For the uninitiated, a Brazilian churrascaria is a place where meats are cooked in the churrasco style, which roughly translates to ‘barbecue’. Now that we’ve gotten that lesson out of the way, we can discuss how Fogo de Chão is basically the king of Brazilian meat. Founded in Brazil in the late 1970s, by two brothers, the initial idea was to create a restaurant with quality food served in the gaucho tradition. Starting in São Paolo, their acclaimed restaurant did so well, they decided to expand. Arriving in the US in 1997, they opened their first American location in Dallas, TX. Today, there are 36 locations in the US, 2 in Mexico City, and 10 in Brazil.
Their recipe for continued success is evident in their passion for meat and gaucho culture/tradition. The minute you walk through the door, you’re part of the family. This was clear when we arrived on a recent Friday night. Only open for two weeks at the time, the restaurant was slammed and filled with table upon table of couples on date night and families large and small. The space is quite large, and located on the ground floor of the recent Lincoln Square expansion, with a full bar and multitude of tables.
Photos by: foodolish.com
Let me start with a disclaimer. Stay away from the Market Table. I repeat, stay away from the Market Table. You didn’t come to a Brazilian steakhouse to eat vegetables or starch. Okay, okay, if you must, I suppose you can make an exception for all the goodies Fogo de Chão provides as part of the churrasco experience. If you can find a way to navigate thru the tightly packed tables, you’ll be rewarded with various salads, fruit, charcuterie, soup, a leg of jambon, antipasti, fogo feijoada (traditional black bean stew with sausage), and an assortment of accompaniments. It took a lot of will power for us to refrain from eating too much here.
Provided you haven’t completely stuffed yourself at the Market Table, gauchos will start arriving at your table with various meats on large metal skewers. Everything is sliced to order, and each person is provided a small disc to visually display whether more meat is wanted or not. Flip it to green, and every gaucho will stop and offer you his wares. Flip it to red and you can spend some time digging into the garlic mashed potatoes, caramelized bananas, fried polenta, and pão de queijo that will magically appear at your table. We loved the garlic mashed potatoes and pão de queijo, but the fried polenta fell flat for us. If you’ve never had pão de queijo, we can’t recommend these gluten-free cheese buns enough. They’re made of sweet and sour yuca flour and Parmesan cheese, and replenished throughout your meal. These are all shared plates and meant to compliment the steady rotation of meat.
On to what you came here for: the meat! Fogo offers so many choices, it’s enough to make your head spin. With so many cuts of steak, pork, sausage, chicken, and lamb, the key here is to pace yourself in order to try some of everything. Highlights for us in the meat department as follows:
Ribeye – Grilled to perfection, we had thirds and fourths of this medium rare.
Picanha – The prime part of the top sirloin, and Fogo’s signature cut. It’s tender, sliced thin, and a sprinkle of rock salt gives this cut a robust flavor.
Flank Steak – Seasoned and grilled to perfection, we loved this cut.
Costela de porco (pork ribs) – We’re not usually huge pork fans, but these ribs were fantastic. While not fall off the bone, the meat was very tender and flavorful.
Frango (bacon wrapped chicken) – We preferred the bacon wrapped chicken to the bacon wrapped filet mignon, as the chicken was cooked just right with a nice smoky flavor.
Cordeiro (lamb chops) – These juicy, lime marinated lamb chops were cooked a perfect medium rare, and you could eat these like lollipops.
Lombo (parmesan pork) – Lean pork loin coated in parmesan cheese arrived juicy and expertly prepared.
If you’re meat-averse, Fogo has you covered. They offer a la carte options of jumbo shrimp cocktail, salmon, or Chilean sea bass, and you can supplement it with the Market Table as well.
We also complimented our meal with multiple caipirinhas. Caipirinhas are the signature cocktail of Brazil, and all feature cachaça, the native spirit of Brazil, distilled from pure cane sugar. The strawberry hibiscus caipirinha, made with housemade hibiscus syrup, strawberries, and lime was our favorite. It had a subtle sweetness, with strong strawberry flavor, that helped cut through course after course of meat.
And just when you think you’re so full you’ll need a forklift to remove you from your chair, you’ll have to make some room in your stomach for dessert. We know we did. Since this is a go big, or go home kind of a dinner, we ended our night with a thick, rich slice of New York style cheesecake topped with strawberry sauce, and the papaya cream. The cheesecake was creamy and decadent, but the star of dessert was definitely the papaya cream. Insanely popular in Brazil, fresh papaya is blended with vanilla ice cream and topped with crème de cassis liqueur. The result is a light cream that’s cold and equally refreshing.
Basically, if you’re a vegan or watching your cholesterol, this is probably not the place for you. If you’re looking for an experience with amazing food and you love meat, it most definitely is. Everything is well-seasoned, flavorful, and grilled beautifully. Fogo is open for lunch, dinner, and brunch on the weekends, and happy hour is M-F (bar only) from 4:30-6:30pm. While you can’t have a meat-fest in the bar, you can tuck into shareable plates of sliders, cocktail shrimp, polenta, and spinach dip. If our visit was any indication, we anticipate Fogo will do very well here. The combination of family oriented atmosphere, quality food and service, and great cocktails are a slam dunk in Bellevue.
Fogo de Chão | 440 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004 | Open 7 days a week