The EE and I hied ourselves off to Fuegovivo Churrascaria for dinner this evening. Fans of Fogo de Chao or other churrascarias will be familiar with the drill: Bountiful buffet of appetizers and salads followed by meat, meat and, for a chaser, meat. You have a little card at your place setting that you turn to its green side to signal "Bring on the meat!" and to its red side to signal you've had enough.
The buffet was nicely presented and had some interesting offerings. The Italian influence on Brazillian and Argentinian cuisine was evident. You could have assembled a lovely antipasto platter: salamis, marinated artichoke hearts, caprese (fresh mozarella, fresh basil, sliced tomatoes), marinated hearts of palm, several varieties of olives, carpaccio, cheese, with a selection of vinegars and oils with which to anoint your choices. There were also the fixings for a tossed green salad, along with the requisite chaffing dishes of rice, beans, mashed potatoes and gravy. The seafood offerings (mussels and smokes salmon weren't great, but everything else was fine.
Your waiter then brings you a plate and you turn your card green-side up, and the meat begins. Fellows in gaucho dress scurry about with skewers of meats and knives. They come to your table, announce their offering and you accept or decline. The gaucho then carves off a portion of his offering if it's one you'd like to eat. Fuegovivo boasts 15 kinds of meat, but the emphasis is firmly on beef with several cuts of steak (the garlic steak was tastiest), beef ribs, and sausages that tasted like beef. I saw pork ribs, chicken breast, lamb chops (good) and leg of lamb (should have tried that since lamb I find is hard to come by in Houston). But, again, beef is king. They didn't offer any of the more exotic meats you find in some churrascarias (rabbit, alligator, etc.) Most of the meat was cooked to about medium. The EE likes his meat well-done, so we told the waiter. It took a little while, but eventually one of the gauchos arrived with well-done picanha (top sirloin).
The EE loved the little cheese rolls. I looked forward to the fried polenta cakes, but didn't care for the taste of the oil in which they were deep fired. What I thought was a fried plantain was actually a fried banana; it was coated in crumbs with a dash of cinnamon and it was tasty if unexpected.
We shared the passion fruit mousse. The creamy, rich, sweet mousse was complimented by the tart passion fruit puree drizzled over it.
The cost was $42.00 per person plus tax and tip. Dessert and drinks were extra. Total for the two of us was $125.
I believe they offer the buffet-only option only at lunch; you might check with them if this interests you.
How did they compare to the name-brand Currascaria a few blocks east? The food was about as good, and the price was few dollars less. Fogo de Chao is more corporate and chain-like; Fuegovivo appears to be family owned and operated. All of Fuegovivo's employees were cordial and helpful.
Would we return? The EE will not. He's a pretty light eater, so he didn't get his money's worth. I would go with a group that wanted to try it, but I wouldn't go back alone. But I predict Fuegovivo will do well. With HOustonians' love of meat, the friendly service and the slight novelty, Fuegovivo should fill a niche. There was a wedding party in a private room, several date-night couples, several family groups, a few older couples -- quite a mixed group.
11681 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77077