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« Whole Roasted Sea Bass | Main | Food and Wine Events »

Tue, Mar 21 2006 at 08:17 AM

Fogo de Chao

Posted by Jason, Mar 21, 2006

It's not every day that I like to totally pig out, but I made an exception last weekend for Fogo de Chao. Fogo de Chao is a churrascaria, a Brazilian restaurant where you'll find different kinds of savory meat served on spits -- all you can eat for a fixed price. As you can read on Fogo de Chao's web site, they cook their beef the "Gaucho" way. Ideally this would mean that they would grill their meat over open fires, but somehow I doubt that's how the meat at Fogo de Chao is actually being cooked.

I imagine scheduling reservations at Fogo de Chao is one of the more difficult sciences in this world. It's fixed price at $45 a person, all you can eat, and there's no time limit, so I wasn't surprised that we had to wait for our 8 PM reservation. It didn't matter much though, since we got lucky and found an empty table at the way-too-small-for-a-two-floor-restaurant bar.

While the hostesses seemed overwhelmed, they were very eager to please, regardless of the bartenders' comments about how inexperienced they were. There was a whole team of people whose main job was to get people seated and clear tables. Our friends were running a little late and still hadn't arrived when it was time for us to be seated, but the hostesses sat us anyway, which I wasn't expecting.

Your server greets you the instant you're seated, although you probably won't see him/her a whole lot the rest of the night, unless your wine bottle gets empty. Once they explain "the system", you're pretty much off and running and on your own. The waiter directs you to a salad bar and bread, which you actually don't have to eat. While the salad and antipasto aren't bad, it's not the reason you're there. Rather than visiting the salad bar at the beginning of the meal, I'd recommend taking a break half way through the meal and having a salad as a palate cleanser.

You can control how often waiters (or gauchos as the restaurant calls them) stop at your table with food by flipping over your coaster (I don't think it was actually a coaster though, because if you put your glass on it, the gauchos wouldn't see it) to green or red. I don't think I need to explain which color means you want more food. It was unclear to me whether or not the coaster actually meant anything though, since there were times when the gauchos brought food to my companions and I regardless of our coasters. Basically, as long as there's one person with the coaster flipped to green, they will stop by and offer the entire table food.

I had visited a restaurant very much like this when I vacationed in Aruba two years ago, and I pretty much had the same experience there as I had at Fogo de Chao. The service is prompt and attentive, the wine list awarded yet expensive, and the food inconsistant. You can get a great slice of meat in one gaucho's visit to your table, and a completely different cut in another visit, and regardless of whether or not you ask for a medium rare slice, or a well done slice, most of the time you don't get quite what you ask for.

I could go into detail on each cut of meat, but I'll save you the time and just tell you what the tastier cuts were. The juicy filet was very good, as was the flavorful lamb (in either leg or chop form), which I thought was the best that Fogo de Chao had to offer. It was the most flavorful, tender and interesting by far. I also liked the bottom sirloin. There was definitely an overuse of salt on all of the cuts of meat and I'm not the only one to notice this.

Dessert? Who would have room other than a professional eater?

Our final bill for the four of us was close to $325. My heart skipped a beat when I saw that bill, but I guess what was I expecting when we ordered two bottles of wine for $60 a piece, and each of our meals cost $44.50 (update: the price has since been raised to $48.50)? Add on the 10% DC dining tax and you've got a nice hole that's been dug in my dining budget this month. Looks like I'll be writing about some cheap eats in the near future.

My final opinion...

I'd rather go to Ray's the Steaks before going to Fogo de Chao.  At least there, I can order a steak, have it cooked to order and not feel like a pig at the end of the night. Plus, my wallet will be a little heavier.

