help but order one of their equally impressive Caipirinhas, a traditional Brazilian drink which is like a mojito, but without the mint. I went for their classic, but they are willing to make it however you want, with interesting Brazilian flavors like passion fruit and acai. With our drinks came another one of my favorite parts of the Fogo meal, their traditional Brazilian buns, shaped like cupcakes, crisp and cheesy on the outside with the most gooey middle. They are made from yucca and baked with Parmesan right from the start...again, try to go easy on these guys.
So how exactly does a Churrascaria work? Well, as you sit down, you will notice a coaster-sized card with a green side and a red side, by your plate. But don't be fooled! This is no ordinary coaster and in fact, it represents the whole system of service at Fogo de Chao. Instead of ordering from a menu, chefs walk around the tables with skewers of various cuts and types of meat that they themselves have just grilled. You simply place your card with the green side up if you want what is going round at a particular time, and red side up, if you want to take a moment to breathe and enjoy the meat in front of you.
With 15 different cuts of meat, you will have to pace yourself, which is difficult because as soon as your card is turned to the green side...chefs with skewers of all kinds of different meats descend upon your table and the last thing you want to do is turn them away. My first two cuts were their Parmesan encrusted pork loin and their roasted pork ribs. What is so fantastic is that, seeing as the chefs have cooked the very meats they serve you, you can ask exactly how rare they are and you can request a particular part of the cut, depending on how you like your meat.
Another favorite of mine was their bacon wrapped chicken and bacon wrapped sirloin. It goes without saying that anything roasted and grilled with a bacony hug always comes out better. Although they provide you with a guide to help you navigate through the different meats, it is always good to keep an ear out for those cuts not on the menu. My ultimate favorite of the evening was a T-bone lamb, grilled to perfection, juicy and slightly charred.
By the end of all this, and a few moments in between, the red side of my card saw the light. If you want to really enjoy all that Fogo has to offer, use your card wisely and don't feel badly about turning away the chefs. After all, you want to save room for some of their Brazilian desserts, like their flan, or perhaps the Fogo de Chao signature Papaya cream dessert; a cross between a milkshake and a smoothie with a light but refreshing papaya taste.
All in all, Fogo is a fun and entertaining way to eat out, perfect for large groups. It is also a great way to try out unusual cuts of meat without having to order a whole steak. I am happy to see Fogo make its first location in Boston such a success.