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First Look: The Brazilian Steakhouse Fogo de Chão Comes to Vegas

Inside the blue tower at Fogo de Chão sits a fire pit with beef ribs to entice customers.

Restaurant Row in Las Vegas gets a new tenant next month when Fogo de Chão (pronounced fo-go dèe shoun) opens. Churrasqueiros serving up slow-roasted meats will be the highlight of this churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse with 15 varieties of meats as the speciality items.

Fogo de Chão General Manager and Head Gaucho Chef Marcio Bonfada gave Haute Living an exclusive look inside the new location while construction was still under way. Workers were still constructing the porte-cochère on the exterior while the inside teamed with hard hats adding final touches before the opening Nov. 10. Once open, guests will walk in greeted by a fire pit filled with beef ribs roasting. The aroma promises to waft out into the parking lot. Behind the hostess stand sits a glass wine cellar showcasing 4,000 bottles of the 350 to 400 varieties of wines Fogo plans to feature. To the right, head to the bar with three massive casks of wine including Fogo’s own.

Meeting planners are excited about the nine private rooms planned for the restaurant that include pocket doors to shut out others. Larger rooms can divide down into smaller spaces depending on the size of the meeting. Each can accommodate from 12 to 200 people.

The main dining room is where the action will be with a massive salad bar where the salads and sides await. Look for cheeses, cured meats, fresh vegetables and more as well as traditional Brazilian side dishes such as caramelized bananas, crispy polenta, seasoned mashed potatoes and pão de queijo, Fogo’s cheese bread. Bonfada, a native of Southern Brazil, calls it the place to see and be seen in the restaurant.

Design elements from the various Fogo outlets across the country and in Brazil influenced the look. Hardcore maple features from the Rio de Janeiro restaurant make an appearance, while the Western look of the Southwest influenced the color scheme of chocolates and rusts. Be sure to look up at the ceiling for more designs straight from Rio.

But the real stars of the show spend about half their time in the kitchen. Fogo has hired 18 gauchos, each in charge of their own cut of meat. The gauchos butcher the meat in house and handle the seasoning and cooking of their cut to the appropriate temperatures. Then each parades around the dining room to slice meat for hungry customers. Look for picanha, a prime cut of sirloin seasoned with sea salt or flavored with garlic; beef ancho, the ribeye; costela, juicy beef ribs; cordeiro, a leg of lamb; frango, chicken breasts wrapped in bacon; and lombo, a pork tenderloin flavored with parmesan, among others.

Each is roasted on a spit on one of 112 skewers rotating over mesquite charcoal. Gauchos learn the preferences of guests as they served them, so don’t be surprised if those that leg of lamb you fell for keeps magically reappearing just as you finish a course.

Bonfada practically grew up in the churrascaria business as his way of life. He grew up on a small farm in the Southern Brazilian town of Palmeira Das Missoes. By age 12, his family moved to a nearby small town to open a small steakhouse and Bonfada learned the culinary techniques that are representative of the Gaucho lifestyle and traditions. Today, he credits his cooking skills to his father. Even at home, where the typical American fireplace would be, Bonfada’s family, like most Brazilians, had a built-in grill for cooking meats over an open flame, and he’s trying to figure out how he can replicate that experience in his home in Vegas.

He oversees the experience, including the signature dishes such as the two filet mignon cuts of tenderloin with one served wrapped in bacon and the papaya cream made with fresh papaya, vanilla ice cream and Crème de Cassis liqueur.

Hungry yet? Once Fogo opens, the restaurant will serve lunch Monday through Friday and dinner seven nights. For more information, visit www.fogo.com.

Fogo de Chão, 360 E. Flamingo Road; 702-431-4500.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

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New York February / March 2014
New York February / March 2014