Sinhá Elegant Cuisine
2018 W Adams
There is nothing better than going over to your grandma’s house for dinner. Many of us, sadly, do not have Brazilian grandmothers – but if you live in Chicago, you can do the next best thing and head to Sinhá Elegant Cuisine – where chef and owner Jorgina Pereira will serve as your honorary avozinha (grandma) for the day. Like any good grandma, Sinhá Jorgina has enough food for roughly three times the amount of people expected. The main event is brunch, which is held every Sunday at 2 and 4 PM, and also in a smaller form on weekdays.
The little house in which Sinhá dinners are held is within a stone’s throw of the United Center. After ringing the bell to be let in, you are led up the stairs into a drawing room where you are offered some Jamaica (hibicus tea), and those who have chosen to BYOB can uncork their bottles. The drawing room is all glass, antiques and mirrors, and while we were waiting we perused coffee table books about Brazil. Waiting for the buffet we were offered appetizers of coxinhas (chicken fritters) and pão de queijo with queso fresco and marmalade. Both appetizers were excellent, and the plates set at our table were instantly consumed.
After appetizers, we were all led downstairs to the basement for the main event, where there was a mishmash of tables packed into every corner of the small basement. And by packed, we mean packed (as you can see above). This is not a place to come if you are nervous about meeting new people or having your personal space invaded. Our group of 6 was lucky to get our own table, but many others, especially smaller parties, were seated at a table with strangers. Remember, it is grandma’s house, and everyone is family! Once we were seated, Sinhá Jorgina came in and introduced the various dishes and gave a little history and explanation behind each one. The star of the show is her feijoada, one of the emblematic dishes of Brazilian cuisine, made with a variety of stewed meats (usually various types of pork, sausage and beef) and beans, served over rice. And of course, everyone is convinced their own granny makes the best feijoada, and we found Jorgina’s rendition to be excellent.
Alongside the giant pan of feijoada, there was an entire buffet of other meat dishes and a prodigious amount of sides. The typical Brazilian accompaniments to feijoada, farofa and collared greens, were also present and quite tasty. There was a savory pulled pork, black beans and rice flavored with bacon, pesto chicken skewers, salmon and a beef tenderloin carving station. For those more vegetable inclined (as Brazilians are not), there were a variety of tropical fruits, veggies and assorted salads. There were also sweet fried plantains, our absolute favorite fruit dessert! Adding a nod to the Italian influence of Brazilian cuisine, there was a homemade margarita pizza and homemade ravioli. We were sad to see there was not pão de queijo in the basement, but a very nice waitress brought some extras, all of which we happily inhaled. The highlights were the farofa and the appetizers, and the veggies and many of the other side dishes faded somewhat into the background. The buffet was all-you-can-eat, and the supply of food was basically infinite, all things considered, the $30 price tag got you more than your money’s worth of food.
Apparently back in the day there was a whole lengthy samba music and dance performance at each Sinhá’s event. However, at our brunch, some wonderful acoustic guitar music was provided by Luciano Antonio. Frankly, the gentler musical interlude suited the mood better than a big production. There were two birthdays the day we went so there was a hearty singing of “Parabéns pra Você,” and each of the birthday boys and girls was given a red velvet flan cake (which was taken back into the kitchen and cut so everyone could enjoy a piece). The red velvet cake with a top layer of flan and mint sauce was an unusual combination, but it really worked well together. After the brunch, we were led into the trellised back porch for some coffee. We enjoyed a pleasant cafezinho while taking in the unusual sight of wine grapes growing on vines right next to the United Center. By 4, we were on our way, with the next brunch waiting in the wings. Sinhá’s was good, plentiful and classic Brazilian Home cooking and, Brazilian or not, you really feel like you are at a party at your grandma’s house.