September 7th is an important day in Brazil: it is both Brazilian Independence Day and a festival day for Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. It is traditional to serve white foods for Yemanjá, including creams, hominy-like canjica, and rice pudding (info link in Portuguese). One popular dish for Yemanjá is Manjar Branco / Manjar de Coco (coconut pudding, not to be confused with Peru’s Manjar Blanco, which is similar to Dulce de Leche). This Brazilian flan-like cream is flavored with coconut milk, and is super simple to make. Similar starch-thickened cream dessert dishes are found in Middle Eastern and European cuisines, including French Blancmange. In Brazil, Manjar Branco is traditionally served with a plum sauce, as you can see below. Check out Manjar Branco recipes from Olivia’s Cuisine, Mani Snacks, Ricardo Cuisine and Sabor Brasil. In addition to its presence at celebrations honoring Yemanjá, Manjar Branco is a popular dish to ring in the New Year! Odoìyá Yemanjá!
Tag Archives: Brazil
Today is Brazilian Independence Day, so I think some Brazilian food adventures are called for. Whenever we visit a a city in the US we always check to see if there is a Brazilian food or cultural outpost. You’d be surprised at how many places have a hidden Brazilian gem. However, one of the best places for Brazilian food in the US – that is no secret – is the Astoria neighborhood in the NYC borough of Queens. Astoria is perhaps most famously known for its sizable Greek population, though in recent years it has become an amazingly diverse place. Along with an influx of other Latin American and Middle Eastern cuisines, Astoria has become more Brazilian in the past decades and there are the food establishments to prove it.
Our first stop in Brazilian Astoria is always Rio Market (32-15 36th Ave, Astoria, NY 11106), which is definitely the biggest Brazilian grocery store we have seen in the US. They have pretty much every Brazilian dry good you could hope for: coffee, cookies, Guarana soda, sauces, tea, rice, beans, soap, shampoo, and even Brazilian soccer paraphernalia and Havaianas. What sets them apart is their wide selection, and the fact that they also have rarer fresh foods like queijo coalho – the cheese on a stick you can buy on Brazilian beaches – and picanha steaks. There is also a small cafe in the front of the store that serves simple dishes, feijoada, pão de queijo and coffee. A new feature is that you can order products from Rio Market online!
However, for Pão de Queijo, you must stop at New York Pão de Queijo (31-90 30th St.) aka Astoria Pão de Queijo or just Pão de Queijo. This hole in the wall restaurant reminded us pleasantly of a typical urban corner restaurant in Brazil. You of course have to get the Pão de Queijo, but there are also salads, acaí bowls and X-Burgers (Brazilian Portuguese for Cheeseburger – the X is pronounced “Sheese” – get it?). Within Astoria there are also a plethora of restaurants tapping into a variety of Brazilian food traditions beyond just the churrascuria that is the most known in the US. Point Brazil, Copacabana, Minas Grill, Villa Brazil and Kilo Astoria are kilo restaurants in the Brazilian style (a buffet where you pay by weight). Kilo restaurants are on every corner in Brazil, so it is only appropriate they have made their way to Astoria, too. Favela Grill and Beija Flor are more, modern, slightly upscale restaurants with live music. And at Casa Theodoro you can get Brazilian-style pizza, which is a genre unto itself. If you want to get a taste of Brazil while in NYC, definitely wander around Astoria!
One of the most interesting things about the Lisbon food scene is the proliferation of restaurants with foods from former Portuguese colonies. Brazilian, Angolan, Cape Verdean and Goan foods and restaurants abound in the city. When we were showing some friends around town, we wanted to find a place that would give them a taste of food from around the Lusophone world. We stumbled upon Mesa Kreol (Arco Portas do Mar, 1100-035 Lisboa). Mesa Kreol gives you that around-the-world trip by offering only the most iconic dishes from several former Portuguese colonies, all with a contemporary twist.
