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Agora Churrascaria in Irvine?

j
josephnl Oct 20, 2008 12:46 PM

Has anyone been to the Agora Churrascaria in Irvine near John Wayne Airport? I have been to Fogo de Chao both in Sao Paolo Brazil and in Los Angeles, and although the original in Brazil was much better, the LA restaurant is quite good. Am wondering about the Agora, and if anyone has tried it out, would love to get some feedback.

  1. dockhl Jan 3, 2010 03:50 PM

    Quick comment. Last night my SO and I were going to a concert at the Performing Arts Center and wanted to grab something not-too-big and quick before the 7:30 performance. We went to Agora Churrascaria, sat in the bar and had a glass of wine w/ the bar menu. One trip to the salad bar...$9. Sampler plate of sausage, bacon wrapped filet, chicken drumsticks (2 pieces each).....$6. We each had a salad bar plate (smaller than the reg. salad bar plate) and one order of the sampler.......PLENTY of food, mostly good. The filet was overcooked but the chicken was delicious. Salad bar had many good dishes, totally adequate for the two of us.Fried banana and Brazilian Cheese bread served at the table. We were in and out in an hour. Perfect.

    1. monku Oct 20, 2008 09:38 PM

      Agora Churrascaria is probably a small step below Fogo de Chao but still solid in its own right.
      Funny thing though its owned by Asians that are related to the ones who own Green Field Churrascaria. .

      16 Replies
      1. re: monku
        e
        exilekiss Oct 20, 2008 09:53 PM

        Hi monku,

        What's strange is that I find Greenfield in Covina better than Agora. Greenfield has better selection for Lunch and Dinner and the quality of meat was also better, IMHO.

        1. re: exilekiss
          monku Oct 20, 2008 10:04 PM

          Been years since I went to Green Field in Covina and I went to Agora this summer with a client and we were both pleased. If what you mean by "quality".....I think the meat at most churrascaria's to be of the choice grade of beef.

          1. re: monku
            streetgourmetla Oct 20, 2008 10:31 PM

            Greenfield and others can't compete with the quality pricewise, but there is also handling and aging, butchering(in house or purchased cuts), having a real churrasqueria(room size with multiple rotisseries) like Fogo de Chao( they brought theirs from Brazil), taking the time for proper seasoning,the skill of the gaucho(one guy or specialists for different cuts), and the knife technique.All churrascos don't receive the same grade of beef, and they all don't have the luxury of pulling out all the stops.You are talking about classical training when talking of the art of the gaucho, and anyone who knows anything about beef knows that you don't just buy meat and your job is done.That's what separates the Cut's,Hitching Post's, and Fogo e Chao's from the rest.It's what makes the Japanese and Argentine's top dogs in the world of beef.

            Fogo de Chao takes a whole quality steer apart, the gaucho himself, that's why Fog gets that nice sized custom cut of picanha.Pulease.

        2. re: monku
          streetgourmetla Oct 20, 2008 10:01 PM

          Koreans own Greenfield, my worst churrasco experience ever.Are they Brazilian-Koreans?Koreans in Brazil are not a huge population, but the largest number of Koreans in Latin America live in Brazil, 90% of them in Sao Paulo.Although churrasco comes from southern Brazil, it is loved and eaten in every city in Brazil.Sao Paulo has amazing churracarias, but are they from Sao Puulo.I don't see a strong connection between the food that Greenfield serves, and a real gaucho tradition in seasoning, quality, and the tipical table.

          I guess no one has a recollection of any salad bar items or cuts.How is Agora solid in its own right and just a small step below Fogo de Chao??

          1. re: streetgourmetla
            e
            exilekiss Oct 20, 2008 11:33 PM

            Hi streetgourmetla,

            Thanks for the perspective! :) Sadly, I've only been to 3-4 Brazilian Churrascarias in L.A. (Greenfield, Agora, and two others that weren't that memorable) and I thought Greenfield was better than Agora.

