Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fogo de Chao

For the first posting of 2012 (in great anticipation of our upcoming food & wine fest trip to Grand Cayman next week, I'm beginning a panicked attempt to clean out my inbox), I'd like to write about one of our favorite restaurants in the city - Fogo de Chao. For those of you not familiar with the Brazilian steakhouse concept (of which Fogo is a pioneer), you basically show up and eat about as much meat as you can possibly consume (along with side dishes from an impressive salad bar, if you'd rather allot calories elsewhere) for one per-head price. When seated, you're given a small coaster with a green side and a red side. After tiny (and delicious) cheese puffs are brought to the table as an amuse bouche (hint: don't fill up on these), you flip the coaster to "green", at which point servers dressed as gauchos and carrying various cuts of meat on swords begin descending on your table en masse to offer you slices of whatever they're toting; this onslaught continues until you can stand no more and you turn your coaster over to "red". Mrs. Hackknife first took me here when we were in the early stages of dating in 2002 and I ate so much I nearly induced a meat coma, swearing for hours afterwards that I'd never do such a moronic thing again and then eventually realizing, upon extended digestion, that I'd just experienced one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind. Since then, we've been back every 2 years or so and have also tried some imitators (such as Brazzaz and Sabor do Brasil) with varying degrees of satisfaction, but still prefer the original.

This latest visit, we treated my dad and stepmom for their Xmas present while they were in town from Florida (we're responsible for turning them into Fogo junkies as well). My current strategy to maximize enjoyment of the house fare without suffering the adverse after-effects of overindulgence is to start slow and continue slow, a marathon and not a sprint, if you will. I started with a few selections from the salad bar (including heart of palm, garlic potato salad, shrimp, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese) to lay down a base in the stomach, then moved on to a few meat items, such as the picanha (top sirloin seasoned with garlic), fraldinha (bottom sirloin), and filet mignon. Once finished with this and a slight sampling of the standard side dishes, crispy polenta and caramelized bananas, I returned to the salad bar for smoked salmon, roasted peppers, and prosciutto, followed by a few more meats, including rib-eye (my personal favorite), lamb chop, and parmesan pork loin. As tempting as the other cuts of meat were (pork ribs, sausages, chicken, and up to 12 others), I passed on them in favor of the signature papaya cream dessert (said to aid digestion, although possibly a myth). Given my excessive consumption of Pinot Noir at EL Ideas the previous night, I abstained from all alcohol this evening and was probably the better for it, feeling about as good as I'd ever felt at the conclusion of a Fogo meal (that is, not hating myself and not in need of immediate medical attention). Sure, I could have eaten more and gotten a little better value for my dollar (it's about $50 per person to take this plunge down Cholesterol Canyon), but I survived to chow down another day...

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