Monday, March 19, 2012

Fogo de Chao Review: A Great New Orlando Churrascaria

Vegans beware. PETA people, think twice. This is Fogo de Chao, and we carnivores are here to eat meat. Lots of meat. So much meat we'll probably have a meat hangover in the morning. Sure, you'll love the salad bar - but look around - there's meat being eaten all around you. Love meat or beat it.

Fogo de Chao, the newest Brazilian Churrascaria in the Orlando area, opened recently on International Drive in the same building previously occupied by India Blue. It's just down the street from the Orange County Convention Center so you'll only have to battle conventioneers and tourists to get your meat on. I'm a long-time fan of Texas de Brazil, Fogo's older competitor at the other end of I-Drive, but the battle with outlet shoppers just to get to the restaurant was many times a battle not worth fighting.

Fogo de Chao features continuous table side service of at least 15 different cuts of beef, pork, lamb and chicken - all pulled from a slow roasting fire. In a southern Brazil tradition, servers dressed as gauchos stop by your table with large cuts of meat on skewers. They slice off a piece for you directly onto your plate - grilled to your liking. The only way to stop the onslaught of meat and gauchos is to flip over your signaling chip (coaster) to the red side. If not, you'll be bombarded by unlimited, delicious cuts of meat. Yea, it's awesome.

Some of the selections include Picanha (the prime part of the sirloin seasoned with sea salt and garlic), Bacon Wrapped Fillet Mignon (a succulent piece of meat cut from the tenderloin) and Cordeiro (fresh young leg of lamb sliced off the bone).

The special of the night was Baby Lamb T-bones (cute!), but my favorite cut was the Alcatra or top sirloin. It was full of flavor and the crisp searing sealed in all the juice you can imagine. My guest enjoyed most the Fraldinha or bottom sirloin. We never seem to agree on anything, but at least tonight, we both preferred sirloin cuts (albeit top and bottom respectively).

Served table side with your meat selections is a trio of Brazilian sides: baked polenta, garlic mashed potatoes, caramelized bananas and their incredible pao de queijo (cheese bread). Think the yeast rolls from Golden Corral, but with cheese. I mean that as a sincere compliment.

Prior to the meat frenzy, or during if you prefer, don't overlook the amazing spread of fresh vegetables, salads, cheeses, breads and cured meats. available on the beautiful salad bar. A meal in itself, the salad bar presents an opportunity for your vegetarian friends to visit Fogo de Chao and secretly covet a visit from a friendly gaucho. And you've got to eat a carb or two sometime.

The decor of Fogo de Chao is beautiful, with an understated elegance that appeals to me. Service was eager and cheerful. One wonderful aspect of the service is that you always have a server nearby (whether it be your actual server, a buser, a manager or one of the roaming gauchos) to get you a clean plate, another napkin, more wine, or whatever.

And finally, you must (if you're not a fan already) try a Caipirinha. It's the Brazilian version of a Mojito made with cane sugar, lime juice and cachaça. The ones they serve at Fogo are amazingly smooth, sweet, and sipable. I don't think there's a more refreshing cocktail. You must order one, or several.

But wait, there's more. I almost forgot about dessert. I was only able to sample the chocolate mousse cheese cake (it was rich and delicious) but other choices include a Signature Papaya Cream, South American Flan, Crème Brule, Turtle Cheesecake, Molten Chocolate Cake and Key Lime Pie.

Fogo de Chao is one of those great restaurants that everyone can enjoy. Business associates, family and friends, an intimate couple or a bunch of guys eating together before a night on the town can all enjoy Fogo and the amazing food it serves.

 5 Protein Fixes out of 5

Operation hours and prices are as follows:

$26.50 (Salad Bar Only - $19.50)
Monday - Thursday:  12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

$35.50 (Salad Bar Only - $19.50)
Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

$42.50 (Salad Bar Only - $19.50)
Monday - Thursday: 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Children five years of age and under enjoy complimentary dining. Children six to 10 years of age dine at half the prices listed above.  Beverages, desserts, taxes and gratuity are additional. 

Note: I visited Fogo de Chao for a special pre-opening media event and dined complimentary.

Fogo de Chão on Urbanspoon


Ashley K. Edwards said...

Hey, we (Pulse) was there as well! Sorry we missed you.

Food was great, although my partner and I agree Fogo's strength is their meat (and desserts!). Would definitely like to go back again sometime.

Eating Orlando said...

Hey, sorry I missed you too! I may go back sometime soon for just dessert. I was so full from all the meat I had to choke down my dessert even though it was delicious. Weird sensation.

Cuisine Kate said...

I looove Fogo de Chao, and I'm so glad there is one in Orlando! Do you guys have a Texas de Brazil there too? My tip is always leave the green side up!