A tale of two Brazilian churrascarias

Not all Brazilian BBQs are created equally. Fogo de Chao is one of the popular Brazilian chains that most people are familiar with when it comes to Brazilian churrascarias (tchu-ras-ka-ria). Churrascaria literally means house of barbecue. The meat is savory and simple. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Fogo de Chao is a bit fancy and here in LA, the chain is located in Beverly Hills. However, there are other alternatives if you’re looking for your cut of Brazilian BBQ. On the more affordable side, you can check out Pampas Grill in the Farmer’s Market off of 3rd and Fairfax (also a new location in Culver City). You plate your own food and at the end, you pay buy weight. Here’s my plate:

I loaded up my plate with a salad, collard greens, rice and black beans, fried plantains, picanha (top sirloin cap) and linguiça (sausage). This plate cost about $10.

Here’s a close-up of the BBQ meat…

Pampas Grill is great for a quick Brazilian BBQ fix. However, this place can get crowded and you have to compete for a table with all the Farmer’s Market patrons. Here’s a tip, I went around 11:30am and the line wasn’t that bad. It’s a good place to wet your palate to see if you like this style of BBQ. When you’re ready to advance to the next stage of BBQ, you might want to drive east to Koreatown’s M Grill.

It’s not a fusion restaurant – it’s Brazilian. They serve 17 different cuts of meat…

The restaurant is smaller than what I expected and it was a little hard to find (entrance is on the second floor) but once we walked in, the service staff was very attentive. Definitely A+ for the excellent service and recommendations on cocktails. The all-you-can-eat lunch goes for about $23 and the dinner is about $43 but you do get your money’s worth.

Because this is an all-you-can-eat restaurant, they give you a card – one side is green which means servers should stop at your table and the other side is red to tell the servers to move on.

This is a basket of the Brazilian style cheese bread – it’s light and airy… and delicious! I could eat a basket of these alone.

Here is the linguiça and smoked sausage slices.

Here’s the hunk of sirloin. If it’s a little too rare, the server will take it back and cook it to your liking.

And before I forget, they also have a large selection of veggies and sides at their buffet. My favorite was their creamed corn and collard greens.

For dessert I got the sorbet trio – coconut, passion fruit, and mango. It was the perfect way to end the meal because it was light and sweet. And it turns out they get their sorbet from Fosselman’s in Alhambra!Oh wait! I almost forgot that I also had s slice of their grilled pineapple with cinnamon.

sdLooking through these photos, I think I’m having food coma flashbacks. I hope you enjoyed my recent outing to fulfill my Brazilian BBQ craving.

Bites from Korean BBQ Cook-Off 2010

Finding good Korean BBQ in Los Angeles isn’t that hard. The reason is because if you drive through Koreatown, the smell of sesame, soy, and garlic waft through the air and lures you to a Korean meat-serving establishment. But what’s the best Korean BBQ in LA? The 2nd Annual Korean BBQ Cook-Off answered that question this past weekend.

I took some out of town friends to the cook-off in Koreatown. Close to a dozen Korean BBQ restaurants set up tents so you could eat your way to find the best Korean BBQ LA has to offer for $5 a plate. But before I continue, I want to let you know that Korean BBQ isn’t one type of meat or one recipe or marinade – it’s a variety of meats that are marinated or cook in a traditional Korean way over gas or charcoal grill.

Judges for the cook-off included Pulitzer Prize winning writer Jonathan Gold, Chef Ludo Lefebvre, actress Sandra Oh, and Consul General Jae Soo Kim.

I admit I’m a bit biased because I think my mom makes the best Korean BBQ but I did have my favorite BBQ dish of the day… pork ribs from Ham Ji Park. Take a look at these succulent ribs that are slightly carmelized on the edges and sweet and juicy when you bite into it.

Right before I ate these finger-licking good ribs, I also had the spicey pork bulgogi with a side of rice from Olympic Restaurant. It was a little too spicy for me but I sniffled through it because it was too tasty to pass up. By the way, if something is too spicy, don’t drink water… eat more rice or drink dairy. It definitely helps!

In between all the BBQ tasting, we had some non-BBQ items like these sticky rice seaweed wraps. I admit I wanted to save room in my stomach for the meat so I just took a bite of the spicy tuna.

For those with a sweet tooth, dessert food trucks like Sprinkles cupcake mobile were serving up cupcakes in individualized cupcake boxes.

Also, I can’t forget the Cool Haus truck! Check out this guy’s Thai iced tea ice cream and lychee ice cream with brioche and chocolate chip cookie dessert… and yes, that’s all in just in ONE dessert pictured below.

But you’re probably wondering – Angela, who won!!!??!? The winner the judges chose for the best BBQ went to Park’s BBQ.

I had their bulgogi which was tender and perfectly marinated – sweet enough for the flavors to sit on your lips for you to lick and want to take another bite. The meat was served next to a potato salad which was basically foreplay for the BBQ – in my opinion.

Congrats to all the winners and also all the vendors who endured the heat and crowd to bring good food to the people. Can’t wait for next year!