Mesa Kreol is located at the foot of Alfama, the old quarter of Lisbon, which is perhaps more known for its fado music and small restaurants serving grilled fish. The restaurant is clean in tidy, and only foreigners were eating at the absurdly early hour of 7 PM (like 4 PM in the US), though the restaurants seems to be popular with a mix of locals and visitors alike. The menu was brief, and was divided into starters, meat and fish. For starters we had to sample the strawberry gazpacho, not traditional at all, but spicy, delicious and refreshing. Other starter options included an octopus escabeche or linguiça sausage with goat cheese. For mains we went with the more traditional dishes, Moamba from Angola, Caldo de Mancarra from Guinea-Bissau and Brazilian shrimp Moqueca. Other national dishes included the cachupa bean stew from Cape Verde. Less traditional offerings included the tuna steak, Mozambican shrimp, and a Moroccan tajine.
Moamba is the national dish of Angola, and is made with whole chicken, drenched in palm oil, tomatoes, okra, spicy malagueta pepper, bell peppers and other veggies. We were warned by the server that this was a “greasy” dish, which may have been a needed warning for those not familiar with palm oil, but it was not really a greasy dish at all. The Caldo de Mancarra – a rich peanut stew with whole chicken – was delicious, and reminded us of other groundnut stews from West Africa. We sopped up every possible bit of sauce with the rice.
However, the hit of the night may have been the shrimp moqueca, a classic Brazilian dish of coconut milk, palm oil and bell peppers that we have enjoyed many times in Brazil. M deemed deemed Mesa Kreol’s version as one of the best moquecas he had had outside of Brazil, which is pretty high praise. This version came with delicious fresh shrimp and it was replete with palm oil, which is a necessity. We were too stuffed for dessert, but tempting options included Brazilian Sagu (tapioca pudding) and chocolate cake. Mesa Kreol is a great introduction to the foods of former Portuguese colonies. It is a true culinary trip around the world in only one place!
It’s always a delicate balance finding somewhere to go out to eat on a weekend for lunch – note that I say lunch – not brunch! Fortunately La Sirena Clandestina (954 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL) strikes a nice balance between lunch and brunch dishes, and is sure to please people with all kinds of palates. La Sirena Clandestina has an eclectic menu with lots of Brazilian flourishes, based on Chef John Manion’s childhood in Brazil – they even have our favorite cheesy bread on the menu – Pão de Queijo – though it sadly wasn’t available when we visited. We are always looking for new Brazilian tastes, so we were definitely looking forward to sampling La Sirena’s mix of Brazilian flavors and local ingredients.
The weekend daytime menu at La Sirena is a mix of sweet and savory, brunch and lunch. On the brunch side of things you can get their take on Eggs Benedict, with soft shell crab and Brazilian malagueta peppers ($18) or chilaquiles with plantains and salsa verde ($15). For those going more savory, you can get a grilled hanger steak with a fried yucca “tot” ($18) or the “El Che” (a take on the Cuban sandwich – $13) – achiote roasted pork loin with ham, Swiss cheese and pickles. There are also some nice, healthier vegetarian options including the Kale Salad ($9) and the white bean hash with avocado and chimichurri ($15) Among our group we ordered some options from each “type.”
One of our favorites, the hanger steak was perfectly tender and well-accented by the garlicky sauce – we also appreciated the whimsy of the yucca “tater tot.” Another hit was the Tapioca Nordestina ($12) – which was similar to a beachside dish that is popular in Brazil. This consisted of manioc flour crepes stuffed with cream cheese and topped with strawberry and rhubarb compote. This was a combination of flavors we didn’t expect – but worked really well together, and was not too sweet at all.
As an added twist on brunch, instead of the typical mimosa, you can get a variety of mixed drinks with Brazilian cachaça, along with aguas frescas (the juice of the day was chamomile lemon) and teas from Rare Tea Cellar. The vibe inside the restaurant is relaxed and casual, with vintage Brazilian tunes playing in the background (think Os Mutantes and Elis Regina). The space is not very big – so reservations are recommended. We highly enjoyed our eclectic brunch at La Sirena Clandestina, and it was a great spot for the pro and anti brunch crowds alike.
