Brazilian churrascarias — with their rodizio-style meat bonanza — are taking over Fort Lauderdale’s steakhouse scene.
Lasso Gaucho, an independent churrascaria created by four veteran steakhouse operators, debuted July 27 at 2457 E. Sunrise Blvd., across from The Galleria mall. Three kilometers south of downtown, Fogo de Chão, a longtime international chain, is scheduled to open August 19 at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd., on the ground floor of the main downtown skyscraper. -town of Las Olas. They join Chima Steakhouse, a stronghold that has been serving up chic Brazilian feasts on Las Olas Boulevard for two decades.
The proximity of the two openings may be pure coincidence, but for these churrascarias, competition is welcome – and the steak knives are already out.
“I don’t want to put Fogo down because they’re the biggest name in the business, but I think this restaurant has forgotten how to take care of their customers,” says Edson Munekata, co-owner of Lasso Gaucho.
Alessandra Jochem, another co-owner of Lasso Gaucho, adds, “There is a diverse customer base in Fort Lauderdale and our competitors are doing very well, but I can say our product is much better than theirs.
Meanwhile, Wanderson Oliveira, general manager of the new Fogo de Chão, begs to postpone. For one, the restaurant’s location in Fort Lauderdale offers premium cuts that Brazilian steakhouses don’t typically offer, he says, such as wagyu ribeyes, New York strips and dry-aged tomahawks. .
“Why not be better than the other competing steakhouses? said Oliveira. “We have the resources, we have the right steak, and ours is one of the best.”
Looks like an old fashioned steakhouse showdown is brewing. But if there’s something they share in common, it’s this: in both churrascarias, meat is the star. The beef is barbecued without ornament, the salt taking more emphasis than the seasoning – though the chicken and lamb are spiced overnight in rich marinades of brandy, mint, lemon pepper and of rosemary.
It’s an experience for the senses: The show in the kitchens of the two restaurants engage the eyes and nostrils at the same time. Racks of picanha and lamb legs rotate in ovens on skewers as big as tent pegs. A symphony of handkerchief-wielding waiters, known as “gauchos,” fan out across vast dining rooms, parading cuts of red meat, flame-licked and glistening with sea salt. Nearby steam tables are stocked with more salads, soups, and charcuterie than a supermarket.
“We want the guests to see the fire and feel the fire,” says Oliveira de Fogo. “The charcoal barbecues are right there, and the gauchos are side by side, working the sausage, the chicken, the pork, with thoroughness, precision and diligence.”
“You help yourself as many times as you want,” adds Antonio Jochem, co-owner of Lasso Gaucho. “It’s important to bring a big appetite, or even skip a meal beforehand.”
So which steakhouse serves up the most potent meats? Here’s everything you need to know about Fort Lauderdale’s newest Brazilian barbecue spots.
Lasso Gaucho comes from steakhouse veterans Rudimar Rech, the Jochems and their out-of-state partner, Munekata, which owns 11 restaurants, including South Carolina’s Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse.
Rech and Antonio Jochem, who cut their teeth as managers and gaucho chefs for Fogo de Chão, created Lasso Gaucho to compete directly with their old chain. Jochem barbecued in São Paulo and Porto Alegre before opening his first Fogo in Miami Beach in 2007, and he made a point of hiring eight experienced gauchos in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, cradle of churrasco.
It makes a difference, says Munekata.
“Maintaining and transmitting our traditions is important in the churrascarias,” he says. “You can see the extra steps our guys are taking. Greet guests, pull out their chairs, fold napkins properly. You really have to care about the service. If you go to a place that charges $100 a steak with no service, that’s almost unforgivable.
The restaurant charges $57.95 for a “full experience,” a choice of 18 proteins that include bacon-wrapped chicken filet mignon with queijo coalho (salted grilled cheese skewers that are firm enough to withstand open, dressed flames of a subtly spicy Honey). Cuts of meat are cooked on twin gas-powered Scheer grills.
All meals start with unlimited access to the salad bar (part of the “full experience” or $32.95 on its own), which includes items such as hot pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) , black beans, polenta, mashed potatoes, farofa (roasted yuca flour mixed with herbs), and sauces such as salsa criolla and chimichurri.
Since opening, Lasso has served an average of 60 diners a night, and their most popular cut is the picanha, a flavorful top sirloin cap wrapped in a crescent of fat.
“In Brazil, the picanha is so big for us, and so far many guests come just for that,” says Antonio Jochem. “The layer of fat helps the meat stay juicy while preventing it from burning over the flame.”
With 251 seats and two private rooms, Lasso Gaucho is huge, with a salad buffet and russet walls splattered with paintings of folkloric gauchos, 18th and 19th century South American cowboys who roamed the prairies ranching cattle.
Towering bottle racks frame the dining room with South American vintages. Meanwhile, waiters move around the room with cocktail carts, mixing caipirinhas at the table for $14. Happy hour runs from 4-7 p.m. Sunday through Friday, when caipirinhas are half price.
Fogo de Chão, 43, based in Plano, Texas, continues to grow in South Florida, with seven new locations planned by the end of the year (a Coral Gables outpost opened in April ).
The Las Olas site plans to employ 110 people, including a battalion of 20 gaucho leaders. Its 226-seat dining room is adorned with ornate chandeliers, white tablecloths, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an open kitchen where diners can watch side-by-side Scheer charcoal grills roast fraldinha (bottom sirloin) and linguiça. de porco (spicy pork). sausage) from the comfort of their dining table.
Fogo charges $60.95 per person for its “churrasco experience,” which includes 14 cups and includes access to its buffet-style market table ($32.95 separately), overflowing with feijoada (black bean stew with sausage), salads and charcuterie. Beyond the standard churrascaria protein, customers can splurge on so-called “forgiving cuts,” including 21-Day New York Wagyu Strip ($135 extra), 21-Day Ribeye Wagyu ( $145) and the 42 Day Tomahawks ($98). ).
“We end the wagyu experience with Himalayan block salt at the table and a glass of Louis XIII cognac, the icing on the cake,” says Wanderson Oliveira, general manager of Fogo Fort Lauderdale. “The other day a guest told me that wagyu was like steak on crack.”
Managing Director Oliveira started at Fogo in 2007 as a server and bartender, then opened new stores in Philadelphia, Boston, New York and Miami Beach. He prides himself on training gaucho chefs on how to cook on the barbecue and how to carve meats at the table with a precision worthy of a surgeon.
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“To be a gaucho, it’s simple: you need passion, you have to be a hard worker and, of course, be able to juggle several skewers at the same time,” explains Oliveira, born in Minas Gerais.
Yes, he trains American-born gaucho chefs who have never worked in Brazil’s churrasco capital — some will work in Fort Lauderdale — but he says passion, not country of origin, is more important.
“We have Americans who want to be gauchos,” he says, adding that three of his chefs come from southern Brazil. “But they dress the same, the communication is the same and they all share the same passion, because they love hospitality. It’s something you can’t fake.
The Fort Lauderdale location will offer fire-roasted meats by the pound ($15-$28) and cut ($20-$58), such as marinated chicken thighs, filet mignon, salmon from Atlantic, beef ribs and bone-in sirloin. Fogo dry-ages its proteins in on-site meat lockers.
Fogo expects its Happy Hour to run all day Saturday and Sunday, with $5 beers, $7 wines and $9 Brazilian-inspired cocktails.
Lasso Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse, at 2457 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 754-223-4663 or visit LassoGaucho.com.
Fogo de Chão, at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 100, in Fort Lauderdale (in the main Las Olas building), is scheduled to open August 19. Call 754-900-3111 or visit FogodeChao.com.