Agora Churrascaria - Irvine
"Put down that donut," my co-worker said to me.
It was nine in the morning and I was at my desk, a cruller in one hand, a cup of tea in the other.
"Don't take another bite, and spit out the piece you're chewing. We're taking you to Agora in two hours. You're going to want an empty stomach for this."
And at half past eleven, as promised, my co-workers -- who were two seasoned Agora veterans -- took me for a five-minute drive which was more like a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage to the Mecca of meat.
I'd been putting off going to Agora until now, because simply put, I was afraid of the gluttonous excess of it all. I had visions of a never-ending procession of meat, and me slowly slipping into a catatonic state between the fifth and sixth helping of steak. Agora was, after all, a churrascaria, the all-you-can-eat meat-a-palooza, the Brazilian contribution to American obesity.
But before the meat feast to end all meat feasts started, I made a trip to the buffet line -- one of the most immaculate I've seen this side of Interstate 15 -- and scooped up mashed potato so smooth it could've passed for crème fraîche. Then there were the collard greens, deep emerald, full of chlorophyll and crunch.
When I brought back a full plate, my two friends chortled. The buffet was beside the point, they said.
"It's there only to appease the vegetarians who get dragged in here by their carnivorous friends."
"We are men. We eat meat. Meat good!"
On cue, a server dressed like a gaucho, wielding a saber threaded with heart-shaped bundles of beef, stopped at our table and began carving away at his cargo. Dripping with fat and juice, crusty brown on one side and bloody red on the other, this was the sirloin of sirloins.
As a slice fell away under his knife, I pinched the top of the flap with a pair of tongs and transferred it to my plate. Seasoned simply with just salt and pepper, the sanguine sample of tender flesh tasted rich, beefy.
The protein parade continued as another gentleman arrived bearing what looked like a giant shish-kabob. "Bacon-wrapped filet mignon," he said they were. "Give me three," I said back. These salty soft beef nuggets, I noted, were far too easy to consume, and far too enjoyable.
"Meat very good!"
Even the bacon-wrapped chicken breasts were perfect: juicy and flavorful to a fault. But the sausage, although tasty, was dry by comparison, lacking the fat and grease our palates now craved. Also mildly disappointing was the pork with parmesan. Arid and dusty, it seemed to be robbed of moisture. I set them aside and waited for another go round on the sirloin and the bacon-wrapped filet.
The warm cheese rolls were worthy non-meat distractions, as was the fried banana. The former harbored the mild tang of cheddar and the soft texture of a freshly baked Pillsbury Crescent Roll. The latter was sprinkled with cinnamon, served on a banana leaf, and present on every table -- intended to be used as palate cleanser between bites of meat.
As the gorging continued, we grew lethargic, conversation slowed, replaced by half-slurred proclamations of "Meat good. Stomach full. Must stop."
By the end, we were useless lumps, slumped in our seats like sacks of potatoes. We had overdone it, and joked that a blood test taken at that very moment would have detected bovine DNA frolicking among our human cells.
For the rest of the afternoon, I had what could only be described as a "meat headache," along with a strong desire to crawl into bed and hibernate for the winter.
1830 Main St
Irvine, CA 92614