Today is Brazilian Independence Day, which is making us nostalgic for our time in Brazil. If there is one place we miss most from our time in Salvador, it is Café Terrasse (Ladeira da Barra, 401, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil). We can not think of a better place to enjoy a cup of coffee, in all of Brazil (or anywhere else for that matter). Check out the view below and you’ll know why we’re having saudades. Cafe Terrasse is located inside the Aliança Francesa da Bahia in the Barra neighborhood of Salvador. We did not even know it existed on our first visit to Salvador, and it definitely made our second trip infinitely better (we visited at least once a week).
So what is the national dish of Brazil, the host of the 2016 Olympic games? Feijoada – a hearty stew of sausage, carne seca, various cuts of pork and black beans. This is the type of post that we are surprised we did not write earlier – living in Brazil, feijoada is an integral part of the national cuisine and culture. Feijoada is the type of slow-simmered dish that you make on weekends for your family a la “Sunday gravy” in Italian families. On a larger scale, samba schools in Rio hold highly-anticipated “feijoada” for their entire communities and there is food, music and merriment. The whole point is that you don’t make feijoada alone, it is group endeavor. Legend has it that feijoada originated as a way to use up all the “other” parts of the animal after the good cuts had been used (or were too expensive to buy in the first place), but that theory has been disputed by some that see the dish as a more direct descendent of Portuguese stews. A really traditional feijoada will include ingrediants like pig trotters and ears, but there are a hundred variations, and everyone has a slightly different spin. Taste of Brazil has a traditional version and Maria Brazil and Simply Recipes have versions with ingredients you can find in most grocery stores.
There are two athletes from Syria on the Refugee Olympic Team, and two others on the team who currently train in Brazil. However, the connection between Syria and Brazil is not new. When we were in Brazil, we were pleasantly surprised at the number of Middle Eastern restaurants, from high-end fine dining to humble corner shops. We love traditional Brazilian food, but we like to try something different every once in a while, and we often turned to Syrian or Lebanese food for a change of pace. This is not just a cuisine trend in the country, there has been a large Syrian population in Brazil for over 100 years, and they are one of the most deeply established immigrant communities in Brazil. Now, there is a newer wave of immigrants fleeing the current conflict in Syria. One of the ways that this new wave of Syrians is contributing to Brazilian culture is through their food enterprises, such as Ahmad Ryad Hamada’s Syrian snack cart and Anas Rjab’s catering service, Simsim.
Even before the newest Syrian arrivals, you could find foods that are traditionally Levantine all over Rio de Janeiro, as well as other places in Brazil, especially São Paulo. The first time we had the national food of Syria – kibbeh – was actually in Brazil! You will find kibbe and esfiha (small triangle shaped filled dough) at snack shops throughout Brazil, whether or not they have primarily Middle Eastern menus, showing how much Brazilians have adopted Syrian dishes as their own. Syrian influence can also be seen in that pita-like bread is called Pão Sirio (Syrian Bread) in Brazil. There are tons of great places to get Levantine food and spices in Rio, but here are some of our favorites: Al-Kuwait for Kibbe and Esfiha, Quiosque Arab for ambiance and Casas Pedro for spices and Pão Sirio.
Even if you are not in Rio for the Olympics (we aren’t!), you can still find a taste of Brazil in some of the most unexpected places. One thing that we are quickly learning about Ohio is that you never know what you are going to find. It may seem that you are in a nondescript strip mall, but you may just be steps away from an amazing Brazilian food market and restaurant. And yes, in Columbus, Ohio we came across one of the best international food markets we have seen in the US, Estilo Brazil (5818 Columbus Square, Columbus, OH 43231).
There is something for everyone at Estilo Brazil, and we saw most of our favorite brands from Brazil there: Phebo soaps, Sonho de Valsa chocolates, Piraquê cookies, Pilão coffee and Madrugada teas. Beyond those brands, Estilo Brazil boasts a wide selection of other Brazilian candies, juices, soda, household products, canned and packaged foods and spices. When we were there around Easter, they also had a large supply of Brazilian chocolate Easter eggs hanging from a wooden pergola in the middle of the store (the traditional display method), which are a must-try for any chocolate-lover at least once.