            Fogo de Chao is high on my list of "must try soon" restaurants (along with so many others), so I'm excited to try some top-notch Churrascarias to get some proper perpective. It's good to know where Greenfield rates. :)

            1. re: exilekiss
              streetgourmetla Oct 21, 2008 08:14 AM

              Good Morning Exilekiss.I also have been to Fogo de Chao in Sao Paulo, two of the three branches there, along with about 15-20 others throughout Brazil, mostly Sao Paulo and Rio.Of course Fogo in Sao Paulo is more inexpensive and can offer quality beef at a lower price, more experienced gauchos, and more access to essential local ingredients like Minas Gerais cheese, which is the cheese that is supposed to be used in pao de queijo.Here in the US, we have to use parmesan, not the same.

              Here in LA, there are only 3 places that my Brazilian wife(from Sao Paulo)really like.
              1)Fogo de Chao, for quality, a salad bar that looks just like the branches in Sampa, which makes my wife feel at home, and for th elegance associated with most fine churrascarias in Brazil.In Sao Paulo, their upscale restaurants and churrascarias are extravagant and beautiful.

              2)Brasa Brasil Grill for a small but authentic salad bar, a smaller selection of quality, flavorful churrasco, and an excellent Brasileiro staff.

              3)Pampas Grill in the Farmer's Market for "por kilo" churrasco, non-rodizio, where you can pick from 5 good cuts including picanha and alcatra, and the sides are a taste of home in my wife's expert Paulista opinion.She knows these dishes, believe me, cooking them at home with her as my critique have made me understand her knowledge of Brazilian "tempero"(seasoning):) She really like the feijao(beans)and arroz(rice) there along with the abobora(pumpkin)and quiabo(okra).

              Others I've tried in LA, Picanha, Gaucho's Village(fun for non-foodies, ie. your family), and Greenfield.We are involved in the Brazilian community here in LA, too, and Brazilians will tell you what's good. They are a culture very proud and knowledgeable about their cuisines,esspecially churrasco.They're bluntly honest about it,too.That's a good thing.

              Agora is one of several newer churrascos I haven't tried, but if the salad bar doesn't have the right stuff, and meat service is obscure, and the Brazilian's that have been give it a thumbs down, I usually consider it not worth checking out, that's why I'm tryin' to get some real feedback here.

              1. re: streetgourmetla
                kingkong5 Oct 21, 2008 09:33 AM

                Having been to Agora, I would say that for the masses who don't know about good churrascaria, it is good enough. The location is great for those in Orange County, and the price, although high, is reasonable for the quality.

                But for the foodies who know, like you sgla, I would say don't bother. It won't be up to the standards of great churrascaria like Fogo. But they do make decent drinks, and the place is clean. They serve the cheese rolls and fried bananas to your table, so you don't get it from the salad bar. The salad bar is mostly meh, I found the best thing to be the mashed potatoes which is kind of sad?

                Anyway, give it a try if you're in the area so that you will know what it's like, but otherwise you'll be disappointed in making the trip. My Brazilian friends don't say great things about it, either.

                1. re: kingkong5
                  streetgourmetla Oct 21, 2008 09:52 AM

                  Thanks,kingkong5, I get the picture now.And, yes, I'm glad there are churrascarias in all areas of LA and that people have access to them at reasonable prices, around $35.When my mom is in town, I'm likely to go to a place like Gaucho's Village because of the proximity, samba dancers,Brazilian vibe, Katia Moraes and Sambaguru, and $35 a person charge.Thank you for sparing me, and for validating my suspicions about Agora.

                2. re: streetgourmetla
                  j
                  Jase Oct 21, 2008 09:18 PM

                  All due respect to your Brazilian community but if your connection are rating Brasa Brasil Grill above Agora, then your taste buds and mine are just not calibrated the same.

                  I like Brasa, that's our neighborhood "daily" type of churrascaria. We moved up from OC to the westside right around when they opened and have visited regularly since. It's inexpensive enough, we'll pop by just to have a lunch of feoijada and some meat and it's priced like a regular meal. But there's no way the quality of the meat and salad bar even comes close to Agora. Brasa's meat quality is average at best and they don't do a great job cooking. Too often, most of the cut is cooked with no pink. A travesty when it comes to meat. And when I ask for it rare, the meat doesn't have a decent char or crust. I have to be very patient waiting for a decent cut. The salad bar is okay. But it's not bad for an everyday inexpensive churrascaria.

