Just like a backyard BBQ, only crunchy! ……. And my word! Tastier!!
Isn’t Chippendale an interesting place to be at?! All the redeveloped and gentrified back-streets, in my opinion the hip dining precinct to visit. Tonight we took ‘The Goods Line’ (a pedestrian walkway which connects Darling Quarter to Ultimo – by-passing Haymarket) and all of a sudden you find yourself on the Chippendale side of George street (it was almost as efficient as the Harry Potter Floo network- now I want a path that connects our apartment to my workplace! OK, in reality it was an approx. 20 minute comfortable walk from South CBD).
Heading out tonight we didn’t have a designated restaurant in mind, instead choosing to get across to Kensington St and Central Park and just seeing what catches our fancy. Although the night was relatively young (6.30pm), Spice Alley was already swarming with people – most of the seating area already occupied by the early dining crowd. Emerging from the other end, we poked our head into Koi Dessert Bar, I had entertained the notion of having a dessert deg for dinner (let’s just say since I started to consume sugar again, I’m a little bit addicted to consumables containing the white powder), but for 4 courses at $65pp and the menu wasn’t all that helpful in describing what you might get (menu contained a list of ingredient’s within each creation, but it actually didn’t specify if it was a tart, cake, flan etc), so it seemed like a bit of an expensive gamble. And perusing A1 Canteen’s evening menu, the lunch menu right next to it seemed more enticing, so we’ll reserve A1 for a later Autumn’s day. Thus we passed on the crowded Kensington Street, and headed into Central Park.
To this day Central Park (CP) still amazes me, at the start of the decade when I was still a uni student at UTS (just across George St from CP) I couldn’t imagine a modern mall like CP could ever be a reality. For the handful of years I was a student there, what stared back at us who gazed across the road was first an abandoned Carlton Brewery, and then a really noisy and messy construction site. The first time when a friend had suggested to meet-up at Central Park, we had to shoot each other a number of back-and-fourth emails to clarify where they wanted to meet as I knew of a Central Park in NYC, but where is Sydney’s Central Park? And I was quite surprised to see when we eventually got there, that the rundown industrial estate and then hole in the ground, had become this green architectural marvel.
Once we were inside CP, we took the escalator down to the Lower Ground level where first there is a Woolworths; but after a few propulsions of your legs the LG area seamlessly transitions from indoors to out – the LG dining quarter presenting you with a number of options. Your dining whims can settle on Ribs, Burgers (or both), Ramen, Korean Fried Chicken, Cuban food, or Brazilian Churrasco. Because Fogo Brazilia appears in my ‘100+ Sydney City restaurants to dine at’, I naturally tried to manipulate my wife’s ‘What do I feel like’ decision process by raising at this point that I hadn’t consumed any meat in the last week (afterwards I had to retract that statement, as I did have 3 meals with meat in them in the past 7 days. Ooops). But she did decide on Churrasco! Woohoo! Finally I get to try Brazilian barbequed meat, to this point each time I’d suggested to dine at Braza, the standard response had been “No, it’s too much meat”, she had dined there once with friends, while I could only long for it, smelling all the tasty grilled meats each time we walk past.
But what I didn’t know about Fogo Brizilia until afterwards (as I’m fact-checking for this post), is that Fogo is a franchised casual restaurant chain. I wonder, if I had known this detail in advance, would that have swayed my desire to eat there. When did the concept enter our subconsciousness that dining at a chain restaurant became uncool? But after reviewing the display menu out at the front of their store, you’re greeted by the friendly South American service guy behind the cash register and you make your order/payment there and then – and armed with your table number you can elect to sit inside or outside. We remained inside and as we waited for our grilled meats, we took in the store’s décor- the stand-out being the orange stools which were suspended from the ceiling.
But while we were dining there, you can’t help but notice how quiet business was for Fogo. Although it was 7pm on a Saturday night, all the while we were there, there were only a total of 5 dining groups. We and another table were the only ones dining inside, thus the modern pop Spotify-like playlist had to play a larger role in trying to mask how ‘dead’ it felt in there. It was clear that the staff (everyone spoke Portuguese – so at least it was authentic) were kind of just hanging around, waiting to kick-into action when more people arrived, but at least for the duration we were there, the customers just didn’t come (all of CP seemed quite quiet, in contrast to how bustling Kensington St was). So as our orders went in to the kitchen, over the sounds of the music we could clearly hear the kitchen come to life, the fryer and grills sizzling away cooking our food (and we knew it was ours, as there just wasn’t anyone else there making orders).