More unusually, and a great sign for us, Estilo Brazil also had an extensive refrigerated and frozen food section with frozen Brazilian cuts of meats and fresh cheeses like catupiry and Minas. We were also pleased to find some things we hadn’t seen at other grocery stores, like miniature brigadeiro paper liners (like super mini cupcake tin liners), frozen açai pulp and spices for traditional churrasco. We were really impressed by Estilo Brazil’s selection of harder-to-find items. We definitely stocked up on favorites, and took a chance on some things that were new to us.
However, one of the best parts is that Estilo Brazil, is that it also houses a traditional Brazilian restaurant with a buffet. You can get a huge plate of food at the buffet for only $10. The big draw on Saturday is the lunch buffet with feijoada, the national dish of Brazil, which is a stew of pork and beans. Though they have a selection of mains (like moqueca, chicken stew or pasta – see the weekly menu here) every day of the week, the special feijoada is only available on Saturday. At the buffet we got feijoada, garlicky couve mineira, salad, pão de queijo and a coxinha (fried chicken dumpling), and washed everything down with a cafezinho and a Guarana Antarctica. The food was delicious, and transported us instantly back to Brazil! Estilo Brazil is definitely worth a visit if you are craving some Brazilian food, and be sure to stock up on all the Brazilian essentials while you are there.
Back in the day, an area of Central Rio de Janeiro, Cinelândia (pictured above in 2013), as its name suggests, was the home of Rio de Janeiro’s opulent Art Deco movie theaters. At its peak, there were over a dozen, centered on the square called Praça Floriano Peixoto. Only one movie theater still remains, the Odeon (link in Portuguese), whereas the other grand movie palaces have been converted to performing arts centers, churches, bookstores, or adult movie theaters. Bomboniere Pathe (Praça Floriano, 45, Rio de Janeiro) used to be below one such grand cinema – Cinema Pathe (now a church), which opened in 1901 and closed in 1999.
Though the theater is closed, this tiny corner shop that sells nothing but cake is still chugging along. The store is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-small. But don’t let the humble appearance fool you – the cakes are amazing! There are a dozen or so traditional and exotic flavors available every day, and are worth a special trip. It costs $R 5 for a slice, and $R 65 for an entire cake. With the current exchange rate of the Brazilian Real, that is a pretty reasonable price. The refrigerator case for the cakes is rolled right out into the street, enticing passers-by with scrumptious cakes.
So what kind of cakes can you expect? While we were there we sampled: A tri-color Neapolitan cake, a brigadeiro cake (chocolate condensed milk) with brigadeiro truffles right on top, coconut cake, prestigio cake, a traditional chocolate and coconut layer cake, passion fruit cheesecake, key lime, strawberry, blueberries and whipped cream, Black forest cake, and more! The selection changes daily, so be sure to ask ahead if there is something you have in mind. You can also buy single bite-size Brazilian treats like truffles, brigadeiros / casadinhos / cajuzinhos / beijinhos and small pudins (egg puddings).
If you order a slice, you are treated to a hearty wedge in a little plastic container. Since this is a take out place, there is no “eating-in.” However, you will see some people gathered around the shop just noshing on their cakes. Another nice touch – for my birthday they even gave me a cake with a candle in it (see below)! We sampled cakes at least once a week and were never disappointed. Located near the business center of Rio, it is a popular choice for businesspeople on a lunch break, and the crowd strictly seemed to be locals. If you are in Central Rio and looking for a sweet, traditional Brazilian dessert, look no further!
The Olympics have finally come to Rio! When we were living in Brazil a few years ago, the country was already gearing up for the Olympic games, so we are excited to see it finally come to life. ETW will have some special food-related Olympics coverage this year, focused on the food of Brazil and the countries competing. We already have an extensive archive of Brazil and Rio De Janeiro food posts, so we encourage you to check it out in the meantime. This year, we will have special posts on the two countries competing in the Olympics for the first time – South Sudan and Kosovo (we also covered the 7 new countries in 2014) – and the multi-national refugee team. Stay tuned! Bom apetite!
