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Dec 29, 2008 08:39 AM

Thanksgiving the gaucho way:Fogo de Chao review w/pics

The gauchos of southern Brazil now how to put on a feast.Multiple cuts of roasted meat, fresh vegetables, salads, cheeses, beans, rice, fried polenta, farofa, accompaniment sauce, and caipirinhas.A celebration after a hard days work on the range for the Brazilian cowboy.So,what more could you ask for on Thanksgiving but churrasco at Fogo de Chao.

The southern Brazil tradition of grilled meats with a generous salad bar to accompany the assorted cuts is a resplendent hypothesis. Churrasco is a customized experience for the diner, but anarchy isn't the path to gaucho paradise.Raw vegetables are always included to aid in digestion, hearts of palm, maionese(Brazilian potato salad), various othe salads, fresh rounds of cheese, smoked salmon, roasted peppers, molho campanha(accompaniment sauce), an assortment of vinegars and oils,and radicchio are among the salad bar fare at Fogo de Chao, all purposeful and mouthwatering.

Brought to your table, fried polenta, farofa(manioc meal), banana frita, and mashed potatoes. Because the largely non-Brazilian crowd thumbs their noses at such plebian foods as beans and rice, they aren't at the salad bar or brought tableside; don't worry, just ask and the beans and rice will be delivered.

Did I mention caipirinhas?Well, that was the first thing we did, at home, and upon arrival at the restaurant.Fogo de Chao carries Ypioca,51, and Leblon.You will be offered the "premium" Leblon caipirinha, but just smile and let them know that the 51 or Ypioca would be fine.51 and Ypioca are choice and relevant in a caipirinha, Leblon is a product that is neither premium nor worth the extra cost. The caipirinha(little country girl) is the perfect start of all my Brazilian festas(parties), or a nice batida(Brazilian cocktail). When the mood is right, about mid-feast, ask for a shot of the only sipping cachaca available in LA, Weber Haus.You won't regret it.

After some caipirinhas, a trip to the salad bar, decanting our bottle of Nickel and Nickel and polishing off our Artiste sauvignon blanc from Santa Ynez it was time for rodizio. For Thanksgiving Fogo de Chao replaced the frango com Bacon(chicken wrapped in bacon) with peru com bacon(turkey wrapped in bacon).This satisfied a rudimentary note of tradition adapted by gaucho resourcefulness.Then the fraldinha(bottom sirloin), a favorite of the night,alcatra(top sirloin), filet mignon, picanha, and mouth-watering ancho beef. As always, the deft gauchos at Fogo de Chao delivered dreamy,sensual cuts from their 15 selections, traditionally seasoned with rock salt and garlic, tender and flavored with nostalgia.Churrasco tip:Use your red and green disc to control service.Many people go green and stay, bombarded by multiple cuts sitting on your plate in a backlog.Get a picanha, watch out for filling up on sausages and lesser cuts, add some molho campana on your meat and enjoy.Put on the brakes with the red disc side, and wait 'til you're ready for another bite, the best experience of churrasco is the energy of hot sliced USDA beef from the skewer to your plate for the condiment and then to your palate.Don't worry about missing a cut, Fogo de Chao has an attentive staff and will send out any cut you like by request.I always look for Danielle Soldate, Fogo de Chao's own "gaucha" customer service representative to get those beans and rice, she will make sure that you get anything you would like to revisit or missed.

The Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills is identical to their branches throughout Brazil and the US in quality and service, the type of elegance and indulgence experienced by the Brazilian elite in the upscale Jardins neighborhood of Sao Paulo or the lavish Flamengo location of Porcao churrascaria in Rio. Although there is a lack of Brazilian ambience in staff and clientele, many non-Brazilian staff are learning Portuguese, I did overhear one well-heeled Brazilian couple dining that night. A few moments with Daniele and I begin to feel that sensation, the kind of energy and warmth Brazilians have, the smiling, and the splendor.Fogo de Chao is the best churrascaria in Los Angeles, the most expensive, but 100% Brazilian in flavor and presentation, well worth the extra $$.Not a bad choice at all for your next Thanksgiving.

Cachaca Weber Haus
Ancho beef with rock salt burn marks
perfect hearts of palm
Daniele Soldate,customer service rep and gaucha
Picanha, o orgulho do Brasil

Fogo de Chao
133 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA

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  1. Thanks for the excellent review sgla! I will make sure it's in my plans when we venture to LA, and will be before the next Thanksgiving. YUM.

