There’s a new but familiar churrascaria in town.
Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse, the Plano, Texas-based chain with more than 50 locations worldwide, recently opened its first Orange County location.
It’s an attractive 250-seat restaurant at the Irvine Spectrum Center with high-quality cuts of meat and stellar service.
The Irvine location has a gaucho-inspired churrasco grill, where cooking is over an open flame; a full-service bar; and a buffet market area with items like seasonal salads, soups, vegetables and charcuterie.
“Our team is excited to provide our new guests in the Orange County community with the same Brazilian experience, culture and cuisine that we offer our guests in our restaurants in Brazil,” CEO Barry McGowan said in a statement.
The first Fogo de Chão opened in 1979 in Porto Alegre, in southern Brazil. The name translates to “ground fire” in Portuguese, which is a nod to the gaucho method of cooking.
By the time the founders, who grew up on a ranch, expanded with a second location in 1987 in São Paulo, they already had a great reputation. The chain’s American debut came in 1997, and locally you’ll also find Fogo de Chãos in Beverly Hills, downtown Los Angeles and San Diego.
During last month’s Irvine grand opening, which attracted 600 guests, we got a taste of the churrasco prix fixe experience. If you’ve been to a churrascaria before, you know the routine: waiters stroll by, offering you fresh-cut slices of various meats that fall onto your plate. Fogo de Chão employs a red light/green light method, meaning if you’ve got that green piece of paper showing, you’re ready for more. Red means stop.
The cut I instantly fell in love with was the new premium-grade, 20-ounce Wagyu New York strip, aged 21 days. It comes from an Australian farm.
Other standouts were the frango (chicken), which has a sweet marinade made with beer and brandy, and the queso asado, a hot Brazilian cheese served with honey.
If you’re not doing the churrasco experience, other options Fogo de Chão offers are a single meat, plus the market table, or the upcharged “indulgent cuts” and Market Table option. There is also a weekend brunch with some Brazilian-inspired items, seafood (such as a mango Chilean sea bass) and weekday lunch specials.
And, as my TimesOC colleague Paul Hodgins noted, Fogo de Chão offers a rare lineup of South American wines.
IF YOU GO
What: Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse at the Irvine Spectrum Center
Where: 623 Spectrum Center Drive, Irvine
When: Open weekdays for lunch, open daily for dinner, and Brazilian brunch on weekends
Information: (949) 398-1500; fogodechao.com