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Feb 1, 2010 11:10 AM

dineLA - Fogo De Chao...a meat fest and excellent service

My husband and I went to Fogo De Chao in Beverly Hills last night, and the place was as busy as busy could be. Our reservations were for 6:00PM, and we checked in slightly late (about five minutes). We had a short 10 minute wait, and headed over to the bar for pre-dinner drinks. I had the caprihina which was completely refreshing with strong hints of lime. My husband just had a vodka tonic. We were seated shortly after getting our drinks in the dining room that was buzzing.
Once they gave us a rundown on how dinner works, we set off for the salad bar. I'm a cheese fiend and was quite happy to see the fresh mozzarella and the huge wheel of parmiggiano reggiano. There's something special about fresh parm...tastes so much better than pieces that have been cut and sitting there for days before its purchased. I found myself to be a fan of the marinated shiitake mushrooms...I loved the vinagery brine they had. I know blanched asparagus might not be anything special, but it paired so well with the fresh cuts of meat off of the skewers. There was a selection of salami, prosciutto, and smoked salmon...which were more okay than good.
The table-served sides for last night were garlic mashed potatoes, crispy-fried polenta cakes, fried bananas, and the famous cheese rolls. I tasted a litte of each because I didn't want to fill up on the starches, and thought they were all good. The mashed potatoes were ordinary to me...I could have made that at home. I did enjoy the polenta cakes...very crispy, not too dense, and I liked the sprinkling of grated parm on top of the cakes...made for a salty, nutty finish. I love fried bananas/plantains...whatever or however you call them, and this was a very good rendition; however, I wish they had fried them longer to get more carmelization and a crisper crust for texture. The cheese rolls didn't do it for me...I don't understand what the big fuss is all about. They were light, but dense...they had some sort of cheesy flavor. They crust of the roll was nice...but they didn't wow me. Maybe perhaps I didn't eat them immediately when they arrived at the table so they're not as wonderful cooled or cold, but everytime they arrived, I was busy eating the delicious meat.
Now to the meat...truly the best Brazilian steakhouse that I've ever been to. The cuts of beef are all black Angus. One of the managers told us that the men serving the meat are also the chefs, who come in early to marinate the meat in the morning before returning back to the restaurant to cook later in the day. We also learned that the beef receives just a light coating of Brazlian salt in the morning, and a little bit more prior to placing it on the fire. My husband fell in love with the filet mignon cut, and the sirloin cuts, and the sausages, and the lamb, and the chicken....okay, so there wasn't much that he didn't love. But he did not enjoy the ribeye (I agreed) which was strange because that's our favorite cut of steak. It was cooked well enough (medium rare for me, medium for him) but didn't have a bold, beefy flavor we were looking for. We did not enjoy the filet wrapped in bacon because even though cooked to perfection, the smokiness of the bacon completely overshadowed the filet. Bacon was good, however, when wrapped around chicken breast...but we still preferred the dark meat chicken over the bacon-wrapped one. I also loved the filet, but loved the lamb (chops and leg) even more. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, it was seasoned very well and very a very good way. The only thing we did not have a chance to try was the prime rib cut because we were quite full by the time it was brought around the dining room...which at that point, was fine by us.
For dessert, my husband was completely jazzed that key lime pie was one of the offerings of the night. I had the papaya cream drizzled with Bols liqueur. The third choice was flan, but I had the flan a couple doors down at The Bazaar was so spectacular I don't think anything else could come close. The key lime pie was not key lime-y enough for my husband. He did not want a sour-pucker face, but wanted the depth of flavor from the pie. There was a heavy layer of whipped cream on the pie as well, but the key lime flavor was already so weak eating without whipped cream did not make much of a difference. I was quite happy with my papaya cream. A lot like ice cream, it had a good papaya flavor and the shot of Bols gave it a nice jolt. It was a nice palate cleanser for a night of heavy carnivore-style eating.
Service for the night was spectacular. Vitor, our server, mentioned that they were short-staffed for the night and we couldn't tell the difference. The waitstaff was always busy scurrying through the restaurant taking care of guests. Many times, Vitor came to our table to ask if we had any special meat requests to be delivered. The sides were refreshed without us needing to request it....even if there was only 1/4 of a ramekin left. Water glasses were refilled without request, and any extra plates were cleared away immediately. We were very impressed with the service, and found it to almost rival the service we received at Bouchon (Bouchon was significantly better and quicker at refilling water glasses) in November.