We visited Ramma Cozinha Natural (Lorde Cochrane, 76 – Barra, Salvador – BA, 40140-070) so many times when we were in Salvador, it’s a great surprise that we never wrote up a post about it (seems like a lifetime ago!). Brazil is a country crazy for meat, and on top of that, Bahia is a state that loves fried foods and heavy palm oil – well, so do we, but sometimes you need a little something different. That’s where Ramma comes in, offering a vegetarian and gluten-free-friendly oasis in the thick of it all. Like many casual spots in Brazil, Ramma is a kilo restaurant, which means you select your food and, pay buy the pound. Check out our complete guide to eating in a kilo restaurant, and don’t be intimidated!
Having lived in Northeastern Brazil for a while (in the foodie paradise of Salvador) we developed a pretty healthy taste for the cuisine of the region, steeped in a unique combination of European, African and native Brazilian flavors. It is rare to find that kind of cuisine in the US, where the Brazilian steakhouse reigns supreme, so we were floored that we found such a place – Batuqui (12706 Larchmere Boulevard) – right in our new hometown of Cleveland.
São Paulo is a mecca of pizza. In our relatively short stay in São Paulo we tried to sample as much pizza as possible, and we definitely found some of the most consistently good pizza outside of Italy. Many will vouch that the pizza in São Paulo is even BETTER than that found in Italy. One of our friends particularly recommended Speranza (R. 13 de Maio, 1004, São Paulo), a family restaurant that has been churning out pizzas since 1958. Speranza is quieter and less of a production than Braz, with which it vies for favorite pizza in the city. The menu at Speranza consists of pizzas and other Italian dishes including meats and pastas, as well as a tempting burrata appetizer.
There is a section of the menu dedicated to authentic Neapolitan pizza, which for about 40R apiece (about $20) was a pretty good deal. It is worth noting that this restaurant was the first in Latin America to receive recognition from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. We were highly recommended to get the classic margherita pizza, which was 56R for a large, and an extra 3R for buffalo mozzarella, which we felt was well worth the slight added expense. The pizza was fabulous. We loved the dense crust, the light sauce, and the generous hand with the buffalo mozzarella. While it may not have the fancy ambiance of Braz, we think we liked this little spot better.
We were completely stuffed from the pizza and bread, though we have to mention the restaurant’s very well-photographed menu of desserts. If you go there you will see what we mean. There was lemon tart and tiramisu, as well as something we’d never seen on a pizzeria menu before: Pastiera (Neapolitan Easter pie). This was definitely one of our top pizzas in Brazil, and we recommend Speranza to everyone looking for legit pizza in Sampa.
The famous South Beach section of Miami Beach is a very confusing place that we don’t really fit into (except that we like the beach and Art Deco architecture). Full of glitzy clubs and cheesy tourist shops, it is definitely not our scene. However, there are some places that really do stand out in a positive way, including Under the Mango Tree. This tiny juice and snack bar (plus giftshop) is located In a nondescript row of shops just off South Beach. Under the Mango Tree (714 6th St. Miami Beach, FL) specializes in a wide range of natural juices and smoothies (mango, beet, carrot, kale and more) as well as açaí bowls and other healthy treats. Unique selections include a dragon fruit bowl, tumeric chai tea, an agave, almond milk and raw cacao smoothie as well as a kale melt for something savory. The inside of the store is cute and welcoming, with colorful walls, Tibetan prayer flags, plants everywhere and little wooden benches. At any given time all the seats may be full!
We often complain that we can’t find a good moqueca outside the Brazilian state of Bahia. This Northeastern Brazilian coconut milk and palm oil stew is one of our all-time favorite dishes. So when we learned there was a restaurant in Lisbon specializing in Bahian specialties, Comida de Santo (Calçada Engenheiro Miguel Pais 39, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal) we thought we would give a foreign moqueca one last try. Thanks this visit, we were also introduced to the elegant Principe Real neighborhood, where we really enjoyed meandering around the architecturally-interesting streets full of boutiques and antique shops. The restaurant’s name means “food of the saints,” and had an extensive menu featuring food from Bahia and other parts of the Brazilian Northeast, a region of the county whose culture and cuisine has a heavy African influence, and is hard to get outside of Brazil.