                  Agora's bar has many of the items you mentioned in your first post above. Smoked salmon, cold shrimp, chunks of parmesan, blue cheese, asparugs, mushrooms, several kinds of salad, etc. Hot items such as beef stroganoff, some seafood. You get the point. I will say I like the feijoda at Brasa is slightly better. But really I go for the meat when I go to Agora. I hardly touch the bar except as a palate cleanser in between different types of meat.

                  Using your reasoning of having the right stuff at the bar and meat service, I'd rate Agora considerably higher than Brasa. Agora's quality is much better, larger variety and more attentive service. Brasa's spicing tends to be one note.

                  I sometimes wonder if people confuse Amazon with Agora in these threads. I've seen it happen a couple of times. Amazon in Fullerton isn't really worth it unless you're with some teenage football players that just want meat for inexpensive.

                  I used to go to Greenfields in Covina growing up through high school and college. I'm quite familiar with their food and our whole family thinks Agora is better.

                  Taste is subjective of course. But I think there's a huge gulf in service, quality and selection between Agora and places like Greenfields and Brasa.

                  Please share what other churrascaria places your brazilian connections would recommend besides what's been discussed.

                  1. re: Jase
                    streetgourmetla Oct 21, 2008 10:34 PM

                    Maybe you didn't read all the posts here, but I've never been to Agora, and what I was doing here was trying to get some specific info.

                    " But there's no way the quality of the meat and salad bar even comes close to Agora"

                    This requires a little more substance.What do you mean?I will say this simply.For the best churrasco, I go to Fogo de Chao.For the best affordable churrasco I go to Brasa.I know almost any place has a bigger salad bar than Brasa and a larger selection of cuts, but the items they have are along the lines of what I've had in Brazil, and their churrasqueiro delivers quality for that price.I previously stated that Brasa has less cuts and asmall salad bar, so you attempt to make that a point is aimless. I don't waste my time on places in the $35-$40 price range when I can go to Fogo for a little bit more.

                    I have eaten at 2 Fogo de Chao's in Sao Paulo,Baby Beef Rubaiyat, Angelica Grill, Paulista Grill, Barbacoa,Ponteio,Esplanada Grill, all in Sao Paulo.In Rio, I've been to Porcao.My wife, from Sao Paulo and I prefer Fogo de Chao here in LA.She has had churrasco all her life at family barbeques, and restaurants.Our connection to the Brazilian community, since we shop for Brazilian products for our home and kitchen, is relevant.Being a chowhounder, I immerse myself at home and abroad to find the right stuff, don't you?We always inquire of the latest restaurants and many shop owners will say things like "a lot of our customers like this place", or " I only order prato feito there", etc.That is part of what I do.You ask your family, if that works for you, then fine.I have no problem hitting up anyone in a position to offer useful info. a listen, and the Brazilian community, our community, and many of the websites are a pretty good source of info. about Brazilian food.

                    You use words like "better" to rate the salad bar at Agora over Brasa.For example strogonafe de carne isn't hard to make, but Brazilian's have grown up with this dish, and very few places in LA can get the flavor that you could easily find in any lanchonete in Sampa.Brasa and Pampa's give us the taste of Brazil.

                    What do you mean by one note spicing at Brasa?The preparation for churrasco is very simple.Lots of rock salt from Brazil, some garlic, and water.It's not about a variety of seasonings.The flavor is a result of several elements, which I previously mentioned, but not a bunch of different seasonings.It's about the different cuts. Pichana doesn't taste like fraldinha or maminha! What are you talking about?

                    If you go to a churrascaria to stuff yourself with meat, and don't eat salad bar items, then you are not experiencing comida gaucha.It's about balance, digestives, blending flavors, and pacing.Brazilians put some vinagrete on their picanha, and maybe a little farofa.You should definitely consider the salad bar as more than a palate cleanser, unless you are a teenage football player of course.A caipirinha is also a requisite.

                    Taste is subjective for the disengaged,uninspired, fast food crowd, but for us who are on this quest for the best food, discernment is a virtue.

                    I haven't been to Agora, but would make the drive if I heard a more compelling reason.For know, I like Fogo de Chao, Brasa, and Pampa's in the Farmer's Market.Woodspoon and Taste for lanchonete and comida Paulista respetively.

