Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fogo de Chao Tasting

Last Monday night we had a tasting at Fogo de Chao, located in Scottsdale, AZ.  The restaurant is an authentic "churrascaria" is relatively new to the United States, originating in Brazil.  This brazilian steakhouse features a 30 item salad bar, signature items such as pao de queijo (warm cheese bread),  caipirinha (brazilian cocktail), and papaya cream.

I (Julie) have seen this restaurant in many of my travels but have not eaten at the restaurant.  I was excited that we were going to try this place.

I (Brian) wasn't sure what to expect going into this.  was i excited?  yes.  simply because we were told there would be an endless supply of meat.  the carnivore in me was looking forward to this.  and I wasn't disappointed.

the service at fogo de chao was nothing shy of amazing.  the management and servers have a big focus on making sure every patron gets exactly what they want, and will go out of their way to make it happen.  we were seated in their private dining area which had beautiful decor and ambiance.  and while this restaurant also had wood walls and low lighting, it didn't have the same feel as the previous tastecasting restaurant, Morton's.  Fogo had a romantic and classy ambiance which paired well with the upscale menu items and superb service!

All but 3 of the menu items are safe for people with celiac disease (allergy to wheat) and those include chicken leg (braised with beer), tabouli salad (made with wheat grain) and salad dressings.  There isn't even any wheat in the bread that is served on the salad bar.

The meat is acquired from the U.S. but the spices come directly from Brazil.

we were 1st served a glass of caipirinha.  it was wonderfully sweet and had a margarita taste to it.  thanks to the sweetness, i enjoyed the caipirinha more than i usually enjoy a margarita.

we then made our trip to the salad bar.  the veggies were very fresh.  with crisp lettuce, wonderfully dark broccoli and a vast array of other veggies to choose from.  there were also several types of cheeses and dressings to make your salad complete.  these photos of our salad bar choices don't do the bar justice.

While we were eating our salads, the servers brought several magnificent side dishes to the table: garlic mashed potatoes, fried bananas, crispy warm polenta, white rice and black beans.

Julie: many of the side dishes were great! I especially enjoyed the polenta.

brian:  the polenta was a surprise for me.  i enjoyed it.  i liked the garlic mashed potatoes, but i think they could have put a smidgen more garlic in them.

as we finished our salads and side dishes, the "gauchos" (Southern Brazilian cowboys who train for over 3 years to perfect not only the practice of roasting the meats but also of the serving of the meats) arrived with the pièce de résistance, the meat.  They arrived one-by-one with the art they created using nothing but skewers, flavorings, fire and meat.  They have 15 different types of meat to choose from, which means it's very likely you won't have all of them in one sitting.   Julie and I were able to sample several of them, 

this is an example of the type of skewer the gauchos would serve the meat on.

(this is not us in the photo, but another tastecasting couple)

Julie: I really enjoyed the Lombo (pork loin crusted in parmesean cheese).  The cheese brought out the delicate tenderness of the pork loin.  the piece I received was just a smidge dry but overall very tender and great flavor!

Next I had the filet minon and Frango (chicken), both wrapped in bacon.  They had a great tender quality nicely complimented by the saltiness of the bacon.  However, they were also just a tad bit dry. Whenever I see or want to order meat wrapped in bacon, I usually decline because the bacon is soggy, fatty and not cooked to my standards.  The bacon was nice and cooked and just a tad bit crispy. 

Lastly, I had the Picanha (top sirloin) with a robust garlic seasoning.  It was very, very tasty and the amount of garlic blew the garlic mashed potatoes out of the water.  I love garlic and it was a very tasty feast with a very tasty, juicy piece of top sirloin.

brian:  i sampled a few more than julie did.  partially because i forgot to follow one of the procedures fogo de chao has in the serving process of the meats.  each customer gets a coaster that is red on one side and green on the other.  when you want more meat, flip the green side up.  as the gauchos come around with their meats, they know they can offer it to you.  the first time around, i forgot about the coaster and left the green side up.  oops.  :)

i first tried the cordeiro (Lamb).  delicious.  as i came to experience with most of their other offerings, it was nice and juicy and full of flavor.  the meat slid off the bone and it had a nice crispness on the outside and left me wanting more.

i next sampled the linguica (sausage).  it had a nice hint of garlic to it and again was flavorful.  it wasn't one of my favorites, since i normally only like the sausage links that come with breakfast, but i noticed a couple other tastecasters really enjoying them.

lombo (pork loin) was next.  it was not as juicy as the other meats i had.  it was dry.  on the other hand, the parmesan crust was great and made up for it.

frango (chicken) was offered next.  wow.  it even came wrapped in bacon!  i've said it before and i'll say it again.  bacon makes everything better.  julie's right.  they pay attention to the details, and the bacon was perfectly crispy.

filet mignon was my final sampling.  fogo de chao added a nice garlic flavoring to this meat, and i enjoyed every bite.

