At Brazilian steakhouse Agora Churrascaria, a procession of skewer-roasted cuts such as picanha – that’s top-sirloin cap – filet mignon and tri-tip are sliced tableside by servers in traditional gaucho attire. The feast also includes specialty nonmeat items, hot sides and salads. The restaurant was the first of its kind in Irvine when owner Scott Im opened it in 2005. We recently spoke to Im at the popular restaurant, located at the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Main Street.
How did you come to open a Brazilian steakhouse?
My dad’s side is from Korea. My mom’s side is from Brazil. I lived in Korea but visited Brazil often and became close with my mom’s family. We would do Brazilian barbecue every weekend, and I fell in love with the food. I studied restaurant management, I worked at my uncle’s Brazilian restaurant in the U.S., then managed restaurants in L.A. The Brazilian concept wasn’t popular here yet. For me, it was ideal.
How is Agora different?
I make sure we never cut corners. I believe if we have good food and good service, people will come. The meats we use tend toward the more expensive and more aged – the raw ingredient has to be good for it to translate to good food.
How do you cook your meats?
The grill is custom. It doesn’t use gas – that’s becoming rare among Brazilian restaurants. We fill the fire pit with large, wood charcoal. We cure the meat. We trim the meat. We put rock salt on it. As the rotisserie mechanism turns the skewers, as the meat cooks and the juices and oils come out, the rock salt falls off – and the meat is perfect.