Thursday, May 8, 2014

Portland Restaurant: Fogo de Chão

What: Fogo de Chão
Where: 930 SW 6th Ave
Honeys Heart: Caipirinhas & Gaucho Chefs

Confession: I didn't try steak until I got to college. It just wasn't something that my mom ever cooked for us or that my parents ordered when we went out to dinner. Because of that, steak is not really my thing. I mean, I like it but I'm certainly no connoisseur. That's why I was happy that Doug was able to come to last week's preview dinner at Fogo de Chão with me. Helps to have an expert around for these sorts of things!

If you've never heard of it, Fogo de Chão is an authentic Brazilian Churrascaria (steakhouse). It was founded in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1979 and has since expanded to over 32 locations through out Brazil and the United States. Fogo de Chão's claim to fame is that all meats are carved tableside by Brazillian trained "gaucho chefs."

Here's how the whole experience works:

Step 1: Enjoy a Caipirinha at the bar while you wait for your buzzer to signal that your table is ready.

Lime shortage be damned! They don't skimp on ingredients with these things. Each caipirinha is made with 1 lime, a very healthy dose of sugar, a good pour of cachaca (a rum-like spirit distilled from sugarcane juice) and a dash of Sprite. Basically, it's the perfect summertime drink. I'll take 5 more, thanks.

Step 2: Survey the restaurant's layout as you are led to your table. Try not to be awkward when your hostess pushes your chair in for you as you sit down. This is a fancy place after all. (I did not succeed in this, FYI.)

Step 3: Hit up the salad bar, but don't get crazy.

Your $29.50 prix fixe lunch or $49.50 dinner includes as many trips to the salad bar as you want. The salad bar features over 30 selections of fresh cut vegetables, seasonal salads, imported cheeses, and cured meats.

Traditional Brazilian side dishes are also served tableside. These include Pão de Queijo (cheese bread), polenta, and caramelized bananas.

Step 4: The meat! The meat!

You want to take it easy with the salad bar because the meat is the true star at Fogo de Chão (aside from the cute gaucho chefs). When you're ready for the good stuff, turn your double-sided disc to the green side and watch as meat-baring guachos suddenly appear at your table with different cuts of meat.

Fogo de Chao offers 11 different kinds of meat including fillet mignon, beef ancho (rib eye), linguica, lamb, and chicken.

When you've filled you plate with enough meat, turn your disc to the red side, and dig in. When you're ready for more, flip it right back to green again.

Here's what meat expert Doug has to say:

"Having tried nearly every style of meat that Fago de Chão had to offer, I can report that the cuts ranged from top quality to somewhat pedestrian. Hands down, the best option was the Fraldinha (bottom sirloin). I love myself some marble-y red steak, cooked medium and juicy and this cut didn't disappoint. Fogo's signature sirloin - the Picanha - was very good too. Perfectly cooked with a balanced seasoning of salt and pepper, it would hold its own at any respectable steakhouse. The only really disappointing selection of the evening were the Costela de Porco (baby back pork ribs). Ribs are one of my favorite food groups and these fell flat."

Fogo de Chão also offers a wide selection of desserts, but we were too full to partake in any. I did try the Tropical Caipirinha which ended up being sweet enough to qualify as a dessert. It was good though!

Fogo de Chão's prices definitely put it in the "special occasion" category for Doug and I, and we tend to lean more toward spots you would find on this list for that sort of thing. However, if I were a business person looking for an impressive spot to take clients downtown, I would definitely choose Fogo de Chão. The service was excellent, the food was great, and I bet you could close some deals pretty easily with the help of a caipirinha or too.

A big thank you to Fogo de Chão and Little Green Pickle for the invite!