Following the feast of meat, we were delightfully surprised with being served the entire range of desserts, which we were told were not included in the tasting.  Among the options were: Fogo de Chao's signature papayan cream dessert (ripe red papayas mixed with vanilla bean ice cream and topped with creme de cacao), key lime pie, flan, creme brulee, molton chocolate cake and chocolate mousse cake.

Julie: As much as the meat experience was truly a culinary delight, this was THE BEST DESSERT SAMPLING I HAVE HAD IN MY LIFE!  IT WAS TRULY AMAZING!

J: The papayan cream was something I could have piped intravenously into my veins. The rich papaya was so fresh and delicious!

b:  amen and amen.  the papayan cream was amazing.  i couldn't stop eating it.  i could become addicted.  sweet and cold, it was a great desert to end the parade of meat.

J: The key lime pie had a perfect blend of tartness and lime to compliment the sweetness of the cream.  I think I could have eaten the entire pie.

b:  this is the way key lime pie is supposed to taste.  normally i don't go for key lime, but this is the exception.  fluffy with the perfect blend of sweet and tart.

J: The creme brulee was a great balance of cream and sugary crunchy glaze.  And if you know me, you know that I am on the fence about egg dishes.  I don't particularly like eggs (over easy, sunny side up, soft boiled, etc.)  I only like scrambled eggs, when they are mixed with milk and scrambled well.  I don't like the smell of them when Brian makes them bcz he doesn't use milk and the egg smell is too overpowering.  I don't like souffles.  Egg drop soup isn't my favorite.  So it's sort of a surprise that creme brulee is so close to my heart.  Perhaps its because the French have done it justice.  Perhaps it's bcz it's the nice dressed up cousin of flan.  But this creme brulee was delicious.  (Although as a side note, when Brian and I went on our mini-honeymoon after our wedding, we stayed at a resort called Sedona Rouge, where we had vanilla bean creme brulee, and it was the best creme brulee I've ever had. The vanilla bean helped beat the egg taste in the creme which was great for me.  Surprising because even the creme brulee in Paris wasn't as good - too eggy for me.)

b:  i thought there could have been a bit more of the "crust" to the top of the creme brulee.  it was still yummy, but like julie said, not as good as the creme brulee we had at sedona rouge.

J: Molton Chocolate Cake - it was good and tasty and while I'll never turn down chocolate, I think the first three desserts named above were "took the cake."  :)

b:  how can you go wrong with molten chocolate cake?  i don't know, and neither does fogo de chao.  wonderfully warm with that great chocolate oozing from the middle.

J: Flan - see above.  Didn't even try it. Although I'm sure it was good.

b:  i didn't try this one either.  it didn't look too appetizing to me.

J: Chocolate Mousse Cake - Very good, better than the molton chocolate cake.  This would make a nice treat anytime.

b:  this is better than mom used to make (no offense to any mothers reading this).  perhaps this is a new addition to their menu since i don't see it listed on their website.  this cake only added to the feeling that i had died and gone to heaven.

We also were served our choice of white or red wine, water (sparkling or still) and an after dinner drink (coffee, espresso or tea).

Dinner runs $46.50 pp and Lunch $28.50 pp.  Lunch is only served M-F.  If you want the salad buffet only it runs $19.50 pp.  Drinks and dessert are not included.

J: Overall, this was my favorite restaurant in the tastecasting reviews.  The prices are really extravagant and hard to justify, despite the culinary feast. It is sort of a justice issue for me.   I was impressed with the excellent quality of the food.  I love the history of the restaurant and how they are empowering men of Brazil to learn a trade and then return home to be able to support their families.

b:  i agree with julie.  this was my favorite so far as well.  they create a great dining experience and invite you in to the brazilian way of cooking.  i was actually a little sad when i noticed i was full, because i was enjoying the tastes and the experience so much.  i thought it is great that in the 3 years of training to become a gaucho, they also focus on the culture surrounding the profession.   i would unhesitatingly go to fogo de chao again.