Fogo de Chao: A Destination at Home

Each issue I like to make a special visit to a location such as a restaurant, hotel, entertainment venue, etc. to share with readers what my thoughts are on the chosen location. This month, I was very excited to visit our friends at Fogo de Chão to have a proper meal there. I’ll admit, it was my first time there for a full meal. I’d had light appetizers at an event there before, but I didn’t get the full experience. And, boy, have I been missing out! So Kym Bolado (Publisher of SHALE) and I went to the downtown San Antonio location to see what I’ve been missing out on.

Ribeye_IMG_9947My trip started out with a tour of the restaurant, including the private event spaces. Oddly enough, at those events I mentioned, I never had the time to focus on the walls. I guess I was too busy shaking hands and meeting new people. But on this trip I was able to take my time and studying the design and artwork. I was happy to see that the restaurant kept the Brazilian culture throughout many of their design choices. Being right on the River Walk, the location is great for visitors to the city to come over from the Marriott or Grand Hyatt hotels. The location is also just a stone’s throw from Rivercenter Mall and the newly constructed Margaritaville restaurant.

Fogo de Chão was open and bright. I looked around, surprised. Prior to my visit to Fogo de Chao, most of my experiences going to steakhouses consisted of candlelit rooms with quiet tables. However, lunchtime at Fogo was lively with light and discussion. This wasn’t your typical quiet steakhouse.

Caipirinha_IMG_9899My first order of business was a drink. I had heard they had this amazing cocktail that is a cross between a mojito and a margarita. The Caipirinha consists of muddled Fogo premium-aged cachaça (Brazil’s most popular spirit), fresh limes and cane sugar. The drink is a little sweet and a little sour and packs a big punch! It’s really good!

For an appetizer, Kym and I split an impressive order of shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were enormous and so fresh! The order came with eight large shrimp served on a bed of ice with lemons and cocktail sauce. The sauce was perfectly matched to embellish, not mask, the fresh flavor of the shrimp.

Given to us when we sat down, there were little cardboard discs left on the table for each of us. The coaster-looking discs signaled to the staff when we were ready to be served meat. Kym and I flipped our coins from red to green and the meat started to make its way to our plates.

I am a New York strip steak kind of girl. Sometimes I venture out but for the most part I know when I’m having steak I want the strip. And at most steakhouses you order your sides separate from your meat and share with your table family-style. My experience at Fogo was nothing like this.

I tried every kind of meat they had. That’s right, 13 different meats including lamb, beef, pork and chicken. By the time I left I wasn’t sure if it was the Caipirinha or the meat that had me feeling tipsy.

I visited the market table, which is basically a salad bar but with so much more than salad. The market table offers options that are either Brazilian or safer, less adventurous American dishes. And once I was seated again, our waiter brought out a plate of mashed potatoes, fried cornmeal and fried plantains. The mashed potatoes were exceptional! I couldn’t get enough and the fried plantains seemed more like a delicious dessert than a side dish. With all of the side options available between the table offering and the market table, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

The meats were brought by the table on huge skewer-like poles by knowledgeable staff wearing Brazilian gaucho pants. Of the many types meats I tried, I thought I would mention a few that stuck out to me that day. First, the filet mignon. The servers brought over the filet mignon both with and without bacon. Both were truly delectable. Tender, flavorful and juicy, this cut was my favorite of the day. I also enjoyed the garlic steak — it was tender and the garlic really added to the natural flavor of the meat. The pork tenderloin with Parmesan cheese was to die for. It had so much flavor in each bite. Finally the bacon-wrapped chicken, a classic favorite, was delicious as well.

I tried very hard to save room for dessert. It wasn’t easy considering the sheer amount of side and meat options I tried. I was tempted to go with a common dish, like chocolate cake or cheesecake, but I figured when in Rome (or Brazil, rather). So we shared two Brazilian desserts, a caramelized pineapple dish served a la mode and drizzled with caramel and South American flan. I’m not a huge flan fan normally, but this had to be the best flan I’ve ever tasted. It had a different texture than other versions. It was more custard-like, almost like crème brûlée without the crispy top. The pineapple dessert, however, was like nothing I’d ever seen before. The caramelized sugar on top of the tangy pineapple was divine. The pineapple was still warm when it came to the table so the ice cream was a really nice touch.

I left the restaurant with a full stomach, but not uncomfortably full. I love that with this restaurant you can choose exactly how much food you want. You can try everything, like I did, or only try a few things. You can get multiple pieces of the same kind of meat if you really like it. The options at this restaurant are endless. And the staff makes you feel welcomed. I saw them conversing with each table, discussing the cut of meat, the seasonings, how it’s prepared, etc. Each of them was really a meat connoisseur I will definitely be returning to Fogo de Chão for happy hour and dinner. I had a great time learning about the Brazilian culture and cuisine. If you can’t make it to Brazil, Fogo de Chão is a great option without having the cost of airfare!

 

For more information about Fogo de Chão, including their menu and brand-new happy hour options, visit www.fogodechao.com.

 

Photos courtesy of fFogo de Chão