Friday, June 22, 2012

Agora Churrascaria : Brazilian BBQ, Pao De Queijo

Who doesn't love freshly grilled meat?  I am a meat-atarian so Agora Churrascaria is a perfect fit for me.  Besides the meat, I LOVE Pao de Queijo almost more than the meat itself and that is saying something! lol I just simply love everything about Brazilian food.  The nicely salted grilled meat mixed with soft cheese bread and topped off with a refreshing sip of Guarana.  Simply heaven!
I have been to Agora many times already and sometimes Ms. Lin gets her cravings when she is in town too.  So of course when I got a media invite here, I was on board.  It didn't take much convincing since I love cheese bread and meat!! lol Come hungry and come with a plan! lol
Brazilian soda, Guarana, is one of my favorites! It's not very easy to fine.  Believe me, I have tried! lol The refreshing taste goes great with the orange slice.  I always push the orange slice to the bottom of the soda and crush it to add another level to the drink.  If you have never had this soda, you definitely need to try it out.  It's a fruity and flowery mix of flavor.  
First, don't starve yourself when you go anywhere that you want to enjoy to the max because if you are too hungry then you get full fast.  They offer a full salad bar with plenty of cold and hot dishes to start your palette off.  I personally avoid anything that will fill up my stomach as my goal is to eat medium rare cut meats.
I like the mashed potatoes and many people were raving about the potato salads.  You really can't go wrong with meat and potatoes.  The savory components of the meat really mixes well with the soft and light flavors of the mashed potatoes.
 
If you find anything a bit more saltier than you are used to, then just use a carb to cut down the flavor on your taste buds.  I like to nibble on the pao de queijo throughout.
The salad bar also has a lot of fresh cut cheeses to choose from.  I enjoy starting my meal out with some cocktail shrimp and smoked salmon.  Don't forget a slice of the mozzarella with basil and tomato.
Here is a secret tip : take an extra clean plate back! Why?  Well, you don't want to miss out on the meat now, do you?  Once you get back, turn your sign to red.
Red means that you do not want the nice gauchos to come to your table-side and serve/carve your meat.  Flip it over to show the green side if you are ready for the bountiful meats to come.   I really enjoyed seeing a stuffed person representing the red side as that is how you might look at the end of the meal. lol
Sometimes they get a little bit busy or the meat may take a little longer to come out so I like to start right away and pace myself.
Don't be shy in asking them about certain meats you like and how you like it to be prepared.  The gauchos are usually very nice and accommodating.  Towards the end of the meal they will definitely double check with you on what meat you would like them to specifically bring out.
My personal favorite are the Picanha and Lamb Chops.  The picanha are the top sirloin caps that have a thin layer of fat surrounding the meat that's nicely grilled and flavored.  **drool drool**  This has always been my favorite and always will be.  I love the light touch of sea salts crystallized on the outside.
Always medium rare to rare for me! You definitely want to enjoy the tenderness of the meat.  It's best when the outer layer is cooked because that is where all the flavor is.  With the inside being medium rare and bloody, it mixes well with the salty outer flavor and brings the whole palette together.
 They also have some specials that you should always ask about.
Ms. Lin loves Cotação, Chicken Hearts, but you usually will have to ask for this and they will bring it out.  Not many places offer this item, so it is good that you can find it here if you like chicken hearts.  I normally never eat it but I felt that I had to take one for the team since Ms. Lin was not there.  The texture is chewy and resilient.
Don't forget the lamb chops.  I love those medium rare as well.  Tender morsels enveloped by the savory saltiness.  Okay, I think I am getting a little hungry and craving more Brazilian BBQ.
As soon as you sit down at the table they bring the Pao de Queijo, Fried Bananas, and Tomato Vinaigrette.
Resist the temptation to munch on these too much because you want to fill up on the meat and then finish off by snacking on the rest.
I like having the fried bananas at the end of the meal as a sort of dessert but it is also very good to switch between the savory and sweet at times.
We also got to sample the original Caiprinha made with Sagatiba, Cachaca, Lime, and Sugar.  You can also choose to make it with Splenda.  This is your traditional Brazilian alcoholic beverage.  I am not a big alcohol fan but the drinks here were not bad.  They do pack them with alcohol so beware.  If you like to drink then drink at the beginning so that while you eat you can digest the alcohol as well.
They have a few twists to the Caipirinha.  The Passion Fruit Caipirinha was not bad but I prefer the Strawberry Basil Caipirinha as that was more refreshing.  Only the original and strawberry basil had that crushed sprig inside, which really added to the flavor and made it more refreshing.
If you have room at the end for dessert, you can try the Brazilian Flan.  It's different from your typical flan that is more like a Mexican flan, which is light and airy.  The Brazilian take is much more dense and sweet.  It's great to share because the sweetness can be a bit much if you are full from the meat.
I also tried their Cheesecake just because I wanted some cheesecake.  This was just okay.  I think some of their other desserts were better.  Definitely go with something more out of the ordinary or something Brazilian.
If you want to top off the night, they have a selection of dessert wines for you to enjoy.  I decided to have the Dow's 20 yr Portugal Tawny Port.  This was very smooth and sweet.  A great wine to finish the night.
 
We were also lucky enough to meet the owner who relayed his passion and inspiration for Agora Churrascaria.  They were inspired by the wonderful culture and cuisine in Brazil where they spent many years and summers there.
I really want to go to Brazil sometime to experience it myself.  Along with eating all the pao de queijo I can find! They have some that are the size of bagels! =)
I have been coming to Agora for a very long time and I know that they are open on most if not all holidays, which is very nice for families who do not want to cook and want to have a nice meal.
They also now offer Happy Hour where if you are not hungry enough for a full meal but want to catch a few drinks and nibble on some meats.  From 5-7pm you can get Filet Mignon wrapped in Bacon, Brazilian Sausage, or Roasted Chicken for $4 and you get 3 pieces.  You can also choose 2 of the above for $6.
All in all it was a great night with great people.  Got to love these media events when all the foodies come out of the woodwork to gather and have fun =).   I will be honest that at times the meat takes a little bit to come out and sometimes it can be overcooked, but just ask them to make it to your liking and it should be fine.
When you get just the right picanha, then it feels like heaven.  I wished they had that on the Happy Hour menu!
Agora Churrascaria
1830 Main St
Irvine, CA 92614
(949) 222-9910
 Agora Churrascaria on Urbanspoon

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