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Feb 4, 2008 07:33 PM

Puerto Allegre, Pasadena Paseo

Got dragged to this place last night. Turned out to be a revelation.
$35.50 per person. Hmmm...high tariff for a formula place in a mall.
Got seated in a nearly empty restaurant and it was explained that the service depended on the ability of the meat servers to see whether your little tabletop baton had the green or red side pointing up - green for feed me and red for hold off. Not a promising start to a place that is known for its all you can eat style. What's to prevent them from ignoring your signs?
But what a surprise! Of course we kept the green up for as long as possible. Nothing for the first 5 minutes - went to the salad bar. This was the first surprise - almost worth the whole price. Probably 20 salads, some great, some not, but quite the choice. Huge hearts of palm. Shrimp with an exemplary horseradish sauce. Cheeses and olives. Chicken stroganoff that could have mede me happy for a main. Bread. Black beans with huge chunks of stewed beef. Rice. Potatoes. And on... and on... and on.
Got back to the table with embarassingly full plates to find the meat guy waiting with huge skewers of top sirloin. He cut as much as you wanted and placed it on the plates. Hot! Rare (you get your choice). Succulent. Many New Yorks at Ruth's, Palm, Arnie's, and Taylor's only dream of this texture and flavor. Within 3 minutes sauages plus juicy roast chicken. A minute later turkey chunks wrapped in bacon, then two minutes later garlic infused flank steak and a huge rack of barbecued beef ribs which he sliced in thick wedges. Had to raise the surrender red baton to keep from being literally blown away.
Beef is the thing. Though there is nothing wrong with the non beef items, turkey - even with bacon - gets lost. Chicken is all texture. Who can taste anything unbeefy after the garlic steak?
Someone (not me) turned the baton over and the deluge recommenced. Bacon wrapped filet was a revelation - better than, not equal to, Mastro's and Arroyo. There is something about having it come right off the coals on a skewer and then have this guy carve it off right on to your plate. More? No problem - tell me when to stop. 3 minutes later, flank steak, skirt steak (didn't know there was a big difference), rib eye. A minute later, grilled pork roast and succulent roasted duckling. OK, stick with the beef, but these did provide some interest.
My 18 year old carnivore began to have alterations in his consciousness from all the meat and my protesting PETA 22 year old had to admit that the non beef entrees were not that bad (mainly the duck - said to be wild - and salad bar).
Had to keep the red side up after that. Interesting Rio de Janiero videos added some atmosphere.
Wines are ok - Chilean by the glass were reasonably priced ($7-12) and true meat loving wines. Drinks are mediocre and overpriced ($9 for a Mojito which is not that special). Forget the premade desserts. Who in their right mind would have room for them anyway.
This is a serious place that transcends it's formula. The cheapest steak at Ruth's is about the same price as a carnivorous orgy here (and you don't have any distracting and nauseating fried butter). Mastro's is better, and Arnie Morton is as good but both are much more expensive. If it holds up on a second visit, this will be one of my favorites of the year.
Disclaimer - we got there before 6 pm. Not sure what happens to the fire-hydrant like meat service later in the evening.

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  1. How is this place different from Fogo de Chao? Or even Green Field?

    14 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I haven't been to those places. I have heard they are similar.

      1. re: Griller141

        They are all similar because they are all Brazilian churrascarias.It'a traditional gaucho(cowboy) feast.

      2. re: ipsedixit

        Went to Fogo de Chao finally. Better in all respects, though more expensive. Meats were divine - stick to the filet and standard cuts - "bottom sirloin" doesn't appear on many menus for a reason. Tried every one of the offerings and left in a protein coma. My 18 year old birthday boy was in a special kind of heaven.
        The only gripe is that the salad bar wasn't up to Puerto Allegre's. But who goes for the salads?

        1. re: Griller141

          "The only gripe is that the salad bar wasn't up to Puerto Allegre's. But who goes for the salads?"

          Indeed, going to a churrascarias for the salad bar is like going to an American steakhouse for the baked salmon.

