Friday, March 25, 2011

Fogo de Chão - San Antonio

If there has been a restaurant in Philly that I have wanted to try, it has been Fogo de Chão!  The thought of ll you can eat grilled meat has always sounded delicious to me, however, with Zelda only being a fish and fowl eater, it has never made sense to go here.  That said, while being stuck overnight in San Antonio on business this past weekend, me and the "Budda" headed out for a little grilled meat!

We walked into the restaurant, located at the mall on the River Walk in San Antonio.  It was still a bit early, and the restaurant was filled at about 1/2 capacity.  By the time we left however, nearly the entire restaurant was full.  We were greeted at the door, and it took the hostess about 4 minutes to seat us as they had to figure out where to put us.

One of the first things you'll notice from the outside of the restaurant is the meat grilling in the window.  I know, this is a terrible picture, but what can you do.  I don't know if they actually serve this meat or not, but it does make for a little eye candy, and is a nice marketing tool.  It looks nice from outside the restaurant, and it even looks good from inside the restaurant.  I did not however see them serving any of this meat while we were there, as these skewers are massive.

We sat, and our server explained the menu to us.  There is a flat fee of $42.50, and he stood there as I looked over he wine list.  This was a bit annoying in all honesty, but obviously the servers are trained to turn their tables.  Needless to say,  I ordered a bottle of wine, and we went to go hit the salad bar.  I'll talk more about the wine later.

The salad bar was actually kind of nice.  Like always, I would rather have my own utensils to select my items as I am sure there were some finger lickers and people who do not wash their hands after they use the bathroom, but what can you do!  No, I am not a fan of buffet's (as if you couldn't tell).  Regardless, the salad bar was nice, with anything from salami, to Parmesan cheese, to Manchego, to fresh mozz, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, salads, etc.  The options were endless, and it really was a nice spread!

We arrived back at the table, and there was our bottle of wine, just sitting there, waiting to be opened.  I actually looked around for a sabre hanging on the wall, but one of the servers came over a few minutes later and opened it for us.  Overall, the wine list was nice, but the markups were absolutely ridiculous.  This is however a tourist trap, and I am sure they get it.  Regardless, the stems on the tables were nice, and they were Riedel pinot noir glasses.  A very nice touch.

As we sat eating out salad bar accouterments, I couldn't help but look at the double sided coast on the table.  As our server explained, the green side meant that we were ready for meat, and the red side meant that we were not ready.  At this point, I just wanted to mess with the servers to see how fast it was, so I turned the coaster to the green side.  Within seconds out of nowhere appears a server with a skewer of Cordeiro, which was fresh young leg of lamb.  He asked how I wanted it, and I told him medium rare.  He asked me to grab my tongs, and proceeded to shave a piece of meet from a certain section of the leg.  Needless to say, it was delicious!

After getting meat so fast and looking around, I immediately turned my coaster back to the red, as I wanted to finish my couple of salad bar items.  I really did not want to fill up on he salad bar though, and wanted to save room for the grilled meats.  At this time they brought out 3 sides of fried polenta, fried banana, and a mashed potato topped with grated cheese.  The sides were good, but again, I could careless about the sides, and really just wanted to enjoy the meats.

As we looked around the restaurant, there were servers everywhere with skewers, stopping at many tables shaving meat as clientele grabbed them with their tongs.  Once I had my new plate, it was game on, so here we go in order that they were delivered:

Alcatra:  this is a cut from the top sirloin, and I asked for it medium.  This was nice and hot,and cooked very nicely.  The meat was tender, and well seasoned.  It was at this point that one of the servers asked if we wanted anything from steak sauce, to horseradish, to mint jelly, hot sauce, etc.  We had them bring over a side of the horseradish, as well as the mint jelly for the lamb.

Next out was the lamb chops, and I asked for these medium rare.  Needless to say, these were cooked nicely as I cut them in half separating them into lollipops.  They were indeed cooked very nicely, however, there was a rather large vein of fat running through the middle of them.  Aside from that they were nice, and I added a little of the horseradish to them to give it a try.  This was a nice pairing.  The mint jelly however had the consistency of Jello, and was not impressive in the least.  This almost tasted jarred opposed to something that was homemade, and was actually really disappointing.  Regardless, the flavors in the lamb were nice minus the fat.

Next out was the Costela de Porco, also knows as pork ribs that are slow roasted.  These had a great flavor as well, and were nice and tender!  More than anything, they reminded me of ribs that Mom used to make in the broiler.  Just lightly seasoned, with no sauce or anything on them, but they were nice!  They really didn't need any kind of sauce, and they had a nice crusty char on them.

