Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fire in the soil, meat in mah belly

Last Friday, KT and I went to lunch at Fogo de Chão, a new-ish Brazilian steakhouse in downtown Indy.

Fogo de Chão is translated from the Portuguese literally as "big-ass mountains of meat that a human would have to be a fool to try and consume." Haha, just kidding -- it means "soil fire" and refers to the way the gauchos in -- I don't know, Brazil? Argentina? -- wherever would do their meals: grill the hell out of everything, and then serve it on swords. (Score!)

I'd been wanting to try Fogo since seeing one of its branches in Chicago years ago (and after seeing its ads in many in-flight magazines over the years), but had never made it in. So when KT called me up and suggested it, I was totally there.

Oh. Em. Gee. You guys, this is an amazing dining experience. I am not kidding, it's good! I had been to a Brazilian steakhouse before (see also: here and here), but Fogo de Chão is in a class by itself.

Your meal begins with a trip to the massive salad bar with traditional salad fixin's (and you know how I feel about the word "fixin's," so for me to use it without irony here indicates something very special), but also with artichoke and sundried tomatoes and cured meats and aged cheeses and whatnot. Oh, the whatnot! I even had asparagus -- which, I guess I'm turning into an asparagus connoisseur, because that's three times in the last week!

Anyway, we loved the salad bar, but one doesn't venture to Fogo de Chão simply for the salad. When you're done with your salad course, a severe woman with an attitude problem comes out and badgers you until you submit your dirty plates in exchange for the clean ones she's hawking (this may not take place at every Fogo de Chão location, but it was definitely our experience).

Then! Oh, then comes the good stuff: 15 different kinds of meat, offered to you on a two-foot-long skewer, by a man wearing an authentic gaucho outfit. (Well, the boots and pants seemed authentic. I cannot speak to the shirts and scarves.)

Each diner is armed with a small coaster-sized disc that's green on one side, red on the other. Of course, Green is the international symbol for "I have abandoned my diet and wish to abuse my body with the charred remains of other, less fortunate creatures," and Red is the international symbol of "For the love of all that is holy, save me from shoving more into my foodhole. And I am not kidding."

So what you do is, when you're ready for meat, you flip your coaster to the Green side. Within five seconds, there is an authentic gaucho brandishing top sirloin or bottom sirloin or pork ribs or et cetera for you to partake of. Seconds later, another gaucho brings another type of meat, etc., etc., until finally, under the burden of your plate and your skyrocketing blood pressure, the table starts to buckle. That's when you turn your coaster over to the Red side.

And then when you've made it through that one plate, the severe woman comes back and cajoles you into surrendering your dirties in exchange for her cleans, and the cycle starts all over again. Chow down, rinse, repeat.

I think what sets Fogo de Chão apart from Copacabana (the Brazilian steakhouse Myrna and I visited in Niagara Falls) is threefold:
  1. The quality of the meat was superior. Everything tasted great -- there were no "hits and misses," only hits.
  2. The side dishes provided were fantastic, especially this crispy polenta thing that made KT think of the way her mom made mush and made me think about what snacking is like in Heaven.
  3. The Brazilian cheesebread -- a topic of much debate between KT and me -- is really something: little rolls with a crisp outside and chewy inside with a hint of cheese (which was really the subject of our debate -- whether or not there was cheese inside). Yum!
So, the next time you're in downtown Indy, and you're wondering where you can get an awesome salad, Brazilian cheesebread, and a big-ass mountain of meat, check out Fogo de Chão!

No comments: