Celebrating in Meat Oblivion
A celebratory dinner in my family rarely stretches beyond its boundaries of Wildfire, Cheesecake Factory or the like. But this time was different. This time we tried something new (well, I did anyway.)
It was my parents’ anniversary and my dad had always wanted to try a Brazilian steakhouse. You know…the glorious kind of place where they walk around with half-mutilated pieces of cow, lamb (or pig) and continually replenish your plate. Yes, we wanted to try that kind of place so after deciding between a couple, we went with: Fogo de Chao.
And now, days later, I think I’m still digesting all that meat.
They call it the “gaucho way of preparing meat,” meaning they pierce whole sections of meat with a giant skewer and roast it over an open flame. This Southern Brazilian tradition is said to preserve the individual taste of each different cut.
Me and my steak-loving self thoroughly enjoyed ourselves among the constant flow of perfectly cooked filet mignon and picanha butt steak (my two favorites of the night).
But before we get into any more details of the meat, let’s start with the service. The service was in a word: immaculate. I don’t think there was a time when a waiter didn’t rush over to pull out my chair for me when I sat down, or another waiter didn’t run over as I approached the salad bar just to hand me a plate from the stack.
Our meat requests were always accommodated. They made it feel like the whole operation was there to wait on you. It was really phenomenal. Almost as phenomenal as..
The salad bar. Displayed in beautiful renditions of flowers made from different fruits, this salad bar had the freshest and tastiest ingredients. From sundried tomatoes, to fresh balls of mozzarella, to a giant wheel of real Parmesan cheese to roasted red and yellow peppers, it was bliss in salad bar form.
They had cured meats and salmon too. And marinated artichokes. And hearts of palm. Really, anything you could want in a salad bar.
One of my favorite things is real Parmesan cheese from Parma (remember how impressed I was at that duck dinner?) But I have to say, it’s that much better when served IN the wheel it came from:
On your table, they provided you with never ending baskets of Brazilian cheese rolls. A light fluffy roll filled with a delicious cheese, they were outstanding:
And speaking of outstanding, I can’t really think of much that wasn’t outstanding in this place. You know the place is great when you have me taking pictures of the cheese rolls to put on my blog, and even the drink cart…
Yes, tell me this isn’t one of the most impressive drink carts you have ever seen. A walking fully stocked bar, this wagon stopped to make fresh “caipirinhas” and other beverages for its customers. A caipirinha is a classic Brazilian cocktail made from rum and sugar. They looked great.
Next it was time for the meat service. Each patron is given a two-sided “chip” (that looks more like a coaster). When you’re ready for meat, you turn it over to the green side and chefs with skewers of meat will rush over to see if you’d like some of what they have in their hand. If you’re taking a break or you’re full, you switch it back to the red side:
The next thing to know is that each customer is also given a set of tongs. Since the chefs are carrying their meat with one hand and cutting with another, they ask that you use the tongs to pick up the piece of meat they’re cutting off for you so it doesn’t miss your plate. “Everyone is here to help eachother,” the waiter said in his explanation. On to the show:
They just kept on coming. And my plate looked like this:
Yes, I do like my meat medium rare. There was sirloin, ribeye, butt steak, lamb chops, filet mignon… a total of 16 different cuts of meat between their offerings of chicken, beef, pork and lamb.
And not to mention, some of the tastiest and perfectly cooked meat I’ve ever had. This isn’t the best picture but the filet mignon came out terrificly. And they always know where on their skewer to cut it so it’s just the way you like it.
You might be noticing some food on this plate that doesn’t exactly look like meat. And those are the side dishes. Waiters would replenish portions of polenta, carmelized bananas and mashed potatoes throughout the evening:
My favorite was the banana. It provided a sweet complement to all that meat. I also loved the polenta, it had perfect texture: crunchy and soft at the same time. The mashed potatoes were just alright, nothing special or really desired during the meal. But props for the bananas and polenta.
Another important part to a churrascaria is having a well-stocked wine room. Theirs was definitely stocked and located in the center of the main room so everyone can see their collection through the glass windows. Impressive, I tell you, very impressive.
A meal with unlimited food would hardly seem to need a dessert, especially when you’re in pain from eating so much. But celebration as it was, how could we not have a dessert?
The waiter was kind to ask if there was a special occasion and arranged for the message to be written in raspberry sauce. We went with the house special of “papayas and cream” thinking it would take a much different form. Served in a glass, and all one homogenous texture rather than fruit with cream, it came with the option of being topped with blackberry liqueur.
Stuffed as I was, it was so light and delicious that I was able to handle it. And it was nice to end with such a sweet finish. Paired with a cup of Brazilian coffee (and in my brother’s case another plate from the salad bar!), it was a great end to a great meal.
For a complete menu of all the different kinds of meat and better photos, visit Fogo de Chao’s menu.
Fogo de Chao
661 N. LaSalle Street,
Chicago, Illinois 60610