Friday, May 31, 2019

Fogo de Chão Food Review

Grilled Pork Belly & Pineapple with Queijo Assado at Fogo de Chão

Once upon a time, I could have lunch at Fogo de Chão, and eat almost everything in sight. Well, I'm 50 now (almost 51) and I have to pace myself, no matter how delectable the food is. This includes Fogo's new summer menu, light in comparison, but unfortunately... no less delicious. The famed Brazilian Steakhouse never disappoints, whether it's a (relatively quick) weekday lunch or the most special of occasions, spent lingering over the colorful, seemingly never-ending Market Table and/or a myriad of tasty meats and mouth-watering sides. Wednesday's lunch was a perfect example. Exquisite food, just not enough appetite/time to try everything.

Forgive my apologies (there I go again) but I can't help but regret not eating more, as I post the photos from my still ambitious smörgåsbord. It starts (as it always does) with Fogo's sinful Pão de queijo, a Brazilian cheese bread, served piping hot and minus any unnecessary spreads. The trick is to eat only a couple (fat chance) before filling up. I finished off three, before I begged my super-nice server Charlotte to take the last one away before I changed my mind.

Lucky for me, pacing is a well-honed art at Fogo. Plates never pile up, yet almost miraculously appear mere seconds after the previous one was removed. Always with a smile too, which is greatly appreciated... especially when you're eating a lot of food, and don't want to be reminded just how much you're actually devouring. I decided (to begin) to walk off the rolls, and saddle up to the Market Table for some healthier options. Those include two summer salads (Tomato Mozzarella and Watermelon Feta) which are great anytime of year, and my personal guilty pleasure, Fogo's Black Pepper Candied Bacon, which I always manage to sneak at the table itself. The latter salad is particularly refreshing, although I had to hunt around for feta cheese, which isn't Fogo's fault, but rather ravenous customers who don't realize it will be refilled pronto. Remember, you have to pace yourself, no matter how old you are.

Watermelon Feta Salad & Tomato Mozzarella Salad (r)

After polishing off my Market Table offerings, I received a special plate of Pork Belly & Pineapple with two to-die-for chunks of Queijo Assado (roasted cheese) which were grilled, then soaked in a spicy malagueta honey, producing a crispy exterior (seared on both sides!) with gooey, semi-soft cheese that takes a while to chew, but is worth every extra glorious second. Absolutely sublime. Ditto for the aforementioned Pork Belly with Pineapple, which took top honors for best bites of the meal. The former was crispy and flavorful, outdone only by the best hunks of pineapple I've ever tasted (and yes, I've been to Hawaii twice, so I know what I'm talking about.)

Next up, Alcatra (top sirloin) cooked to a perfect medium (as requested.) I'm literally still salivating, as I write about it almost 48 hours. Even better (yes, it's possible) Fogo's mind-blowing chicken leg, which is marinated in a mix of beer and brandy, that I've tried to replicate (without success) at home. Also in the mix, an unusually tame spicy pork sausage, that was anything but (this time around.) The real sin however? I only had two pieces of chicken, a record low for me, and one I can't wait to rectify on my next visit.

Pão de queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

Given my time constraints, I had to pass on a half-dozen other favorites, or they'd have had to take me out of there on some kind of gurney. Meat is especially filling, and I simply couldn't pass on two of the best side dishes in the business, Fogo's luscious Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Southern Brazilian staple Polenta (fries.) Both sides were served hot (cold food is never a problem here) and packed with their usual DC Outlook-approved flavor profiles. Simple, but delicious.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Don't ask how, but I still found room for a few more bites, and a full-sized dessert, complete with cute message/sauce. The bacon-wrapped steak is exactly as you imagine... hot, succulent and double the trouble with a crispy half-strip of bacon smothered in honey. Any other day, and I could devour a dozen in a blink (or two) of an eye. The Key Lime Pie was a bit too ambitious. So much so, I couldn't finish it (that's a first) but only because I overdid it for a good hour and 10 minutes. The graham crust is impossibly delicate, with a heaping mound of creamy key lime on top + house-made whipping cream. How does anyone ever leave this place?


The restaurant itself (ideally situated along DC's Pennsylvania Avenue) is sprawling (two levels and a cozy bar in front) but somehow intimate. Gorgeous murals, and well-spaced tables fill the main dining room, delighting families, power lunchers and (on this day) at least three different graduation celebrations. It's nice to know that a new generation is already getting hooked on one of the district's very best restaurants. The dining room gets plenty of natural light, and service is top-notch (save for one manager, who referred to me as "boss," three times no less.) Charlotte was sensational, but there are literally a dozen others who deserve recognition. That's a clear sign of great management. Yet another reason to come back for more (as if I needed one.)

Bacon-Wrapped Steak

Prices fluctuate (between $15 for the Market Table only lunch, to almost 60 bucks for the full-on Churrasco Experience, but the amount of (sincerely) quality food still makes that one of DC's most underrated values. Click here for the full price list, and don't forget about Happy Hour, which boasts a slew of $4 bites, $6 South American wines and an $8 burger that I have circled in my mind for next time. The weekend Brazilian Brunch is a literal steal at only $42 (includes the Market Table and Full Churrasco Experience.)

Watermelon Fresca Cocktail

I've been here at least a dozen times before (not including special events) and this marks my first official review, so please forgive/understand my occasional gushes: They're sincere and well-deserved. Here's hoping you stop by soon, so we can compare notes :)

Key Lime Pie