                    1. re: streetgourmetla
                      j
                      Jase Oct 22, 2008 08:19 AM

                      *sigh* I'm not trying to get into a flame war with you, really I'm not. Someone asked about Agora, I gave them my response. It's great that you're that passionate about it and have been to many churrascarias.

                      "Maybe you didn't read all the posts here, but I've never been to Agora, and what I was doing here was trying to get some specific info"

                      When did I ever say you've been to Agora. You asked for info, I gave you my experience and what the bar contained.

                      One note spicing = preparation, the meats don't strongly distinguish themselves from one type to the other. Fogo and Agora, the meats stand out better. I already explained the cooking.

                      "If you go to a churrascaria to stuff yourself with meat, and don't eat salad bar items, then you are not experiencing comida gaucha"

                      Yup you're right I'm not experiencing it. But I usually go to one as a substitute for a steakhouse. I want to eat a wide variety of high quality meat. Just like at a steakhouse. Good sides are nice but the meat is the focus. A good salad bar is nice at a churrascaria but it doesn't save the meat.

                      From what I've had of Brazilian food, I like it and would like to know more. Especially finding a revelatory feijoda. I just don't go to a churrascaria with high expectations of finding revelatory dishes in a salad bar.

                      "Taste is subjective for the disengaged,uninspired, fast food crowd, but for us who are on this quest for the best food, discernment is a virtue"

                      Nice insult, thanks. Taste is subjective. Discernment is subjective. How many passionate arguments have there been here from respected hounds over what makes a good X dish. So you're saying that with their different tastes, they belong in a fast food crowd? That's a load of crock for you to make that statement playing with the semantics and you know it.

                      Finally, we're discussing two different levels here. You are asking if it's worth the drive down. OP was asking for info. I like Agora, but I certainly wouldn't tell anyone it's worth the drive down from LA. I'd say save the gas and spend it on the difference for Fogo.

                      But if you're in the area and hankering for some churrascaria, sure I think it's worth the money. I answered the OP and gave you some of my experience and was insulted for my effort. Your questions about the salad bar could have easily been looked up on their website. But you felt the need to go on a rant, throw veiled insults and show off your knowledge.

                      You don't feel like going down to Agora, great, even I agree it's not worth a drive. But here's info for someone who wants to do a search and if it's worth it if they're in the area.

                      1. re: Jase
                        JAB Oct 22, 2008 10:35 AM

                        Bravo!

                        1. re: Jase
                          streetgourmetla Oct 23, 2008 12:07 PM

                          I guess I used a hatchet where a scalpel was required.Didn't mean to be offensive.So, we agree on Agora, in respect to your last paragraph, and the pleasures of a great feijoada.
                          Beleza!!

                          1. re: streetgourmetla
                            j
                            Jase Oct 23, 2008 09:01 PM

                            It's all good. I just hate to see decent places get hammered for no good reason in this economy. Especially places like Agora that give good food at a good price value. I like Agora because it's a great OC alternative when I have business dinners or meet friends down there. It''s a safe place to take meat and potatoes people and actually have them exposed to something different. And I get to have a good meal instead of being dragged to a mediocre place that will satisfy the meat and potatoes crowd. And who knows a hound actually might get born by being exposed to something different.

                            Thanks for the suggestions on Woodspoon and Taste. I want to learn more about Brazilian food or heck all foods in general. I don't pretend to be an expert, but I am pretty adventurous and will try anything. So I always ask people for what they like.

                            Maybe we'll run into each other at Brasa sometime and we can get a round of drinks while waiting for more picanha.

                3. re: streetgourmetla
                  j
                  josephnl Oct 21, 2008 07:44 AM

                  Fogo de Chao is really quite excellent. Having experienced the Fogo de Chao in Sao Paolo (where there are hundreds of churrascarias, and where most think FdC is the best), I can tell you that the LA iteration, although definitely not as good as the one in Sao Paolo, is really very good and probably the best you'll find on the west coast.

                  1. re: josephnl
                    wilafur Oct 21, 2008 09:36 AM

                    agreed fogo offers the best iteration of churrasco in LA.....however, it is, by far, the most expensive.