As I had thought I was running a drastic deficit in my animal-based protein ledger this week, we opted for the Brasilia Platter to share, which included tasting portions of the Southern Spiced Beef, Margarita Chicken, Gaucho Chorizo, and Mojo Lamb. And served on the side- Fogo fries, a salad, and two sauces ($26).
And to ensure that we covered off the spectrum of all our four-hoofed and two-clawed friends, we also ordered the Pork Belly Camelo- served with jalapenos and cabbage slaw ($18.50).
The first to arrive was the Fogo fries (it arrived before the rest of the platter, but we treated it like an appetiser), served in this unique tall conical wire basket.
OMG! If you think Chicken salt on hot chips is the bomb! Wait until you try Fogo seasoning sprinkled all over your Fogo fries! I’m not sure what’s in it, but it tasted like garlic+onions+chicken salt all mixed together, but I’m sure there are other spices which I’m unable to name. But in short, it was AMAZING!
Next, the rest of the platter arrived. We’re a big fan of the platter, as the choice of chicken or beef, A or B is a non-factor, as you get a bit of everything! So if there is a platter on offer, 75% of the time we’re all-in on the food spread!
So as we divided up all the meats right down the middle, we each had a decent amount of beef (3 pieces of the medium rare beef, which was perfectly tender and it was the delicious rubs which shone through, not to mention the dipping sauces went perfectly- we liked the red one over the green); the Chicken was also grilled perfectly and was full of flavour (half a piece each); the Chorizo was ok as well, like all chorizos are (half a sausage each); but for me, my favourite meat of the night was the Lamb, as I love the gamey taste of mutton- and the natural flavours were still present although it was rubbed in spice (3 pieces).
And as we were dividing up our spoils, the Pork Belly arrived- a single elongated ‘square’ of crispy skinned pork.
For my wife, her favourite from the 5 different types of protein we consumed tonight was by far the Pork Belly! The pork had a really good crackle to the skin, a nice ooz-y fat layer, and a salty tasty layer of flesh. We were sharing tonight, but for any reason a group were to order dishes for themselves; I have to admit whoever orders the Pork belly, they would be eyeing-off their dining companions’ food in envy. As the portion size for the Pork belly was quite meagre at $18.50. After dividing up the belly equally, we each had 3 slices, and considering the sides was cabbage slaw and 3 jalapeño slithers, it’s hard not to conclude that there was a ‘Value for money’ disparity here. In contrast, the platter was so worth the extra $7.50, you’ve got 4 different types of meat, a large serving of fries, and side salad. This is why we always go with the platter!
In the end, Fogo reminded me of a backyard BBQ. But funny how these days when you refer to barbeque, the mind conjures up visions of American Southern barbeque- pulled pork, ribs etc. But Fogo reminds me of the good old backyard Aussie BBQ, some beef steaks, chicken pieces, lamb rumps, and snags sizzling on a hotplate. And the bowl of leafy green salad, which you add a little to your plate as you know your gut will thank you for it later. So Fogo is on-par with what a handy backyard ‘chef’ can cook up on the BBQ cooker with their tongs (which isn’t a bad thing, as more and more of us are apartment dwellers, who don’t have a backyard or BBQ to fire up). But where Fogos is a notch above the humble backyard BBQ, is the tasty spices which have been rubbed into the meat before being grilled. Everything that was offered up to us tonight was tasty, right down to the complementary table water (after I accidentally dropped a Fogo chip into my water. Haaha).
Our end verdict for Fogo Brazilia is 4.0 Stars from 5! (3 from 3 for Food (honestly everything was tasty! Absolutely cannot fault it at all!); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (as the staff were super friendly, obrigado!); 0 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (It was pretty dead tonight, and a staff member was skipping songs which they didn’t like from the playlist which is a pet-hate of mine at restaurants); and 0.5 from 1 for Value for money (as the platter was so worth the money, but the Pork Belly wasn’t much for a dish which was encroaching on 20 bucks)).
Would we come back again? Yeah, I’d say so, although it reminded me of a backyard BBQ (a very good one at that), but since we don’t have a backyard or BBQ, in the future whenever we feel like a backyard grill-up Fogo will be on the top of our list!
And as Chippendale is as intriguing as it is, we ventured around in the dark and located LP’s Quality Meats (it’s so strange, it doesn’t have much of a frontage). We will be back here real soon to try this next time- Southern style BBQ! And on our way back, Bubble Nini Tea was still open (closes at 8.30pm), so we got a drink to go- hydrating us for our floo network trip back to South CBD.
Fogo Brazilia- Saturday 16 February (4.0 Stars)
PH: (02) 8096 5157
Lower Ground, the Dining District, 28 Broadway, Chippendale NSW
Mon-Wed 10am – 10.30pm
Thurs – Sat 10am – 11pm
Sun 10am – 9pm