Fogo de Chao
1101 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 347-4668
Map

Hours:
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30am-2:30pm
Dinner: Monday-Thursday 5pm-10pm; Friday 5pm- 10:30pm; Saturday 4:30pm-10:30pm; Sunday 4pm- 9:30pm

Dress Code: Business Casual - I saw people in nice jeans.
Parking: Valet and street if you can find it.
Smoking:
Allowed at the bar.
Closest Metro:
Federal Triangle
Reservations: Taken.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 1 out of 4 diapers. LOL. Yeah. No. Too upscale.

Categories: Brazilian, Downtown, Penn Quarter, Restaurant Reviews, Steak House, Steakhouses
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Tara

We have a Fogo de Chao here in Dallas. The salad bar is incredible and you can just do the salad bar for lunch. ( In Dallas its on 7.00 for lunch)

Jon

We have them in Chicago too, and everything I've read about them so far has me avoiding them at all costs. $325 for four peopl -- yeouch.

Jason

Well, we did have 2 bottles of very good wine for $60 a piece, so that contributed to the cost of the meal considerably. The trouble is, most of the decent bottles are in that price range, so finding a bottle that you want to drink for under $40 is challenging. Perhaps someone that knows how to navigate a wine list better than me would have better luck.

Paul

I think the shock is deadened when you realize walking in that, for a couple, you're already going to be at $120 just for sitting at the table. (Meal, tax, tip). At least that number's a given and how far up you go from there depends on drinks and dessert. P.S., the other bottle of Tikal on the wine list was about $75. ;)

Mishri

Jason, if you ever want to do the Brazilian BBQ thing again, you should really try it in Rockville's Greenfield(s?)Churasscia (sp?). It's about two blocks from the Twinbrook metro station. Weekday lunches are 15 bucks a pop, and dinners/weekend lunches are 30 bucks per person (not including drinks or dessert of course). That way you cut back on the base price, and can splurge on alcohol or dessert.

K M

Ate at Greenfield's recently and felt that the quality was not quite at the level of FdC, both food and service. We had to practically yell at the servers to come to our table at GF.. no such problem at FdC (granted, we did go to GF on a friday and FdC on a holiday monday)

However, I would probably go back to GF before FdC, due to the price.

Monica Sanowar

I've gone to Greenfields for several years. I think they have Fogo beat as far as the salad and hot food bar. GF's has the feijoada and oxtail stews, and couve minera and WHERE ARE THE BLACK BEANS AND RICE at Fogos. However, I must admit, the meat was much much better at Fogos. I am not a drinker and my Guarana with an orange slice is wonderful. I love both places, but Fogo has the edge on the meats and GF's is the King of the food bar.

Leticia

Hi Jason,

Fogo the Chao uses a lot of salt on their meat because that's the Brazilian way. Some cuts don't have any other seasoning, just coarse salt. We brazilians are not too woried about our blood pressure :o) Anyway, there are two other churrascarias in the DC area, Malibu Grill (Arlington and Fair Oaks) and Greenfield in Rockville. They are way cheaper but not as good.
Leticia

ann

you have to try the papaya creme for dessert if you go there again... it's a great end to such a heavy meal and papaya helps digestion!

Maria

You people are clueless about fine dining. If you are in the company of friends and having a good time just enjoy your meal. Who cares how much it costs.
Fogo de Chao was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had and the bill came to 238.00 for three people. We had a great time and we were treated like royalty. Fine dining is worth the cost.

Tracey

I think someone who doesn't make a ton of money might be a bit worried about the price or someone who realizes that they could have had a nice cut of steak and some extras for the price instead of waiting around for the cuts and type they want while munching on food from a way overrated salad bar.

Mike

It's simple: If you're worried about cost, don't go. If you're not, then go and enjoy the experience - that's what dining is, an experience, not just all about the food. If you're thing is just getting what you asked for and not trying a new or different experience, then go to a regular steakhouse and have a good meal.

Murtaza

Fogo is great place to be - and one of the things I miss from the States! Eating at Fogo is like 3 meals (and 4 if you eat light the night before) so that explains the price a bit. And the location is also excellent if you're doing anything in the district later..

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