    1. I am more than willing to accept Fogo's claim and reputation as the best of its genre. And I'm not even disputing that it can be a great value, especially when one has an appetite for meat and in comparison to other Beverly Hills steakhouses where everything is a la carte and the ultimate bill might be a multiple of the set cost. But it is irksome and a pet peeve that nowhere on the website, whether on the menu or the location pages, is price specified. My understanding is that dinner and salad bar, with unlimited servings until one says uncle, is somewhere around $55 at the Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills. Beverages, wine, dessert, tip, tax and valet all on top of that. Am I far wrong?

      2 Replies
      1. re: nosh

        it's only 35 or so for lunch, and they serve IIRC the same items, but yes your understanding is correct.

        Really not that bad considering a 4 course anniversary dinner@Mortons is 50pp (normally what, 80 bucks?)

        1. re: nosh

          I agree, it should be on the website.

        2. Sorry, but I don't get the Churrascaria concept.
          AYCE is fine only up to a certain point.
          For starters, I want meats to taste like they should.
          A rib should taste like a rib, a rib eye like a rib eye, a new york like a new york, if you know what I mean.
          With all cuts cooked similarly in a gas grill, all you get is a bunch of stuff with a generic meat flavor, no nuances, nothing to push me for a second visit.
          Unless I'm desperate for a gross-out meat fest, which this confessed carnivore has never been thus far.

          15 Replies
          1. re: RicRios

            "A rib should taste like a rib, a rib eye like a rib eye, a new york like a new york, if you know what I mean."

            What do you mean? You went here and your rib tasted like a new york and your ny like a ribeye?

            "With all cuts cooked similarly in a gas grill, all you get is a bunch of stuff with a generic meat flavor, no nuances, nothing to push me for a second visit."
            Is the nuances you are looking for charcoal or wood fire based?

            Not trying to be combative, just trying to understand what you are saying, Did you have a bad experience at Fogo?

            1. re: kare_raisu

              great review. i didnt know about the bean and rice. i will have to try it next time.

              lunch is about $38 for salad bar and meat. i think you can just get the salad bar for less. i think dinner is around $52. i think all piece of meat taste distinctive. the quality of meat is great too. go to a great steakhouse and you are paying 42 for one cut. here you get to have more and different cuts as well. i have never been dissapointed with fogo.

              1. re: kare_raisu

                I'm having trouble with the whole thread, due to my lack of understanding of this style of restaurant. I've been wanting to go to Fogo, but what do these things mean:

                What is a " resplendent hypothesis"? What does this mean in regard to eating?

                " farofa(manioc meal)"

                What is "manioc meal"?

                "Did I mention caipirinhas?"

                What is it?

                "The caipirinha(little country girl)"

                What is this?

                "sipping cachaca"


                "Weber Haus"


                "flavored with nostalgia"

                What does this mean?

                "AYCE is fine only up to a certain point"

                What does this mean?

                "A rib should taste like a rib, a rib eye like a rib eye, a new york like a new york, if you know what I mean. With all cuts cooked similarly in a gas grill, all you get is a bunch of stuff with a generic meat flavor, no nuances..."


                1. re: The Old Man

                  manioc (aka yucca) meal is, imo, ground manioc. think corn meal.

                  caipirinha is an alcoholic cocktail made from cachaca. cachaca is a spirit distilled from sugar cane.

                  caipira means countryside and has a feminine connotation when referring to drinks. following that rule, caipirinha = country girl.

                  weber haus is the producer of cachaca.

                  re: ayce yadda yadda = law of diminishing returns.

                  1. re: The Old Man

                    Old Man: AYCE = All You Can Eat

                    Kare: Yes, I did go to FdC. No, a rib eye did not taste like a NY. Actually, all cuts tasted like .. the same. Just meat. If you had ever been in the south of South America (and I mean: Uruguay, Argentina, and/or Rio Grande do Sul) you would know each cut has its own distinctive flavor. THOSE flavors and flavor differences are precisely what a carnivore (or at least, Yours Truly ) is looking for. Bulk per se is meaningless. Charcoal and wood do help bring the flavors forwards as well as the contrasts, while gas flame tends to flatten them. We are talking here of a (south-) Brazilian chain, you would expect more respect and/or appreciation for what a truly meat professional connoisseur should know how to display. Hélas, FdC completely misses the point.

                    1. re: RicRios

                      Are there any Brazilian style restaurants that you approve of?

                      1. re: The Old Man

                        In LA, Carlitos Gardel is as good as it gets as far as South Americans' proper treatment of beef is concerned (I'm generalizing here, and throwing together in the same bag all areas mentioned in my post above. Which understandably leaves a LOT of room for discussion).

                        1. re: RicRios

                          I find Carlitos Gardel totally over hyped. Boring food, sub par steaks, not worth the price.

