Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Fogo de Chao

I have been traveling to Brazil for several years now and recently brought back a Paulista to be my wife.That is to say that I am enchanted with all things Brazilian.For me ethnic dining is about revisiting a favorite destination through the sights, sounds,smells, and tastes of a country.I love Thai food, but never having visited Thailand I don't have the same connection I have to Brazilian food.When I have a good caipirinha or coxinha de galinha, I can conjure up all the lively faces and places of my Brazilian experiences,like when my wife and I went to our first churrascaria together, the Fogo de Chao in Moema, near the Guarulhos airport in Sao Paulo.Beautiful!!!Beleza!!!!

Tonight, my wife and I were entertaining a great friend from Japan who is no stranger to steakhouses.Japan boasts some of the most elegant and serious steakhouses in the world.We knew that for his first churrasco experience that we had to go to LA's finest, Fogo de Chao- Beverly Hills.We have been to the Fogo de Chao in Sao Paulo, Brazil before and many others when I was going back and forth from the US to Brazil during our courtship.Of course, my wife has experienced churrasco all her life and is an expert whether she likes it or not!The most striking difference between LA and Sao Paulo at first glance of course is the price. Quality meat can be had in Brazil for a lot less.

When we arrived it was straight to the sleek bar off to the side for the requisite caipirinhas.The bartender offered four different cachacas to choose from.My Paulista wife went for the "Ypioca gold" for a smoother ride, but I convinced my friend to go with "51" to experience the caipirinha of the people.They also carry "Leblon" and the regular "Ypioca".For us this set the appropriate vibe.Although Fogo seems to have more Brazilian staff than the last time I was there one year ago, it still lacks the ambiance and spirit of places like Gaucho's Village and of course the Fogo in Sao Paulo.But, would this make a difference in the churrasco?

The salad bar at a churrascaria is always a carnaval of vibrant, fresh colors.Grilled vegetables, marinated vegetables, salads,cheeses,and many dishes reflecting the multi-cultural popourri that is Brazil.Italians,Japanese,Russians,Lebanese,Germans,etc.Truly a feast for the eyes.We tried to steer our guest towards the must have Brazilian items, as we still had meat service to prepare for.Rule #1 in churrasco.Save room for the meat. We are talking palmitos,salpicao,maionese,quiejo,vinagrete, and...........where's the farofa!!!!! Oh, they bring polenta, pao de queijo,batatas, and farofa to the table.We also asked the manager for some Brazilian beans and rice(feijao e arroz).Everything was fantastic, and while this salad bar didn't have as big of a selection as most churrascarias in Brazil, the quality was on par with the Sao Paulo Fogo de Chao.The polenta was made with cornmeal, but was still crunchy and delicious. Now we were ready for the carne.

I tried the picanha(sirloin cap), alcatra(top sirloin), fraldinha(bottom sirloin),linguica,cordeiro(lamb chops), and the new ancho(rib eye).All of these meats were sublime in all their salty goodness.The ancho was my favorite, so tender and oozing with flavor. A great churrascaria really tailors the flavor and texture of every cut, and Fogo de Chao achieves this formidable task with honors.I'm only sad to not have had another stomach to get those meats that got away.My wife warns to stay away from the sausages, because in Brazil they keep bringing the linguica to fill you up and spoil your appetite for the more expensive cuts.At Fogo de Chao, this is not an issue, as this fine restaurant gives world class quality and service.It is definitely worth the coin, at $55 a head, to experience "Los Angeles' best churrascaria."

Fogo de Chao
Hours of operation:Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30am-2pmDinner: Monday-Thursday 5pm-10pm; Friday 5pm- 10:30pm; Saturday 4:30pm-10:30pm; Sunday 4pm- 9:30pm.133 N. La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, California 90211Phone: 310-289-7755 / Fax: 310-289-9966

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