Monday, June 29, 2009

Minneapolis Day 6: Fogo de Chão

The Minneapolis outpost of the Brazilian Fogo de Chão chain is situated in one of the massive downtown spaces where no restaurant seems to last for too long. As such, I feared that I had missed my chance to check it out when I moved away. But it's still there, and must either be doing quite well or digging itself very deeply in debt, as it seems to employ a massive armada of meat-wielding "passadors," bussers and other staff. Plus I can't imagine the scale and cost of waste from overcooked or excess meat. Meat-fest aside, I had long heard about the salad bar, a title which may normally imply a forgettable array of wilted vegetables, stale croutons and maybe some sad antipasti if you're lucky. No, this salad bar is epic, not so much in size but in its offerings.

The prosciutto, salami, smoked salmon and manchego zone.

Snazzy salads filled with... more salad!

Green beans bordered logically by... pineapple and mango! Wait, huh?

My somewhat modest salad plate containing cured meats, smoked salmon, steamed asparagus, green beans, beets, peppadew peppers, pickled cippolini, marinated shiitakes, hearts of palm, a little basil dressing and tabbouleh. First of all, the salmon was pretty outstanding for a buffet. Give me a bagel and some capers and I would go to town on that stuff. Everything else looked fresh and attractively maintained, not to mention bountiful, an essential part of any buffet. Did I mention they even had one of those ginormous hollowed out wheels of parmesan, filled (obviously) with its crumbled insides? And I'm not talking about a plastic ginormous wheel of parmesan. And there were whole bocconcini. And a heap of good-looking artichoke hearts. And even waldorf salad for posterity.

The beginnings of meat-fest. A lamb chop and a slice of picanha, which is the cap of top sirloin (fat attached).

Meat-fest in full effect. All told, I also had pork ribs, ribeye, bottom sirloin, yet another sirloin of some kind, ambiguously titled garlic beef (some part of the chuck?), bacon-wrapped filet mignon, sausage (dubiously billed as linguiça), and maybe even some other stuff. My favorite was surely the garlic "mystery" beef, but really hardly anything was not good (a notable exception being the sausage, which my dad had previously raved about, but this time was utterly forgettable). The meats were also seasoned properly, as their surface area was proportional to their mass. I never found the need for any additional salt, which is usually not the case when I eat beef.

You also get unlimited sides of fried polenta sticks, rice, black beans, deep fried bananas, farofa, mashed potatoes, and plenty of pão de queijo. But don't be fooled! These things are all good (well, at least while they're still warm), but the key to the churrascaria experience in my opinion is to stay focused and not be led to distraction from the true, carnal heart of the matter. I limited myself to mere bites of the starchy sides so as to save maximum prime "real estate," as my parents put it, for the good stuff.

A glass-enclosed corner of the dining room, visible to the street, showcasing some beef ribs slow-roasting around the fire.

Service was attentive and friendly, and we truly were bombarded incessantly with meat at all times that we displayed the "green light" token. Although my colon surely doesn't thank me, I thank both Fogo and my parents for the protein bonanza!

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