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    1. re: sparkareno

      i think its $44 for dine LA this week.. otherwise i think it pushes towards the $55-60 per person range.

      1. re: samtron608

        yep, $44pp but $60pp with a >24% tip.

        my friends and i had a great time at fogo, the value was pretty good and we all waddled out.

        my faves of the evening were the lamb chops, picanha, filet and pork ribs.

        1. re: wilafur

          24% tip?? is tip automatically added to your bill??? if yes, they add 24%?

          1. re: samtron608

            I believe wilafur was generous and chose to tip 24%. Tip is not automatically added to the least not for small parties. For larger parties, that might be a different case.

            1. re: attran99

              attran99 is correct. $60pp from 11 people was easier than asking for a bunch of change. lols.

              btw, since we had a larger party, they automatically hit us with 18%.

    2. My beef with this place (pardon the pun) is that, unless you've the body of an Offensive Lineman, eating enough to get your money's worth here takes quite some doing and is likely to leave you feeling like you wish you hadn't eaten at all for a day or two.

      The food is without doubt terrific. The salad bar is probably the best I've had, but then when you're paying $55 for AYCE meat, how much precious stomach space should you devote to salad? (I note the salad bar can be had by itself for a reduced price).

      Bottom line, I love the food, but the all-you-can-eat format and the prices being what they are I could do without.

      3 Replies
      1. re: HastaLaPasta

        Because all of the items are of top quality, I'm quite certain you get your money's worth. Or if you can manage to be like my husband and me...spend more than two hours there just eating and chatting. At that pace, I'm sure you're bound to get your money's worth. However, I do agree with the waddling out comment....I still haven't eaten since last night. But I'll willingly say it was worth the money and the experience.
        With drinks and because we were so impressed by the service, dinner ran us $160 last night.

        1. re: attran99

          Fogo de Chao is an excellent idea for DIneLA. I was thinking about doing this even though I'm in Fogo de Chao every 3 months it seems.

          And you are correct in your dining approach, a long dinner with lots of drinking, laughter, and conversation, that's the southern Brazilian tradition. Good fo you.

        2. re: HastaLaPasta

          Fogo is not inexpensive, however the price in line with other AYCE places like any brunch at a high end hotel. Also, any steakhouse will run well over $75pp all in, assuming no drinks (the meat alone is usually around 40) for the quantity and quality, Fogo is about on par with Mortons/Ruth Chris etc....

        3. so i went last night for DineLA ($44 with dessert). Service was excellent. but.........all the meats were soo salty. now this is the first time I went to a brazilian BBQ the meats always extra salty? it was so salty i had to drink water frequently. i mean, every meat they offered seemed to be too salty. is this just how their normal seasoning is? or did they make it salty on purpose so i drink more water to eat less meat?? overall the meats were cooked well, service was great, salad bar was functional..but boy was it one point i gave up eating more meat due to the salt factor and my belly being full of water. our whole table felt the same way. maybe it was an off night? hoping for some feedback so i can decide if it was an off night and i should try again later. thanks!

          9 Replies
          1. re: samtron608

            This is a common experience. Americans think the food in Brazil is salty, and the Brazilians are always reaching for the salt shakers.

            The meat is seasoned with rock salt, not an excessive amount, but it has a stronger flavor than the typical salt we use. Brazilians like big flavor.

            The other issue is that Americans eat churrasco like their going to an American steak house. The salad bar has accompaniments with acidity lik molha campanha(like a pico de gallo without the chile), and vinagrette. Farofa is also eaten with the cut of steak. Use the items from the salad bar to balance the salt, kind of like hunan cuisine includes rice to cut the heat. Rice and mashed potatoes can do this too. Yes it is Angus beef, but this isn't Morton's, it's a southern gaucho party. I really like the campanha sauce or vinagrette, myself.

