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Fogo de Chao

BH's Fire From The Ground

Fogo de ChaoEver since Fogo de Chao opened in March 2005 on La Cienega’s restaurant row in Beverly Hills, the Brazilian steakhouse today continues to spark popularity for being a hot hit with steak and meat-lovers. Brought to you from the heart of Rio Grande in Southern Brazil, Fogo de Chao (which means "fire from the ground" in Portuguese) is reforming the way Americans experience steak. This extraordinary steakhouse, which has won numerous awards nationwide, resonates with the tradition of a Churrascaria, a restaurant specializing in seasoned and roasted meats. Frequent celebrities include Leonardo DiCaprio, Lionel Richie, Giselle Bunchen, , Salma Hayek and more. For centuries, Southern Brazilian cowboys (also known as gauchos) would grill large pieces of meat over open flamed pits. The founding brothers, Jair and Arri Coser, opened the first Fogo de Chão in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1979. Today, Fogo de Chao continues this Brazilian custom of cultivating skilled gaucho chefs to roast 15 unique cuts of steak, chicken, and sausages over an open fire. While this concept may be new to the U.S., this is old to Brazil as they have been doing this for decades throughout. Reaching a milestone, August 2007 marks Fogo de Chao’s 10 year anniversary in the United States.

Fogo de ChaoPassing by the restaurant, you can spot their purple signature tower with a glass-enclosed display of meat roasting over a fire pit. The restaurant paints warm and soft tones of honey and mandarin orange from its natural wood and half moon amber glass lights overhead. The high ceilings with natural oak beams are a nice touch, giving the place a homey yet modern feel. The wall of the main dining area, displaying a large mural of gauchos in their good old days adds some artistic flair to the floor and reminds diners that Fogo de Chao is not the normal and average steakhouse their parents took them to.

You also can't help but notice the towering two-story glass wine cellar holding over 10,000 bottles. Anyone of their award-winning wines areFogo de Chao excellent with most roasts and if you are lucky, you may even get to see one of the waiters fetch a bottle out of this temperature controlled fortress of wine. In the center of the restaurant, is a majestic salad bar with a fabulous and fresh selection of cold cuts, chilled jumbo asparagus, fresh, exotic garden salads and blends, marinated mushrooms, cheeses and more. I had to restrain myself from returning for seconds in order to save room for the all you can eat main course.

Fogo de Chao's prix-fixe price brilliantly allows diners to enjoy a complete menu of fifteen various cuts rather than selectively sticking to one entree. While steakhouses typically offer the usual New York, Porterhouse, and Filet Mignon steaks, Fogo de Chao not only has five different cuts of seasoned steak, but also dishes out lamb, chicken, pork, and sausages. Life can't get any sweeter than that - the best of all worlds for one fixed price. Authentic Brazilian sides such as fried plantains, hot crispy polenta, curry mashed potatoes, rice, and beans are served with dinner. Their classic warm cheese bread, pao de queijo, was like nothing I have tasted before. These small soft bread puffs made from yucca pulled apart like dough, with melted parmesan mixed in the center.

Fogo de ChaoThe best part of our meal was being able to control the pace and amount of food we wanted, not to mention what cuts and how well done we wanted them to be. Diners receive a small disk with a green "go" and red "stop" side. If the green side is up, these well-trained and keen gaucho chefs are quick to swing by and generously serve to your liking, or even call upon another gaucho chef in charge of a specific cut of meat. If you are a slow eater like me, then you can politely pass on the meat while your carnivorous companions continue to keep the meat coming. Diners are not obligated to accept more servings if they do not want more because they get to control the pace of personal dining. This extremely clever, because not only do you get tableside carving to guarantee maximum quality, but it also refrains from interrupting the flow of conversation at the table.

Starting with their widest selection of meats is beef. The bottom sirloin, fraldinha, and top sirloin, alcatra, are both excellent cuts of steak. The alcatra top sirloin has as much flavor as a ribeye but is as tender as a filet, and the marbling makes it sensational. The fraldinha bottom sirloin is also one of the most flavorful and meaty cuts. Like all meats here, they are roasted over an open fire to bring out their naturally succulent juices and then sliced thin at your tableside. The picanha garlic beef are thicker, but leaner cuts of the sirloin, full of robust fresh garlic and one of the most popular as it does not have much marbling. The filet mignon is the most tender cut from the tenderloin and can be served wrapped in bacon. The best part is that each gaucho chef proudly masters his own steak and brings it straight to your table for carving. Each bite is a freshly carved slice of meat, which seals in juices and flavors better than an individual large steak in one sitting. For a rib eye cut, the beef ancho has rich flavor from its great texture of marbling between the meat. If you want slow roasted juicy beef ribs, their costela, is a good choice because of its rich, natural flavors.

Fogo de Chao also offers plenty of fill for non-red meat eaters. The two varieties of chicken (frango) are tender, moist chicken breasts, wrapped in bacon to capture that smoky flavor and chicken legs with a hint of white wine that are roasted golden. For a little kick of Brazilian taste, try the linguica, robust and peppery pork sausages that spring back with each bite. If you like lamb, they have tasty young legs of lamb (cordeiro), which can be sliced off the bone or served as chops. The tender Australian lamb chops are extremely moist and seasoned well. Fogo also offers two kinds of pork for your dining enjoyment. The first is the pork loin, lombo, very lean cuts of pork, flavored with parmesan and served as mini cutlets, which tastes a lot like lemon marinated carnitas with crispy edges. The delicious pork ribs, costela de proco, are not for the diet conscious because it is marbled with a thin layer of fat to keep it moist, and slow roasted to capture its full smoky flavor that instantly melts instantly in your mouth. Well worth it if you ask me!

Top picks for dessert are the chocolate molten cakes with a side of ice cream or their renown papaya or strawberry cream. The papaya cream, which is known to be good for digestion, is served in a goblet with a side of black currant liquor for mixing. Smooth, yet having the consistency of soft yogurt, it was bursting with fresh papaya flavor. Or if you prefer something more traditional, they make a killer homemade flan that is soft and creamy.

Fogo de Chao has 13 locations nationwide, with locations in Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Beverly Hills, and more. Dinner is served nightly and lunch is offered Monday through Friday. Private rooms are available for parties, events, and presentations. Reservations recommended. All major credit cards accepted. For more information, visit them at www.fogodechao.com.

133 N. La Cienega Boulevard
Beverly Hills, California 90211
Phone: (310) 289-7755

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