This past Thursday, March 15, Fogo de Chão (pronounced fo-go dèe shoun), the authentic Southern Brazilian steakhouse that’s been named one of Zagat’s top U.S. restaurants, opened in Orlando on International Drive just south of Sand Lake Road. I recently attended a preview dinner at the restaurant.
The name Fogo de Chao is Portuguese for “fire on the ground”, developed during a time when Brazilian cowboys gathered around a fire to roast the evening’s meal. It sits in the same location where restaurants Bogard’s and India Blue once were before they were razed for the construction of Fogo De Chao.
The restaurant’s dining experience is based on the centuries-old gaucho tradition known as churrasco, the art of roasting meats over an open charcoal fire. A prix fixe menu features 15 freshly grilled meats carved tableside from roasting skewers. Also featured are traditional Southern Brazilian side dishes on a sumptuous more than 30 item gourmet salad and sides bar.
The restaurant offers a 200-label wine list, for which it has received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for the past eight years. Guests can also enjoy decadent desserts include the restaurant’s signature Papaya Cream, made with fresh papaya.
During my visit, I noticed that the acoustics of the building made it very difficult for me to carry on a conversation with my dining partner. Maybe it was all the caipirinhas that all the guests had enjoyed during the evening making everyone a little bit more rowdy than usual, but I don’t think that was the case. If you go, be prepared for a busy, exciting evening with a lot of noise. The place is sure to be bumpin’.
Upon entering Fogo De Chao (shaped on the outside oddly enough like a Native American teepee hut or a fire pit ?), there is a large bar/waiting area where you can order from their impressive selection of 200 wines or get that awesome and popular caiprinha, the national cocktail of Brazil.
At the center of the building is a long salad bar area that serves up not only your typical salad items but also proscuitto, smoked salmon, shitake mushrooms, salumi, manchego cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and more. Those of you who have been to Brazilian steakhouses before, like the nearby Texas De Brazil up the street, will know to be wary of the salad bar area and to tread lightly in its waters. The Gaucho meat parade will soon be marching to your table.
At your table you are given a circular disc, one side red meaning stop, the other green meaning go. Flip the green side up and soon the gauchos arrive with sticks of grilled PICANHA (Top Sirloin – Garlic or Traditional seasoned), FILET MIGNON, BEEF ANCHO (Ribeye), ALCATRA (Top Sirloin), FRALDINHA (Bottom Sirloin – one of my favorite cuts), COSTELA (Beef Ribs), CORDEIRO (Lamb – just wonderful here), FRANGO (Chicken), COSTELA DE PORCO (Pork Ribs), LOMBO (Pork Loin), or LINGUICA (Sausage). They arrive very quickly in rapid succession so just be ready for them as it might take you by surprise when they all arrive at once with all this meat in your face, like a kid in a meat candy store for sure. When you’ve had enough, just turn your disc over to red for them to stop.
Rack of Lamb, full of wonderful flavor
Out of all the meats, I would have to say the bottom sirloin, lamb chops, and rack of lamb were my favorite, all very seasoned flavorfully and grilled to a nice temperature for enjoyment. The pork ribs were a bit dry and may have needed some more seasoning. Obviously there will be comparisons between Texas De Brazil and Fogo De Chao as they are both going to be Brazilian steakhouses on International Drive. Texas De Brazil is wonderful, ambiance and meats, and all, but Fogo De Chao’s meats were more memorable and had more flavor than Texas’. They both have a warm place in this meat eater’s heart for sure.
Fogo De Chao serves mashed potatoes and sweet bananas with their meats to cleanse the palate between cuts. They also have this nice fried polenta dish that reminded me of this yummy fried tofu that my mom would make at home, we ordered a few more rounds of the fried polenta for our table because we loved it so much. They also used this thin metallic plate especially made from Brazil that I at first thought was fancy plastic ware until my friend Pearleen of Megayummo told me no, it’s actually nice silverware from Brazil. Thank you Megayummo!
For dessert, my favorite would have to be the authentic Brazilian dish: papaya cream, made with fresh papaya and topped with a chassis/currant liqueur. Soft, delicate, delightful. The other desserts were great too but this one dessert stood out among the creme brulee, flan, and chocolate molten cake.
Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça (sugar cane rum), sugar, and lime, with some mint thrown in for measure and crushed.
Wine Room at Fogo De Chao
Center Salad Bar
Pork ribs, a bit dry and in need of a bit more seasoning
Lamb chops at Fogo
Fried Polenta cakes
Fogo’s Signature Papaya Cream
Operation hours and prices are as follows:
$26.50 (Salad Bar Only – $19.50)
Monday – Thursday: 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
$35.50 (Salad Bar Only – $19.50)
Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
$42.50 (Salad Bar Only – $19.50)
Monday – Thursday: 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Sunday: 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Children five years of age and under enjoy complimentary dining. Children six to 10 years of age dine at half the prices listed above. Beverages, desserts, taxes and gratuity are additional.
Fogo do Chão Orlando is located at 8282 International Drive, a quarter mile south of Sand Lake Road and about a mile north of the Orange County Convention Center.