You know how it is, when someone recommends something as “the best”, “the greatest”, and “amazing” you can be pretty sure that you will end up setting your expectations too high and end up totally disappointed.
Well as soon as we moved to SP (now over five months ago) Fogo de Chao was the restaurant on everyone’s lips, it’s probably the most famous restaurant in SP (just a little bit more famous than The Outback even) and its main claim to fame is it’s amazing meat…..
Now as I am sure our regular readers are aware Brazil is now the largest beef producing country in the world, kicking the beefy butt of Australia and USA and Argentina. But it’s definitely not the most famous country for beef, chances are if you think about South American beef, you are probably going to think about Argentinean steak, and we had some amazing steak in Buenos Aires, so this place had a lot to live up to.
Fogo de Chao is a chain restaurant (which isn’t really the greatest start), but luckily for us, we can walk to one of their SP restaurants, so on a nice quiet Sunday afternoon – with nothing else planned for the rest of the day we strolled over to the restaurant, with the good 5km walk helping us to work up an appetite (see that folks, we walked 5km in SP and weren’t murdered)!!!
The restaurant is massive, it would probably seat 300 people and we luckily arrived just before the lunch time rush. The staff were wearing Brazilian cowboy outfits (ohh shit, it’s getting worse) and there was a massive buffet bar (more points off, it’s in freefall now).
We sat at our table, and were handed the menu:
Thats it, the whole menu, nothing but meat, meat, meat and meat, suddenly this place looked like it had some potential; there literally was nothing but meat available, no starters, no vegetarian option, just meat, unlimited amounts of meat!
Now most people have been to an all you can eat restaurant before, but I have never been to an all you can eat restaurant that serves the quality of meat that they do here. Instead of bringing you an individual piece of meat, the waiters are continually walking around the restaurant with giant cuts of meat, cooked and served the traditional Brazilian cowboy (Gaucho) way:
For those of you (like me) who aren’t that informed on traditional Brazilian bbq techniques, the tradition started when the gauchos were out on the range, they developed a simple way of cooking large chunks of meat, skewered on mega skewers (more like a swords) that were slowly roasted over the embers of the fire, something like this:
So imagine this (and if your mouth doesn’t start watering there is something wrong with you – like you’re a vegetarian or you may be dead) the restaurant is full of blokes wandering around carrying around massive pieces of perfectly cooked bits of beef – and I mean massive, the steaks on the skewers are all three or four inches thick and each skewer has a range of cookedness – from rare to well done, so you can choose it just the way you like it! As well as 16 separate cuts of beef on parade, they also have a couple of cuts of lamb, half roasted chickens, grilled chicken hearts, roast pork and a variety of sausages….. And the food just keeps coming, they use an ingenious traffic light/drinks coaster system to control the flow of meat:
Please Keep it coming….
My heart has stopped, please stop/resuscitate!
So you just sit down, order a bottle of Brazilian red wine (that’s a whole ’nother post), loosen your belt off a bit, switch your coaster to green and let the meat feast begin…
Each of the different cuts has a different taste, you can grab a few slices of each and compare the different flavours, from the marbled sweetness of the hump, to the straight lean meat of the fillet mignon and my favourite the “ancho” – a cut like a rib eye, with a good mix or marble and lean meat. All of the meat is cooked to perfection, sure in the Brazilian way it’s loaded with salt, but heh this isn’t a restaurant the heart foundation was likely to approve anyway, so in for a penny in for a pound!
The great thing about the traffic light system is you can control the flow of food, take a 15 minute break, enjoy some more red wine a couple of polenta chips (another topic worthy of it’s own post) and generally relax, if you have had enough beef you can switch to lamb for a while, choose between slices off a roasted leg of lamb, or a rack of lamb chops, then some delicious bbq chicken and a dozen grilled chicken hearts (yet another Brazilian treat). As well there is a salad bar, but bloody hell, that salad is just taking up space that meat could be filling in your belly!
So yes, there are lots of other restaurants in Sao Paulo that specialise in preparing Brazilian bbq or churrasco, and now we have been to a couple of others but I have to say, if you have the choice start with the best, Fogo de Chao is one of those places that definitely lives up to its reputation!