A couple of weeks ago, my family and I had the pleasure of being invited to newly opened Fogo de Chão in DIFC, Dubai. This fine-dining Brazilian steakhouse might be new to our region, but has been around since 1979. It is rare to come across restaurant chains that have a long lineage of history, let alone one that started with humble beginnings and trail-blazed its presence across continents, proudly showcasing special cuts that are well and truly a part of the Brazilian heritage.
The founders of Fogo de Chão grew up on a traditional Southern Brazilian farm in Serra Gaucha where they learnt the art of churrasco grilling, a milestone that would soon pave the way for their very successful culinary careers.
The brothers left the quaint, mountainous countryside of Rio Grande do Sul to Rio and São Paulo for formal churrasqueiro training, all while developing the Fogo concept and finally opened their very first branch in the cozy countryside of Porto Alegre. It wasn’t long before prominent members of the society took note of their delicious fare, and the brothers soon expanded business to São Paulo.
By 1997 Fogo de Chão landed in America, their very first debut out of home, and their flagship location is now in New York City, an expansive three story architecturally stunning building complete with a seventeen foot sculpture of Antonio Caringi’s, O Laçador, a historical monument in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Fogo de Chão translates to ‘fire from the ground’, referring to the age-old Brazilian tradition of churrasco cooking where meats are slow cooked over an open fire that
reaches temperatures beyond 800° degrees Fahrenheit, or over 420° degrees Celsius, exposing their natural flavours. Every cut of meat is carved table-side by Brazilian-trained gaucho chefs, led by Brazilian native, Head Gaucho Chef, Jonas Ribeiro dos Santos.
Since its meaty beginnings, the chain has introduced seafood, new Brazilian-inspired small plates and award-winning wines and cocktails.
The Dubai branch is located in Central Park Towers, DIFC. We got a little lost in the urban maze of the seemingly large space. Thankfully everyone we met through our search was well aware of Fogo de Chão so we got guided in the right direction pretty easily.
The Dubai branch is expansive, and spreads out to a wide patio for alfresco dining, complete with stunning views of the city. The staff are well dressed, as are most of the diners so make sure you look the ‘fine-dining’ part. The interior decor is also very old-school fine-dining, complete starched white tablecloths and deep oak wood.
We were there on a Thursday night, and the place was absolutely packed. At the center of the restaurant is the salad buffet where you will find quite a few exotic Brazilian treats. From healthful kale salads to a smorgasbord of cheese, fiery red hot peppers and a sugar-coated spicy rendition of beef jerky, this is definitely not your everyday salad bar.
And they also have a Fogo Feijoada Bar where you can assemble your very own bowl of authentic Feijoada. This Brazilian staple features a bowl of Farofa (toasted vuca flour with beef bacon) that you can top with a warm black bean and sausage stew, rice, hot sauce and wedges of fresh orange.
And ofcourse the highlight of the meal here is the endless cuts of meat. Like many other churascarias I have had the pleasure of dining at in the past, you have a wee coaster on the table that you flip to green to signal you are ready for the meaty feast. And at Fogo de Chao, boy is the service fast! Our plates were loaded with artisan cuts in no time, and we soon had to flip to red for a break and nibble on watermelon from the salad bar.
Brazilian cuts to look out for:
- Picanha: Prime part of the top sirloin, a Brazilian speciality
- Filet Mignon Tenderloin
- Alcatra Top Sirloin
- Fraldinha Bottom Sirloin (flavorful cut with strong marbling)
- Beef Ancho Rib EyeCostela Beef Ribs (delicious off the bone!)
To end the meal on a sweet note, yes they have churros but I would urge you to try the Papaya Cream This delicious custard-like dessert is a blend of fresh papaya with premium vanilla ice-cream, and is topped with a sweet alcoholic liquor. Absolutely divine! My little girl loved the Fruit Trifle, a decadent layered dessert featuring fresh fruit, whipped cream and shards of macaroon. If you must have chocolate, their Chocolate Lava Cake is a chocoholic delight and can easily be shared between 3.
Overall, Fogo de Chão was a meaty good treat! The ambiance is very fine-dining, yet the atmosphere is very chilled out and friendly. The only problem is the endless choice of cuts! It was a challenge getting off our seats by the end of the night.