First Taste: Get Your Gaucho
There are no menus, no pictures of food to preview before ordering. In fact, there’s no ordering at all. At Fogo de Chão, which opens in Back Bay on Nov. 2, wandering “gauchos” carry your dinner tableside on metal sticks (fans of Cambridge’s Midwest Grill take note). “You eat as long as you want, how much you can,” says head gaucho chef and general manager Leandro Benacchio. “It’s continuous service.”
Though the premise might sound American—all-you-can-eat, meat, meat, meat!—it’s a wholly Brazilian tradition, dating back centuries to when grill masters cooked over an open flame. Reflecting this history is the restaurant’s name, which means “fire on the ground.” The process and preparation aims to simply coax out the protein’s natural flavors. There are 16 cuts in all—including filet mignon (with a bacon-wrapped variation), pork loin and sausage, young leg of lamb, chicken, prime rib-eye and sirloin. Dishes are preceded by grilled mozzarella and accompanied by polenta, garlic mashed potatoes, caramelized bananas and warm pão de queijo, or cheese bread.
Preparing the fare in the back of the house, chefs butcher, salt and marinate the meats before skewering and roasting them over an open flame. The gauchos then take the skewers to the dining room to serve anyone who has signaled they’re ready for more. That signal? A small card that resembles a poker chip, green on one side, red on the other, that guests flip to indicate whether they’d like to be offered whatever cut is circulating. The chefs don’t call it quits until you do. It’s like a game of chicken, but played with your stomach, and actual chickens.
Although Fogo de Chão, with 27 restaurants worldwide, has built its reputation on meat, vegetarians won’t go hungry. At the center of the dining room, with seating for 300-plus, including six private dining areas, is a hot and cold salad bar, stocked with imported cheeses, fresh asparagus, beets and other vegetables, potato and pasta salads and more. Wash everything down with one of 12 caipirinhas, a traditional regional cocktail made with lime, sugar and Brazilian rum, or one of 3,000 bottles of wine on display in the glass-encased wine cellar. Then admit defeat, turning your chip to red and sighing, “Não mais, por favor.”
Fogo de Chão 200 Dartmouth St., Boston (617-585-6300) fogo.com