                          1. re: rednyellow

                            "De gustibus non est disputandum".

                            You might want to stay away from, say, Buenos Aires, Uruguay and Minas Gerais, for that matter.

                            1. re: RicRios

                              I can get a better steak in Buenos Aires for about 10% the price of Gardel's.

                            2. re: rednyellow

                              Definitely not worth the price when we have mercado Buenos Aires.

                        2. re: RicRios

                          Hey Ric.Well, I'm not a gaucho, nor much of a grill man myself.They are not all treated the same, picahna, fraldinha, alcatra, etc.A gaucho could explain much better than I, but some cuts are just with rock salt, some have garlic, different cooking times, aging, and are cut differently.The idea that picanha tastes like fraldinha just because of a similar seasoning doesn't make sense.I taste different flavors and textures.

                          While Fogo de Chao, is a chain, it is just as good as the Fogo de Chao's in Sao Paulo, which are respected by diners, and critics alike in Brazil in the high end churrascaria category.In Sao Paulo, I've been to just about all of them, the best ones, and 2 Fogo de Chao locations over the past years.I've aslo been to Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, although churrasco comes from southern Brazil, it is done with tradition all over Brazil, and especially in the New York of Brazil, Sao Paulo.

                          Again, this isn't about bulk eating, I thought I did cover that well in the review, that would be missing the point.

                          For Argentine parrillada in LA, Mercado Buenos Aires is the best, with an authentic parrillada and is better than Carlito's at almost half the price.

                          1. re: RicRios

                            Ric, I know what you mean about the flavor of all the beef being very similar. I like Fogo's salad bar, but the repetitive taste of the meat keeps me from going back.

                          2. re: The Old Man

                            Hey Old Man.I love sayin' that.Sorry for your confusion, and for making too many assumptions.

                            Thanks to Wilafur for clearing up the farofa mystery and other terms.

                            The "resplendent hypothesis" is that churrasco is not an All You Can Eat mentality, but a meal with meats and salads that are meant to accompany, not to be ignored, although it is an all you can eat buffet.You should be combining foods for digestion and flavor.

                            The ground manioc meal, aka, farofa is a staple in Brazilian cuisine.

                            A sippin' cachaca is of a quality to be enjoyed like a single malt scotch, fine cognac, or an aged tequila, not cocktail grade like the majority of cachacas in the US.

                            A little history lesson.Brazilians of German ancestry are dominant in southern Brazil, and there are even towns like Blumenau full of Bavarian style buidings, German restaurants, redheads, and blonds.The beer making in Brazil was brought over by Germans. Last names in southern Brazil are even German, as the name for the Weber Haus brand.Germany is the number one importer in the world of cachaca.Gisele Bundchen, does that sound Portuguese to you?

                            The "nostalgia" is the true Brazilian flavor at Fogo that reminds me of Brazil and how much I miss it all the time.It tastes like a night laughing with my friends in Sao Paulo, drinking caipirinhas with my Brazilian wife and dancing to Forro at 4 in the morning.Ta bom?

                            oops, sorry Old Man, Forro is a style of music from Northeastern Brazil, a dance music.

                            1. re: streetgourmetla

                              Thank you. I really did enjoy your excellent review and do plan on eating there sometime in 2009. I'm just glad there are people that eat. My sister is one of those, no red meat, no fried, no onions (!), no wine, no etc., etc. people. It's more than I can handle

                      2. Great spot. Not sure you had my favorite, the little lamb chops that they'll cook to order and keep bringing. I also like that beef rib so big they give you slices -- nice to have something so slow cooked and tender for variety too. I've been there with big groups and small and the service is incredible -- it's a wonder drunken bloated diners haven't impaled themselves on the swords yet!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: jessejames

                          jessejames, I've had the cordeiro(lamb) on other occasions and agree, it's superb.I believe I've been through all their cuts at different times,muito gostozo.

                          Those gauchos do know what they're doin'.Saude irmao! Were you one of the drunken diners?

                          1. re: streetgourmetla

                            of course i was a drunken diner! this place is perfect for bringing the lads out - loads of meat, no bs ordering with waiters -- the drinks and meat just keep coming. the folks that work there are always extra accomodating and bring us whatever we want cooked how we want it. i still say watch out for those swords tho! it may be over fifty bucks but it's worth it. ps, they have a lamb shank also but i don't like it as much as the tasty chops but some of my buddies like that one the best.

                            1. re: jessejames

                              i am going to fogo for new years dinner. all this talk got me hungry. i was thinking of mortons..but here you get all these choices and sides included for less. cant wait!
                              and..for the person who thinks all the meat tastes the same...i think you need to have your palate checked.