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Inside Fogo de Chao, Downtown's 250-Seat Churrascaria

[Acurso, 4/29/14]

Let the meat frenzy begin: The first-ever Portland location of Brazilian churrascaria chain Fogo de Chao will start skewering and slicing meat later this week in Sixth Avenue's former NikeTown retail store, so here's a quick spin inside the 8,500-square-foot space.

For the uninitiated, Fogo de Chao takes the Southern Brazilian "gaucho" approach, offering 16 different meats — all cooked over an open flame — brought directly to the table. The "prix fixe"/espeto corrido menu works thusly: In dim sum style, simply point at the meat you'd like and servers will slice off a cut; unlike dim sum, this is an all-you-can-eat buffet for one set price (diners are equipped with double-sided coasters in red and green, signaling to servers if more meat is welcome). For lighter eaters, an a la carte menu will also be available, but if you're doing it that way, you're probably doing it wrong.

A 40-item salad bar (featuring hearts of palm imported from Brazil, peppadew peppers, smoked salmon, and fresh mozzarella, among other dishes) is also included in the prix fixe option, as are sides — the cheesey bread pao de queijo, polenta, and potatoes — served family-style at the table. As at other Fogo locations, the meat menu offers everything from bacon-wrapped filet mignon to ribeye to cordeiro (double-lamb chops), with 15 gauchos manning the pits in Portland. According to Portland general manager/chef Alceu Pressi, a native of Southern Brazil, all beef (including Fogo's "signature" top sirloin cut) is seasoned simply with sea salt and best enjoyed with chimichurri; other dishes, like the sliced pork loin, arrived encrusted with parmesan.

At the steakhouse's front-area bar, a separate bar menu is available to pair with cocktails, including caipirinhas made with Fogo de Chao's house brand of Cachaça (both silver and a two-year-aged gold). The glass-enclosed wine room houses 250 labels representing local, European, and South American wines, the latter of which pair best "with the way we season our meats," Pressi says. Fogo also flaunts its own in-house wine brand, an Argentinean Malbec only available at the restaurant.

Fogo de Chao opens for dinner service on Friday, May 2. Lunch service will follow Monday, May 5.
· Fogo de Chao [Official site]
· All Previous Fogo de Chao Coverage [Eater PDX]