            Eating this way should improve your churrasco experience.

            1. re: streetgourmetla

              thanks! i just wanted to make sure. unfortunately towards the end of the meal is when we figured out that we need to mix more salad bar offerings and the mash potatoes with our meat and eat slow. i do enjoy the strong salty favor of the meat but since i wasnt expecting it i was a little shocked. but glad to know its the norm for brazillian!

              1. re: samtron608

                Yeah, they rub the imported rock salt on the meat in the morning, let it marinade, and rub some more when they cook, and then knock off the salt with their espetos(skewers). If you look at the meats closely, especially the picanha you can see the burn marks where the salt was on the meat.

              2. re: streetgourmetla

                I love that parmesan as a palate cleanser. Cheese helps with digestion too. Funny you mention the approach in eating. Last time we were there, all the tables around us were turned at least once, some twice before we were done. The staff was chatting with us and said we were doing it right taking our time and enjoyring ourselves.

                Interestingly, even though we tend to be sensitive to oversalting, we weren't overtly thirsty during or after the meal. We tend to get thirsty if there's a lot of salt hidden in dishes but not so much if it's mainly on the surface.

                1. re: Jase

                  yes...its definitely a place you should reserve 2 to 3 hours for eating. that way you get your moneys worth and can enjoy the strong/great flavorful meats.

                  1. re: Jase

                    Jase, you're a pro. It's supposed to be about fun, family and friends. I find it odd the reviews that try each cut of meat by themselves and weigh in on the saltiness, or the fact that the cut isn't medium rare. Well, Brazilians don't eat all the cuts medium rare, and they don't eat the meats by themself. You just can't look at one model of service for all cultures.

                    Best thing about Fogo de Chao is that they respect the red light green light coaster. You start getting stuffed, take a break, go red. You can ask your servers to bring out any cuts you want, they're not going away. Talk some more, drink another caipirinha.

                    Jase, let me know when you can make it last 4 hours.I get my picanha, turn the card to red, slowly enjoy the savory cut with a bit of farofa, enjoy my company, and when ready ask for an alcatra.Repeat. A backlog of meats on your plate that are getting cold is not the gaucho way. Saude, Jase.

                    1. re: streetgourmetla

                      chowhound is about the food. so of course people will comment on food quality first and then ambiance, etc. why is it odd to you that people will review the cuts of meat? isnt that what this site is all about? if we wanted to talk about ambiance, etc then we can go on yelp.
                      i mentioned saltiness b/c i never had brazillian before, so i wanted to see if that was the norm.
                      people should be able to ask questions about the cultures style if we are new to it. this is what makes this site great.

                      1. re: samtron608

                        Let me clarify, samtron608, I was actually referring to blogs, not to posters here. This is a place to for all of the above, for sure. You were asking a question which is more than appropriate, but a few blog posts I've seen about Fogo de Chao gave a run down of meats and judged them as if they were an American style steakhouse, where the steak is eaten by itself.That works for Wolgang's, or Cut, not Fogo de Chao. When people see that they think that you should eat the meats only, avoid the salad bar to you can load up on protein. Chowhounders are usually very open and willing to learn, but their are reviews out there that are misleading, that's all.

                        Fogo de Chao cooks their meats exactly the way they do in Brazil, their execution is spot on. But, the meats are intended to be eaten with condiments. You are just fine and dandy in my book. Hope you get to go back soon.

                        1. re: streetgourmetla

                          ah okay.. sorry for mis-reading your earlier post! i agree that other sites are horrible "reviews". i did enjoy and i myself should have researched more about brazilian before going, ...but yes, i will definitely go back soon and perform better there than my first time! haha.

              3. I definitely don't eat enough to get my money's worth, but the guys I work with love that place, so we go almost every time we're in LA. They call it 'The Meat Palace', and refuse to drink anything except water or iced tea, so that they don't fill up on anything but meat. I think the food is very good, and they are not shy about serving you til you burst.