Ever tried churrascaria? Do you even know how to pronounce it (it’s pronounced chew-ruh-scare-ee-uh, and it’s Spanish for “to singe,” if you were wondering)? Although this style of cooking and serving is most popular in other countries, a fine churrascaria restaurant has arrived in Orange County: Agora Churrascaria of Irvine.
A churrascaria is a Brazilian steakhouse, where meats are freshly prepared on sword-like skewers over wood fire grills and taken out promptly to the tables. The meat carvers, dressed as Brazilian Gauchos , carve your meat right in front of you. This style of restaurant is called “Rodizio”, because you pay a flat price and the gaucho keeps coming to your table with more and more meat! They have a system, where if your coaster is turned the Green Side, the Gaucho will not take no for an answer and insist you try their meat.
When you are full, or close to getting full, be sure to turn your coaster over to red. If you forget, your gaucho will take it as a personal offense that you have not tried his meat. If only women used this same system at nighclubs!
Of course, Agora’s meats are its prized possession. Although they offer over ten different styles of meat, the most sought-after dishes seem to be the lombo de porco (seasoned pork loin), alcatra (a “succulent and tender cut from the top sirloin”), file com bacon (filets wrapped in flavorful strips of bacon),. Other tasty items on the list are the maminha (tender tri-tip steak) and the frango (marinated chicken legs) and Coracao (Chicken Hearts). Don’t get squeamish from the chicken hearts, they are quite tasty and you should try them at least once. Perhaps my favorite of the dishes is the Picanha (their signature meat), which is a top sirloin cap that is extremely flavorful and tender. Is your mouth watering yet? If not here are some pictures
But you can’t fill up on meat alone. Agora serves high-quality side dishes and entrees at the Hot Food Buffet. Yes you did hear my right, in addition to the non-stop onslaught of meeting coming to your table, there is a full Brazilian themed Buffet!, including clams with white wine and olive oil, black bean stew, mussels, garlic rice, fried bananas, and mashed potatoes. Keep an eye out for the “Brazilian Typical Food” signs, these are the dishes that are native to Brazil and deserve to be tried.
Just in case you didn’t have enough food, there is also a cold salad bar station at the buffet. This cold salad bar is eclectic and has traditional salads, to cold seafood (shrimp cocktail and ceviche), bean salads and again some Brazilian typical food. I recommend that you try the hearts of palm.
And while these dishes may complement Agora’s meats very nicely, a proper meal is finished with dessert — such as their passion fruit mousse, cheesecake, and selections of gelato and sorbet. With this much sweetness, you just can’t go wrong. Here are some pictures of my favorites.
Agora also offers a unique type of beverage called the caipirinha, Brazil’s signature cocktail. The original caipirinha is made with cachaca (sugar cane rum), lime, and sugar, but variations can also consist of passion fruit juice, kiwi, mint, and strawberry. Types of Brazilian cocktails served at Agora are the original, the strawberry basil, and the passion fruit caipirinhas. They also feature a low calorie caipirinha which had a nice flavor, but I highly suggest you try the standard version unless you have dietary restrictions or want to fit into your summer clothes.
Overall Agora Churrascaria is a great deal at a price tag of $43 for an adult dinner. Yes $43 is a lot of money, but this is a unique dining experience that will allow you to experience the flavors of Brazil’s cowboy country. If you are like me, then you will definitely enjoy your meat-centric meal and binge at the buffet. I have been to 4 other Brazilian Rodizio Churrascarias , including the fancy one in Hollywood. I would say that Agora is in the top echelon of these steakhouses.
Before visiting Agora, follow these pearls of wisdom
1) Eat a very light lunch or breakfast and no lunch
2) Wear loose clothing, preferably something with elastic.
3) Do be sure to eat the Tapioca Bread- it is truely unique and must be enjoyed to it’s fullest despite the all you can eat format
4) Must try cuts of meat: Picanha, Tri-Tip, Bacon Wrapped Chicken and the Filet Mignon
5) This Brazilian steakhouse focuses on high-end meats and ingredients, not exotics. The craziest you will get is the Coracao (Marinated chicken hearts)
6) Don’t fill up on the buffet, start with a very light plate…..then go back after you had a couple rounds of meat
7) Try the caipirinha, it will lighten your mood. Otherwise, order wine to break down the meat (Doctor’s Orders).
Location: 1830 Main Street, Irvine Ca 92614 www.agorachurrascaria.com