          1. re: Griller141

            "The only gripe is that the salad bar wasn't up to Puerto Allegre's"

            I'm a little surprised, actually. I've only been to the Houston outpost of FDC, and was simply amazed at their salad/appetizer selection - the most extensive of any churrascaria I've ever encountered. Since I've never been to Puerto Allegre's that in itself is a strong recommendation.

            1. re: Griller141

              The hot and cold appetizers are part of the gaucho tradition of a long meal.Similar to the Lebanese/Armenian style of cold-hot-grilled meats as well as the northern Mexican vaquero style of parrilladas, or paquetes containing cold-hot-grilled meats as part of a package.The churrascaria salad bar should have certain items in order to be authentic, as well as quality, for which Fogo de Chao is unmatched.Several items are condiments to have with various meats, like the vinagrete.Fogo de Chao brings other traditional items to your table like arroz e feijao(rice and beans-you should ask for these), pao de queijo(cheese bread),banana frita, and farofa, also an accompaniment to your meat.To experience the gaucho way of eating you should come with an appetite for destruction.Have it all.

              Converse, enjoy a caipirinha(Brazilian cocktail with cachaca), not a mojito, and then turn the sign to green, also a traditional churrascaria practice.Knowing the cuts in advance helps you choose more wisely so you're not spending $55 for cheap sausages, chicken, and pork.Get the good cuts, say I'll pass when the fluff comes around, and come back to those if you've hit all the stars:picanha, alcatra, fraldinha, top sirloin,chicken hearts(only in Brazil), etc.The red light can be used to slow things down and avoid having your cuts get cold.The thin sliced meat should be eaten right away, the moment it touches your plate for optimum flavor and texture.

              The salad bar also reflects many cultural influences in the Brazilian cuisine, European, African, etc.

              The difference in quality from Porto Alegre to Fogo de Chao is tremendous, so paying the extra $20 is a savings in my book.If you want affordable, go to Brasa Brasil Grill in Culver City for great churrasco under $20, with a smaller salad bar and meat selection, but the best deal in town.If your going to spend serious coin, go pro, stick with Fogo de Chao.

              If you are as young as you say then you survived your first experience, at Porto Alegre, on sheer metabolic facility.Knowing how to enjoy this rodizio style of dining is key to getting the most value, I think.
              Boa sorte.

              1. re: streetgourmetla

                Nice exposition on this type of dining. Thanks.
                I was surprised after reading Fogo de Chao reviews and after the quality of the Allegre salad bar (simply amazing) that Chao was limp, tired looking and uninspired. I expected more. But then again, I wouldn't have been able to sample all the meats if the salad bar had been irresistible.

                1. re: Griller141

                  Cool Griller141! Now you got to get into some caipirinhas, and the amazing bottle of cachaca they have at Fogo, Weber Haus.That you can have straight.

                  1. re: streetgourmetla

                    'splain me about cachaca. I gather it is a wine. Why should I get it and what it is like?

                    1. re: Griller141

                      Cachaca is Brazil's national distilled spirit made from sugar cane with a distinct flavor apart from other sugar cane based spirits.Lime slices and sugar are muddled in a glass, throw in the ice, and pour the cachaca and that's the caipirinha.

                      It's puts you in that the beach stand in Rio, the elegant bar in Sao Paulo,or the bawdy salon in Salvador de Bahia, and is the perfect pre-churrasco libation. Save the Mojito for another occasion and immerse yourself in the flavors of Brazil.

                      I've been all over Brazil multiple times, and met my wife in Sao Paulo.At home we do caipirinhas with passionfruit(from concentrate), she makes 'em, and I do some with starfruit, and with real passionfruit seeds and all, of course with some sugar.Love my margarita, but it's not made well most of the time, and a good mojito is something to savor, but the less complicated caipirinha is my new favorite.It's flavor is fresh and the cachaca really imparts it's character, which you should find as a surprise the first time.It's just so different.Only get them at the churrascarias and Brazilian restaurants to start and them you can discern whether or not other bars are doing it right.If you see simple syrup come out,abort!!

