Okay, I've been to Fogo de Chao in Chicago once, and my wife has been to FdC in Chicago several times. My good buddy and fello epicurean Alex had been to FdC in Atlanta many times.
So two Saturdays ago we all decided to go to Espetus.
So I call the restaurant at 7pm on Saturday and ask if I need reservations. (Ask a stupid question....) and of course, the response is, "Everything is full for the entire night, but if you show up, there MIGHT be a cancellation..."
So we show up at 7:45. The restaurant is completely full. The crowd is intense, people are spilling out of the restaurant. We're just about to give up when I approach the staff and inquire about a walk in table. The gentleman says, "let me go see..." and hurries off...
He returns 5 minutes later and says, "Sure, I'll seat you right by the window in the front."
Now we're thinking ... NO WAY!!! Its 7:50 on a Saturday night, we walked in and got seated in 5 minutes!
Anyways, the meal:
The meats were all fantastic. There were about 10 or so, maybe 12 meats circulating the restaurant from exceedingly pleasant waitstaff. We had pork loin, beef sirloin, beef top loin, roast beef, chicken wrapped in bacon, sausage, lamb, beef "tender", some other beef that was billed as "special for tonight", beef ribs, yadda yadda.
None of these were dry. All of them were seasoned well with salt and exceedingly flavorful. My abosolute favorite was what was called "beef tender". It was phenomenal. Salted just right, exceedingly flavorful, full of that beefy flavor, and oh so tender. Alex agreed ... the beef tender was the best. Not that everything else was excellent, this was more excellent.
The fried bannana was so yummy and sweet, and the fried coating was so light and airy ... lighter than tempura!
The Salad Bar was great. Tons of fresh guacomole too. Delicious seafood paella, if just a bit too watery. fresh mozarella and tomatoes.
We paired everything with a Shiraz... it was perfect.
Only letdown was the tres leche cake for dessert. The frosting was about 5x too sugary, and the cake texture was a bit too coarse.
However, I think Espetus is a home run. The salad bar is maybe not as comprehensive as FdC, but the meats are just as good, and at 2/3 the price of FdC, Espetus is absolutely a grand slam home run. We all agreed Espetus was excellent, and we all agreed that there's no reason to miss FdC.