Wow. This place certainly does not need my help to keep it in business that is for sure. I don’t think I have been to a restaurant this busy since I have been in Indy. We had reservations and were still given a pager. And then after being hustled back to our table, and very quickly acknowledged by what was clearly a very harried server, we started our meat extravaganza.
So in case you don’t know, this restaurant is an all you can eat Brazilian steakhouse with “gaucho chefs” carrying around skewers of meat that they carve for you at tableside. It is a set price and you can have as much meat, sides and salad bar as you want. I had been warned by several people to skip the salad bar because you don’t want to fill up on that stuff when you have all that meat coming. So that is what we did. They give you a little round disc that is red on one side and green on the other—when you are ready for the meat onslaught, you turn it to green and they start bringing the various cuts of meat. When you want a break, you turn it to red, and they will leave you alone for a bit. We found it was good for one person at the table to stay on green just so you don’t miss anything. (You can always tell them you changed your mind after all). Anyway, one of the first cuts we got was the bottom sirloin. It was quite tasty. Interestingly, they spend more time on the seasonings with some of the lesser cuts of meat, and many of them have a better flavor because of it. We tried just about every cut of the beef that was offered (about 6 I believe) and both of the lamb options (chops and leg). Interestingly, I noticed, with the seasoned cuts of meat, they always want to give you an outside piece (with the seasoning), so once they slice all sides off of the meat, they take it back to the kitchen and season and sear them again.
Probably the best pieces were the bottom and top sirloin cuts, because, like I said, of all the seasonings, but the ribeye was tasty too. And it is pretty cool how they can cook one piece of meat and find nearly all temperatures of doneness on it depending on your preference. I had my doubts about this, but pretty much all my pieces were properly medium rare. The only thing (which I waited around for) that I didn’t think was very good was the leg of lamb. It was too quickly cooked, and this is a piece of meat that is not complimented by this form of cooking—the quick outer sear, slices off the edge, and then seared again. Leg of lamb needs some slower cooking to break down the fat I think. This was the only thing that I wouldn’t eat again. (There were also some chicken and pork options, but they did not intrigue me).
The top sirloin, or Picanha, is what they call their signature steak. It is prime top sirloin. It was really tasty and nicely seasoned. I think this was probably the favorite piece of the table. Many helping were had. I also really liked the Fraldinha, or bottom sirloin. It was a bit more flavorful and had really nice seasoning. I also liked that it was very thinly cut. Honestly, there was so much meat coming it was hard to keep track of them all. I can tell you probably the least exciting was the filet, which is often my favorite cut at other places. But just nothing exciting about it, like there was with the others. The lamb chops were nice too; properly medium rare and you got two chops per serving.
Oh! And before I forget, in case you go for the first time (as it was for me) when they carve the meat for you, you are supposed to pick up your little tongs and pull the meat away. Just a head’s up!
They also constantly bring out (and replenish) side dishes. There were sautéed bananas, mashed potatoes with a bit of cheese on top and deep fried squares of polenta. The bananas I would have preferred as a dessert honestly. They were sort of nice, but I tend to not like to mix sweet and savory that much. The potatoes were fine, nothing outstanding but I do like some starch with my meat. The polenta was the standout I thought, although it didn’t show up until about halfway through the meal. They were little thin squares (well, more like rectangles I guess) of polenta that were deep fried very crispy; with just a touch of softness inside (they were thin like I said). They were dusted with cheese and were yummy. We went through several orders of these. The other things that were quite tasty were the little cheese rolls they give you instantly (pão de queijo). They are warm and so tasty; they don’t need butter or anything. Sort of like a cheese-flavored popover. We went through quite a few of these as well
After several rounds of the meat, I did go up to the salad bar for a few things just for a change of pace. They have some nice things—smoked salmon and various cured meats as well as different marinated veggies and cheeses (and of course typical salad fixings). Honestly, I didn’t think any of it was as good as the meat and polenta and rolls, and if I went back, I would probably totally skip it, or maybe just get a green salad.
Ok, because we must have been crazy, we did get some desserts to share too (there were 4 of us). We had the chocolate molten cake, crème brule, and the signature papaya cream. The desserts were all okay, nothing to write home about as far as I could tell. The papaya cream is supposed to help with digestion (good idea). Not sure if it worked or not, but I didn’t find the flavor overly exciting—a fruit flavored cream isn’t my ideal dessert I guess.
It was a fun evening, and I will certainly not be anemic after that meal, but while several items were tasty, there was nothing so good that it makes me want to rush back. No real standout. But as I said at the beginning, judging by the crowds, whether I go back or not, this place is here to stay.
Fogo de Chão
117 E. Washington Street
Indy, IN 46204