Agora Churrascaria is a Brazilian restaurant in Irvine that features 16 kinds of meat on giant skewers that servers carry around the room, watching for guests to summon them over to their table. The diners then select how much they want of that particular offering.
Also available is a hot buffet and a huge selection from the salad bar.
The restaurant is large and quite beautiful, with several walls of lovely river rock, a 25-foot-high cathedral ceiling, giant cedar beams, skylights, an Italian slate floor and lots of windows. In the rear is a charcoal grill that fires up all the delicious meats.
Across from the salad bar are big silver domes covering an array of hot foods including black bean stew, chicken stroganoff, garlic rice, salmon, mussels, sauteed collard greens, and mashed and baby potatoes.
The salad bar offerings include Caesar salad, eggplant salad, artichokes, shrimp cocktail, gravlax, hearts of palm, salsa, pickles, hot peppers, salami, coleslaw, sauteed mushrooms, tuna salad, yogurt, tabouleh, marinated peppers, and a selection of cold cuts and fine cheeses.
With dinner you get rolls, Brazilian cheese bread and tomato vinaigrette, as well as a fried banana to clear your palate. Just slice off a bit to refresh the taste buds.
Agora Churrascaria serves rodizio style — the all-you-can-eat approach found in Brazilian restaurants. I would define it as continuous, since the food keeps coming until you put a small disc on the table showing the red side. Green means “more please,” and red means “I am stuffed.”
When ready to proceed with the piece de resistance, the meat, a diner will again have lots to choose from. I was not able to eat more than a few of the meat offerings since I was already quite full from the salad bar. Take my word for it, pace yourself.
The restaurant has top sirloin, tri tip skirt steak, beef wrapped in bacon, baked salmon, beef ribs, beef tenderloin, filet mignon, lamb chops, leg of lamb, chicken drumsticks, Brazilian pork sausage, chicken hearts and more.
My dining companion and I began with Brazilian pork sausage, which was very tasty — juicy with a bit of heat. Next was skirt steak, which was sliced thinly off the skewer, followed by small pieces of filet mignon, tender and juicy, and my favorite of the evening, the baby lamb chops skewered off whole and very flavorful.
We did notice that the meat on the skewers that was thinly sliced was less tasty because it was too small to hold up to the char.
The two desserts that we chose were both quite good, but we only managed a few bites since we were quite full. The tiramisu was my favorite, but the chocolate mousse was also very good.
This is a lovely space with a separate bar area in the front and several other dining spaces, as well as rooms for larger parties.
Location: 1830 Main St., Irvine
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Prices: $52 for adults and half price for children, with desserts costing $7 to $8 more; wine: $24 to $285 (bottles), $6 to $10 (by the glass), $20 (corkage)
Information: (949) 222-9910
TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.