The decor of the cozy restaurant is very cute, we immediately liked the colorful green mural with the armadillo (above), and the classic “namoradeira” woman statue in the window (below). Anyone who has been to Brazil will recognize this statue immediately, since she pops up everywhere. We stared with the standard couvert of bread and olives (€2 – bread and butter is not free with a meal in Portugal), as we perused the menu. We noticed that there were also a smattering dishes from the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, including Mineiran couve (collard greens), we were a little disappointed that there was no pão de queijo available, an essential Minas staple. We waffled among a few of the entrees, including pichanha steak (€18), Carne do Sol (€18) and the requisite bean and meat stew, feijoada (€16.50). However, we knew we had to try at least one moqueca, which came in fish, shrimp and vegetarian varieties. As is our tradition, we went with the shrimp (€20). M was also pleased to find one of his favorite dishes, Xin Xim da galinha (€16), a stew made with shredded chicken. The service, meanwhile, was friendly and efficient
We were pleased that the moqueca came out in a traditional stone dish and was bubbling: a very good sign. Moquecas typically come out with fixings; this one came with the classic farofa, rice, and malagueta sauce. We might have a likes a few more accompaniments like beans and vatapá. The moqueca itself was good, and had a generous amount of palm oil, but maybe needed a little more coconut milk. The xin xim was a hearty portion of shredded chicken with a smoky spiced flavor, and was a welcome and familiar dish we had not found much outside Brazil. The portions were extremely generous, which left us thinking that perhaps one portion was meant for two. Were we not so stuffed we might have made room for the quindim, a egg yolk pudding (€5). While our moqueca experience was perhaps not as transcendent as Axego in Salvador, Comida de Santo gave us heart that there can be hope for an international moqueca. Though we still need to find somewhere to get acaraje abroad!
Bella Paulista Casa de Pães
R. Haddock Lobo 354
São Paulo – SP 01414-000
No matter what kind of food you a craving, from cake to Italian, to health food to hearty traditional Brazilian fare, chances are 24-hour Bella Paulista in the Jardins neighborhood of São Paulo has it. The full name of the restaurant is Bella Paulista Casa de Pães, (House of Bread), but that really doesn’t tell the whole story. Bella Paulista is kind of a riff on a kilo restaurant – where you pay by how much your food weighs – but a little more high tech. You are given a plastic card, and everything you order – whether through a waiter or at a counter – is added to the card. At the end of the meal, you bring your card to the cashier near the exit when you are done and they then add up the final total. Pretty spiffy.
There is also R$ 29.95 for the all-you-can eat (as opposed to kilo) lunch buffet – which seemed to mainly consist of cold cuts, yogurt, breads and fruit, so we skipped, though it would be excellent for the healthy eaters around (not us, I guess). There was also more of sit down lunch counter for typical Brazilian fare of hot sandwiches and comidinhas. On the menu there were pages and pages of options, including diverse juice drinks, omelettes, pasta, waffles, Gourmet sandwiches such as mozzarella and arugula (all about $R 25+), Traditional sandwiches like turkey, cheese or tuna (around R$ 15). Of course, there is also a huge assortment of bread, like the massive pao de queijo we enjoyed above. We enjoyed sandwiches and fresh squeezed juices for a pretty good deal in this posh area of Sampa.
However, our favorite part of Bella Paulista was the dessert counter. Actually just calling it a counter is a misnomer – it actually formed a big circle, with an attendant inside the middle of the counter, waiting to weight your purchase. You could buy whole round cakes in a myriad of flavors, simpler strawberry or chocolate loaf cakes, as well as cookies, cakes and pies by the slice (you paid for these by weight). We went for the passion fruit cheesecake (below), which we found through experience is one of the most popular and consistently delicious Brazilian desserts. M was also happy to encounter a wide variety of filled doughnuts, not too common of a sight in Brazil. Bella Paulista was certainly one of the more impressive kilo restaurants we encountered in Brazil, and there certainly was something for everyone!
