Carnivores are King at Fogo de Chao
By Denise Michaels
Located in the former Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse at 360 E. Flamingo near Howard Hughes Drive in the restaurant row area, Fogo de Chao is a new addition to the Brazilian Steakhouse concept here in Las Vegas.
The décor is modern, classic steakhouse. Lots of wood finishes, sparkling glass, creamy linens and crystal on every table. Everything is spotless and well-organized. Service is gracious, friendly and helpful.
My husband Ernie and I both ordered a glass of wine from the extensive wine list. We could see the beautifully-stocked, climate-controlled wine room from our table behind a glass wall. There’s a selections of wines by the glass available. My Cabernet Sauvignon was rich and deep with blueberry notes. A perfect accompaniment to all the meats that would soon grace my plate.
First, you start with the salad bar. The skylit display, topped with a colossal spray of exuberant flowers on top beckons. We found fresh salad staples and several atypical choices like marinated artichoke hearts, perfectly blanched asparagus, seasoned redskin potatoes, Waldorf salad and cheeses you cut off a gigantic wheel. Everything is fresh and colorful. However, it’s just a tease for what’s to come.
Our server, Heather, was attentive, friendly and knowledgeable. You aren’t handed a menu at Fogo de Chao. Instead, you’re handed a coaster: green on one side and red on t’other. Set it on the edge of your table on “green” and it instructs the men dressed as Brazilian Gauchos to bring more meat cut off massive skewers into serving size portions onto your plate. Flip the coaster to “red” and it signals the Gauchos, “Please, for goodness sake, stop.” At least for now.
Side dishes brought to our table included garlic mashed potatoes, grilled polenta and fried bananas, which my husband went ape for, begging for seconds.
We were offered easily a dozen types of meat during our visit. Nothing exotic or weird, simply different cuts of steak, chicken, pork and lamb. Everything is simply seasoned with sea salt, pepper, maybe a little lemon or garlic. A manager told us they use better cuts of meat so they’re naturally flavorful and don’t require a lot of marinades or sauces. It’s a perfect choice for people adhering to a gluten-free diet. Even the cheesy biscuits are gluten-free. Or, if you’re on a low-carb program you can have a lot of fun at Fogo de Chao.
My husband stopped eating beef and pork five years ago. For him, the Gauchos stopping at our table with big hunks of beef and pork on skewers was a bit disconcerting, when he just wanted more lamb chops and chicken. Gradually, they get in the groove and bring only your meat-licious preferences. I don’t eat beef or pork often, but I got in the spirit of the place and tried a little of almost everything.
For vegetarian types you can order just the salad bar. You won’t go hungry. But if you’re the type of veggie who may be sensitive to hot slabs of meat endlessly paraded around, it might not be your best option. If you’re a carnivore who loves meat, it’ll be your idea of having just died and gone to heaven.
I used to believe meat was always the most important item on my plate. I won’t lie – I still enjoy it. But I also savor creative side dishes including fresh veggies and great salads, too.
Here’s a rundown of the meat choices I sampled:
- Rib Eye? Juicy, succulent and full of rich, beefy flavor.
- Filet Mignon? Like butta’ it’s so tender. I mean cut-with-a-fork tender.
- Baby back ribs? Outrageously porky, especially with the mildly spicy Chimichurri sauce: a blend of olive oil, garlic, fresh parsley, red bell pepper and other spices served on the side.
- Lamb Chops? Tender, petite, flavorful and flown in from New Zealand. The bones are perfectly Frenched, making a nice little “handle” to gobble ‘em down effortlessly.
- Parmesan Pork? Wonderful pairing of Parmesan and pork, but slightly dry. Wish I’d had the Chimichurri sauce for this. It would’ve made everything perfect.
- Chicken? Served skin-free. The chicken breast is wrapped in bacon. A Cognac marinade seasons the drumsticks/thighs.
- Linguica? A Brazilian-inspired pork sausage, originating from Portugal. Bold, spicy, porky flavors predominate.
Finally we both had our fill of meat and salad and said, “No mas!” Heather promptly brought us dessert menus. Ernie ordered the Papaya Cream, a light tropical pudding with a fruity, papaya tang. Creme de Cassis is poured atop your dessert tableside. I’m a chocolate lover and the Molten Chocolate Cake looked tempting. However, I opted for Key Lime Pie. It’s homemade in the classic, creamy lime-y, Caribbean-style with a crunchy, graham cracker crust.
We left more than satisfied with our meal. Dinner felt elegant, in a fun, casual way. No pretensions or stuffiness here. In a place where carnivores are king, Fogo de Chao is an unapologetically decadent experience where succulent, juicy, delicious meats play the starring role.