              2. j
                Jase Oct 20, 2008 07:22 PM

                There's been a few reports on this place that'll come up in a search. But Agora and Fogo are my two favorites in Southern California.

                Agora isn't as upscale as Fogo. But it's still pretty nice and a lot quieter and less scene than Fogo. Meat quality is good. Good service. My biggest beef (pun intended) is the lack of selection when it comes to game meats and variety. But if you're in OC and hankering for churrascaria Agora is well worth it,

                Salad bar has a nice selection of veggies, shrimp, cheese and cold cuts. Not as extensive as Fogo but still very good. Bottom line for $35, it's worth it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Jase
                  streetgourmetla Oct 20, 2008 09:13 PM

                  It's important that the salad bar has specific items, cold and hot.There should be things like couve(greens),mandioca frita(fried yuca), feijao(beans),feijoada(bean stew),arroz branco(white rice),banana frita(fried banana), farofa(toasted manioc meal),vinagrete, palmitos(hearts of palm), fine cheeses from Minas Gerais or Europe,a variety of fine olive oils and vinegars,molha companha(a pico de gallo liek condiment),maionese(potato salad), ovos de codornice(quail eggs),fresh local fruits,roasted peppers,a variety of tossed salads, smoked salmon, raw vegetables,onion and tomato salad in a vinagrete,pao de queijo(cheese bread), sausages, chicken hearts,polenta, pasta salads,sushi,sashimi, etc.This can vary from region to region in Brazil.But, this is comida gaucha(gaucho cuisine) from southern Brazil.

                  Veggies, shrimp,cheese, cold cuts?That could be packaged carrots or escarole,shrimp cocktail or bobo de camarao, a cheese log or a large round of parmesan, and the difference between lunch meat and carpaccio.

                  Good churrasco is about beef, and great cuts along with some diversions of other meats.To do it rigth, you should be eating all this stuuf, as the gauchos meant for you to comebine these foods, have some molha campanha with your picanha or some farofa.Some foods are meant to aid in digestion during what should be a slow food experience.But, I'll take a limited service done well like at Brasa over a panoply of overcooked and underseasoned poor cuts like at Greenfield along with their Hometown Buffet style salad bar, with some traditional items done poorly among random fluff.

                  So, I'll ask again.What's at the salad bar at Agora, and what are the different cuts like?I'm eager to know.

                  1. re: streetgourmetla
                    n
                    New Trial Oct 22, 2008 01:37 AM

                    Agora is good but definitely not up to Fogo's standards. The salad bar is extensive, with numerous hot and cold dishes, including many of the ones you mentioned--yes, there is a large round of Parmesan, fruits, cold cuts and varieties of vegetables and salads--and a few others (for example, steamed clams, mussels, a stroganoff). There is a decent variety of good quality meats (cooking can be inconsistent though from visit to visit) and they also bring by a planked salmon (usually overcooked). If you are in the area and in the mood, it is certainly a good choice but I would not make a special trip down to the O.C. for the experience.

                2. i
                  I got nothin Oct 20, 2008 01:05 PM

                  Haven't been in about a year, but I enjoyed AC the couple of times I ate there. It's a great deal for lunch, about $20, while you pay double that for the exact same meal at dinner. Some of the meats can be overcooked at times; sadly I noticed this with the better cuts, like the filet mignon wrapped in bacon. But then the skirt steak would be perfectly cooked and quite flavorful. So it can be a hit or miss on some of the items. Since it's all you can eat on the meats, I would try to clear the swords of whatever the "hits" are for the given day. The all you can eat also includes the salad/cooked items bar. I always loaded my plate w/ their mussels. I've never began to Fogo de chao, so I can't compare the two.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: I got nothin
                    streetgourmetla Oct 20, 2008 06:43 PM

                    What did they have in the salad bar?What cuts did they serve and how many?The best cuts would be alcatra,picanha,fraldinha,top sirloin,filet mignon,and ancho.I would put top sirloin com bacon in the second tier.I'd love to hear a breakdown of the cuts for those who know this place.

                    There is no buzz in the Brazilian community about this place for festas(parties) or food, so I've not been very interested.A nail is in the coffin, but a more thorough report would be helpful.

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