Avenida Infante Dom Henrique
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Germany plays Brazil today, and while we still hope the Canarinho can pull it out, Neymar’s injury and Thiago Silva’s suspension means this may be our last chance to highlight Brazilian cuisine before the end of the World Cup. In the United States, as well as Germany, it seems, the idea of Brazilian food usually conjures up the picture of a giant buffet with roving gauchos serving up meat on skewers. Fine cuts of meat are less Brazil-specific than they are at home in the broad swath of land between Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil – the land of the gauchos. Nevertheless, large transnational chains like Fogo de Chão and Texas de Brazil are responsible for popularizing this concept of Brazilian cuisine, which has now gained global popularity. But while we were living in Rio de Janeiro, we were curious if Brazilian steakhouses are the same or similar in Brazil. On many a carioca’s recommendation, we decided to head to Porcão, a high-end churrascaria north of Botafogo bay so large it has its own exit off of Infante Dom Henrique. Turns out, while beef is only a very small slice of Brazilian cuisine (think of fancy steakhouses representing all of US cuisine abroad), the experience at Porcão was very, very similar to those you would find in the United States. There were a wider variety of cuts of meat – Matt’s favorite anticuchos (hearts) come to mind – but overall, we have to say we were a tiny bit disappointed the experience was not more different. Don’t get us wrong, the food was excellent. But trust us when we say when you go to the Texas de Brazil or the Fogo de Chão in Chicago you are are getting basically the same experience (minus the Portuguese, of course).
You know the routine. You pay a set rate for the meal (at the time we went for lunch it was R$110; about 55 US dollars, and then you stuff yourself on the lavish salad bar and buffet. Then, you return to your seat and wait for the roving guacho to come around with particular cuts of meat that suit your fancy. And come they did, as always: every cut imaginable, overall of a wider variety and a bit saltier than you find at US versions. This Porcão was quite large, and seemed to cater to the business executive crowd, who hosted clients and co-workers for marathon meat-eats.
The salad bar, was of curse quite extensive, and consisted of various salad fixings, fruit and veg, a small selection of cheeses and bread. Again – no pão de queijo – basically a food crime against humanity. There were some winners at the salad bar though. We really enjoyed the mango and goat cheese salad. One major difference from the US, though is that at Porcão, there was no fish or chicken – only beef. Now, there was basically every type of beef under the sun, but if you don’t like beef you are pretty much out of luck. Sides were only so so, perhaps a little better in the American rendition of the Brazilian steakhouse.
However, where Porcão excelled was in the atmosphere. Most of Rio does, of course, and you simply cannot replicate it at a strip mall in suburban Chicago. In this particular location, the natural setting also plays a big role. Diners here are treated to a very cool view looking out on Sugar Loaf over Botafogo Bay (above). In fact, we don’t think we’ve ever been to a restaurant with quite so nice a view. So fans of the Brazilian steakhouse experience in the US – rest assured that your beloved meat skewers are very much a Brazilian thing – but you may not get quite the authentic view.
This post is particularly appropriate for the world cup since it connects host country Brazil with one of the countries playing a game today, Ghana. One of the most emblematic foods in Brazil, especially in the Northeast of the country, is acarajé, which we have written about extensively for this blog. However its roots are in Africa, and brought and adapted by enlaved Africans brought from West Africa to Brazil. Both Nigeria and Ghana have a dish called acara/akara, which is very similar to acarajé, and all variants are fritters made from black eyed peas. Betumi blog and Kitchen Butterfly have recipes for akara, which definitely seem similar to acarajé. However, akara is typically eating for a snack or breakfast, while acarajé is more of a later-in-the-day snack. Another difference is that, in Nigeria, the akara fritters may be fried in vegetable oil, while in Brazil it is always the bright-red palm oil – our favorite!We love acarajé, so we assume we would be fond of its predecessors as well.