                      1. re: streetgourmetla

                        How is Cachaca different than rum for example and why is the shrimp its logo?

                        1. re: kare_raisu

                          Cachaca is different from rum in the distillation process, and only uses fresh sugar cane juice where rum can use molasses or other sugar cane products, and cachaca can be brought to a higher proof than rum. It's fermented and then distilled.Cachaca has more earthy notes to its flavor and is aged in a variety of Brazilian woods.

                          The shrimp logo is only on the Pitu brand, because Pitu comes from Pernambuco, Brasil where there is a huge shrimp industry, a large crayfish like shrimp, which is an essential part of Brazilian cuisine, especially in the northeast of Brasil.

                          At the Brazilian restaurants, I like a simple 51 or Ypioca cachaca in my caipirinha, which tastes like the botecos, lanchonetes, and grungy bars I frequent in Brasil.Fogo de Chao and these other places push the Leblon or other so called high end cachacas, but stick to the everyman booze.I have bottles of the American marketed brands which I make my strarfruit caipirinhas with because the starfruit is more delicate than the acidic lime.Leblon is good, but a little pricey and useless in a regualr caipirinha, like using a $35 bottle of delicious silver tequila and then dumping it into a cocktail.

                          1. re: streetgourmetla

                            Thant's one of the most amazing riffs I've seen recently. I now feel like I know something about a liquor I didn't even know existed. Thanks for the education. I may get back to Fogo just to try that.

                            1. re: Griller141

                              All churrascarias should have it, as well as the other styles of Brazilian restaurant here in LA that have liquor licences.By ask, when they don't have cachaca they put vodka, which is a caipiroska, with rum, a caiprissima.Many bars, especially trend setters have it as well.

          2. I've been wanting to try this place for a long time. Thanks for the report. :)

            1. I had a wildly different experience when we went. 6:30 on a weekend night. Place was half empty also. I go to churrascarias frequently and this is the first one I've ever been to where I'm still hungry an hour after we got seated. Long gaps between meats. They kept refilling the bread and only bringing by some chicken, skirt and sirlion. Repeated requests for other meats and the picanha was met with assurances but no results.

              They finally brought out one hunk of picanha two hours after we were seated. Then no more. I thought the meat quality was average for a churrascaria. Didn't care for the service at all. You'd think on a weekend night with expected high turnover and only a half full restaurant, there would be a lot more meat available.

              They were also not very accomodating when we asked for more rare items.

              I'd rather pay extra for Fogo or go cheaper to Brasa Brazil. But I'm never going back to this place ever again.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Jase

                Hard to believe in view of our experience, but one visit often does not tell the whole story. I do have to say that the non meat servers were not so swift. And my fears of being made to wait so long that you didn't get your $35.50s worth were apparently realized by you. But I will reiterate that when it's on it's great.

                1. re: Griller141

                  I'm glad that you enjoyed your experience since it would suck big time to spend that much money and not be satisfied. I know our party of 6 was not happy.

                  I'm usually pretty easy going with service and pace especially if we're having fun with drinks and conversation. But this place just left me cold. To me the best example was the picanha. We asked for it right from the get go and asked much more forcefully an hour into it.

                  Due to their open plan, you could look into their kitchen and the rotisseries. Since we got meat so infrequently, we were going to the buffet and stopping at the glass to look in. It wasn't until the 2nd hour we were there that they finally put the picanha on and we watched it until they brought it to us. As it was getting close, we made a point to tell the waitstaff we wanted that and watched them to make sure they brought it straight to our table.

                  Agree that one visit doesn't tell the whole story. But I'll leave it at this. I've been to a wide range of churrascarias and have always been willing to re-visit any of them. This is the first and only one, I refuse to go back. Try some other ones since you did like the experience.

                  1. re: Jase

                    I went this past summer for dinner one Sunday night. . It was a group of 7. There was an onslaught of meat coming at us. We did have to request the lamb, duck, and other non-steak and chicken items. I would go back.

              2. Isn't it "Porto Alegre"?

                1. You went to a Brazilizn restaurant & didn't have a caipirinha? What's the matter with you?