By this point, I am starting to fill up, and turned my marker over to red to enjoy a glass of wine, and to try to open up another chamber somewhere.  You can guarantee that I am going to get my money worth here, and I will not leave hungry!

Next past the table was a very interesting cut of meat.  It almost looked like a cut of prime rib, but it also looked like some kind of rolled loin as well.  Needless to say, I was intrigued, so I stopped the server and he told me that it was their house specialty, the Picanha. 

Picanha is the prime pat of the sirloin, seasoned with sea salt and garlic.  It was nice and tender in the middle, and had a nice, outer, fatty crust.  The flavors overall were nice, but I wouldn't say this was the best thing that they had.

From here I tried some sausage.  Was it good?  Sure!  Did it have decent flavors?  Sure!  It again was nothing to write home about, but I had to try just a little bit of everything while I was here!

From here some pork or chicken looking skewer went by, and it turned out to be the Lombo, also known as pork loin medallions, encrusted with parmesan cheese!  Definitely wouldn't go out of my way to hunt this down, and in all honesty, it was a little overcooked and dry.

At this point, I started discussing with Budda how I thought it was a bit odd that we had not seen some of the best cuts of meat out in the dining room.  When I consider the best cuts of meat, I am talking about the filet mignon.  I have yet to see the filet, or the bacon wrapped filet come through the dining room.  Does this happen on purpose?  Do they do this in hopes that people fill up on the cheaper cuts of meat so they don't have to serve as much filet or rib eye?  Maybe!  That said, Budda asked the server to track it down, and a few minutes later out it came.

First out was the Ancho, which is the best part of the rib eye so to say.  Again, I asked for this medium, and it was cooked nicely, however, once again I found it to be just a tad bit on the dry side.   I also found it to be a bit salty.

From here, Budda asked the server where the bacon wrapped filet was.  Again, at this point, we had not seen it come out yet, and the server returned 2 minutes later with exactly two pieces on the skewer.  This tells me that they ran to the kitchen and had them cooked or grabbed them to bring to us specifically.  Again, I have a feeling that this is because they try to serve as little of this as possible because of the price.

As the server was a skewing a piece of this into Budda's plate, the table next to us motioned at the server for him to bring the other piece over to him.  Talk about rude!  Here we asked for this specifically, and the server did indeed go over there, thus leaving me without a piece of bacon wrapped filet.  Needless to say, I was shocked by the rudeness of this table, and out came the regular filet mignon.

The regular filet was nice, and it as a nice piece.  It again looked like it was cooked to a nice, pink medium, and was nice and flavorful.  It was juicy as well, and the small piece that I had was pleasurable enough.  But at this point, I am ready to loosen my belt, and there were still two meats that I have not tried!

So next came a small sliver of the Fraldinha, which from my understanding is a nice cut from the bottom of the sirloin.  This too was nicely seasoned, and cooked to a nice medium.  this was thin, and almost reminded me of a thin sliced London broil crossed with a skirt steak.  Regardless, the flavors were OK, even with a full stomach.

Finally, after Budda had to ask the server once again, out came the bacon wrapped filet for me.  At this point, again, I really was not hungry, but was curious.  Needless to say, it came out, and it was juicy!  As I cut into it however, instead of being medium, it was very well done.  But even being overcooked, the flavors were nice, and the meat was still surprisingly tender.  Even so, I really wasn't all that hungry, but I didn't want to leave without trying it.

So at the end of the day, there wasn't a single meat that I didn't try with the exception of the small little chicken pieces.  They actually looked like small drumsticks for chicken wings, and that really wasn't what I was there for.

So all in all, we ate a ton, and I would have to guess that we got our $42.50 cents worth of the buffet.  The wine markups however leave a little to be desired, and next time I would drink a beer or have cocktails.  It definitely wasn't worth paying 350% markup on the wines, but they did have some nice wines on the list.

That said, I would go back here again, but not anytime soon.  If you are going to go, save your appetite, skip lunch, and chow down at dinner!  Also, don't fill up on the salad bar, and don't be afraid to ask your server to fetch you some certain more expensive cuts of meat.  If you don't, you just might not see these cuts come out of the kitchen.  Cheerson't fill up on the salad bar, and don't be afraid to ask your server to fetch you some certain more expensive cuts of meat.  If you don't, you just might not see these cuts come out of the kitchen.  Cheers!  -F. Scott
Fogo de Chão
849 E. Commerce St, Suite 393
San Antonio, TX 78205
Phone:  (210)227-1700

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