March 25, 2008

Fogo de Chao

There is something about a restaurant where men run around with swords skewered with meat. You would expect this to be something that happened only once in a blue moon. Something awful must have happened in the kitchen. The chef is running around crazy trying to stab his sous chefs because they sent out an underdone steak or overcooked risotto. Fogo de Chao, a chain of Brazilian Churrascaria (aka steakhouse) is a restaurant where you consistently see men running with swords of meat.

Located right off of the Inner Harbor, Fogo brings a unique dining experience to patrons. To start you are pointed to the salad bar. I am normally turned off by salad bars, not because I don't like salad, rather I am never happy with the mix of build your own ingredients and mayo based picnic fair. Fogo's bar had a pretty good selection. A mix of smoked Salmon, Marinated Mushrooms, Asparagus - white and green, Mozzarella and Tomato salad, all and all a really great spread... BUT IT IS A ROUSE.

The salad bar is a distraction. The star of the show is the fourteen cuts of meat that are proudly brought to your table by the faster than fast Gauchos, who will politely slice off a piece for you to enjoy. In order to prevent you being asked every three seconds if you would like a new cut Fogo imploys the "Button System". You are given a coaster like device, one side is green and one side is red. Since most of you are from a town with at least one intersection, I am sure you have all seen a traffic signal before. You can extrapolate the meaning of each side of the button from that. The only issue that I have with the button system is ensuring you are getting a taste of each cut. You still end up turning away the guy with the rib eye and the guy with the bacon wrapped fillet in order to get to the guy with the lamb chops.

The meat was all very tasty. Cooked over open flame, everything has a nice smokey flavor to it, and you can really taste the differences between different cuts. My personal favorites included the salt and garlic sirloin called Picanha, and the bottom sirloin known as Fraldinha. Others enjoyed the lamb chops and bacon wrapped fillet and chicken. My only complaint about the meat is that there is no good direct accompaniment. I am not asking for A1 or anything, but there are things other than salt and pepper that could enhance the taste of the wares emanating from the Fogo kitchen. The fried polenta and mashed potatoes are pretty good, with the

With all the the hustle an bustle of this restaurant there are a couple of tips that people should follow when headed to Fogo:

  1. Reservations - Particularly for a large group you are going to want to make these in advance. While a party of two would have no problem walking in, anything more than that could be difficult.
  2. Go for Lunch - The price is much cheaper for the lunch meal. There is also a salad bar only option, but i wouldn't suggest it. As good as the salad bar is, I am not sure it is a meal.
  3. DON'T BRING SMALL CHILDREN - I cannot stress this enough. When we visited Fogo there was a large family with a toddler walking around on the floor. It almost became entertaining to see if the Gauchos could bob and weave there way around the kid. Upon further reflection leave your kids at home, you never know what could happen, your kid may end up looking like bottom sirloin.

  4. Get a Glass of Wine - This was a mistake made by my party. When you have that many different kinds of meat there is something about a glass of wine that really cleanses the pallet.

  5. Go Slow and Enjoy the Show - Fogo is really a dining experience rather than just a meal. There is a great deal of fanfare in the way the meat is run out of the kitchen.

Overall I think the Fogo is a pretty accessible meal. It is in between a standard steakhouse and fine dining. It is something you should experience, but not a weekly meal. If you go more than once every six months make sure you have regular heart checkups.

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