Tag Archives: Brazil

Our Favorite Cafe in Salvador, Bahia: Cafe Terrasse

brazilToday 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).cafeview2

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The National Dish of Brazil: Feijoada

brazilSo 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.

Feijoada

Feijoada from Estilo Brazil

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Syrian Food in Rio de Janeiro (and Brazil)

syriabrazilThere 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.

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Kibbe at Al-Kuwait in Rio

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.

Casas Pedro in Rio

Casas Pedro in Rio

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Estilo Brazil Grocery Store and Restaurant in Columbus

brazilEven 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).
Storefront

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.

Cafe

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.AcaiAcerola

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.

Feijoada

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Pastry Post-Doc in Rio: Cinematic cakes at Bomboniere Pathe

cinelandiabrazilBack 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. 

CakeStoreThough 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.

KeyLime

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).

Passionfruit

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!

ChocoBrithday

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The Olympics of Food: Rio 2016

Olympic-Cookies

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!

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Ramma: Vegetarian-friendly in Salvador, Bahia

brazilWe 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!Ramma3

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Batuqui: a Taste of Brazil in Cleveland

brazilHaving 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.

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What do you mean it doesn’t look like Brazil?

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Delcious Pizza in São Paulo: Speranza

brazilSão 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.

SperanzaPizzaThere 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.SperanzaInterior

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.

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Juice and more at Under the Mango Tree in Miami Beach

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!
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Comida de Santo: A taste of Bahia in Lisbon

brazilWe 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.

Mural

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

Statue

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!MoquecaLisbon

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The Rise of the Organic Favela

brazilThere have been several high-profile stories in the past few months about the rise of upscale restaurants and dining culture in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. A new development in Rio is Regina Tchelly’s Favela Orgânica project, which is changing the way food is used and thought about in the Babilônia favela. Tchelly’s mission is to take the parts of ingredients that are mostly thrown away, and use them in new and interesting ways. Seems like a mission that can – and should – expand throughout Rio and beyond!

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Bella Paulista, something for everyone in São Paulo

Bella Paulista Casa de Pães
R. Haddock Lobo 354
São Paulo – SP 01414-000

brazilNo 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.

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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.

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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!

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Post World Cup Wrap-Up

brazilSo the World Cup is over, and it has been quite a ride! While we are sad the Brazil went out the way they did, we were excited to share lots of food links and recipes from the countries featured in the Cup. And of course, we enjoyed the opportunity to feature Brazilian food in all of its glory. And there was some measure of victory, because Salvador’s famous Baianas won the right to sell the emblematic street food acarajé outside Fonte Nova stadium (a rare victory against FIFA)!

Baianas FIFA

 

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A real Brazilian steakhouse experience: Porcão

Porcão
Avenida Infante Dom Henrique
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

brazilGermany 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).

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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.

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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.

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The Ghana/Nigeria – Brazil Connection: Acarajé and Akara/Acara

nigeriaGhana.svg

brazilThis 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.

Cida Acaraje

Acarajé with dried shrimp from Cida in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

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Brazil: All About the Cafezinho

brazilWith the important World Cup match-up between Brazil and Mexico today, it seems appropriate to talk about a topic near and dear to both country’s hearts. Coffee-time is something of a ritual in Brazil, where people have their daily cafezinhos. Coffee in Brazil does not simply mean drip coffee, as we are accustomed to having in the US. Instead, you brew a cafezinho through a cloth filter with boiling water, at least if you are doing it traditionally. A cafezinho in Brazil, no matter where you get it, tends to be sweet and strong and served in absolutely tiny cups (typically plastic). People often drink it at a counter standing up in the morning, as a welcoming gesture for guests, or after meals (sometimes it is free, sometimes it is not…). Flavors of Brazil has a guide on how to Order Coffee in Brazil, you can get a wide variety of permutations, but be prepared – everything comes with sugar! Though the traditional cafezinho reigns supreme, cafes with Italian espresso style coffee and drinks are getting more popular, definitely in São Paulo, which has always had an Italian heritage, and in Rio, too.

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Cafezinho by Erica Pallo

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Our favorite moqueca in Salvador: Axego

Axego
Rua Maciel de Cima, 1,
Salvador, Bahia 40026-250, Brazil

Axego is the rare restaurant that we will go to TWICE in one trip. Though we rarely visit the same place, we loved Axego’s setting, the food and the warm service so much we decided to make it our last moqueca in Salvador. We also could not believe the extremly reasonable price. The menu at Axego is pretty varied and has all the typical Bahian dishes you may expect. However we were there for one thing alone – Moqueca. On our first visit we decided to branch out into a type of moqueca we had never tried before: Aratu Red Crab (R$48). This rounds out to about $25 US or less than $13 a person – good deal!

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Axego’s restored colonial interior.

Now we absolutely love moquecas, and over the past year or so have sampled enough so that we know exactly what we are looking for. First – it has to come to the table piping hot, preferably in or on a stone bowl. In terms of the moqueca itself: it has to have not too runny of a sauce , high quality protein, good dende flavor and a nice and varied amount of sides in non-stingy portions. M would also add that there has to be a spicy pepper sauce to spice things up. Never have all of these elements come together so well than as at Axego. The moqueca itself came our absolutely filled to the brim with Aratu, a strongly-flavored and tasty crab dish. No filler or watery  sauce here! On our second trip we went with our old standby – moqueca de camarao. Both were equally delicious, though the uniqueness of the Aratu gets our vote. We can get shrimp just as well in the US.

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Moqeuca de Aratu (red crab) – a rare treat even in Bahia.

On the last visit we made to Axego we were even lucky enough to hear a live Olodum concert while we were eating – not IN Axego, mind you, but rather in a largo right behind the restaurant. Dinner and a show all for the price of a few mediocre sandwiches back in the US. The space of the restaurant itself is very nice, in a restored colonial rowhouse. The inside is mostly wood, and an entire wall is dedicated to a a creatively-displayed selection of Bahian artifacts and art works.

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Music provided by Samba Chula de Sao Braz and Raimundo Sodre at Sankofa African Bar.

We highly enjoyed our moqueca at Axego, and we hope we are able to go back soon. Along with tasty food, Axego has all of the intangibles that we love in a restaurant, welcoming service, pleasant atmosphere and a good vibe.  If you are going to get one moqueca in Salvador, make it Axego!

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A Taste of Chile in Brazil: El Guatón

chileEl Guatón
Rua Artur de Azevedo, 906
Pinheiros, São Paulo, Brazil

El Guatón was our first foray into Chilean food, and we had to go all the way to Brazil to do it! One of the world’s great foodie cities, São Paulo is known for its range of restaurants. We were excited (but not really surprised) to find a Chilean restaurant among its ranks of eateries.  We heard good things about El Guatón, and looking at their menu online we noticed some similarities with both Peruvian and Argentine restaurants that we had visited before. We were on board!

Dinner at El Guaton in Sao Paulo

Dinner at El Guatón in São Paulo

El Guatón is cute and cozy with red-tablecloths, and a little patio out front. Unfortunately, we arrived on a chilly day, so everyone chose to stay warm inside. We got a small table in the back, which – at the risk of stereotyping Brazilian restaurants – means you will never be served. But the service was prompt and courteous, and even more surprising for Brazil, there was a basket of food placed on our table for zero charge. In the land of couverts, this was a nice change! El Guatón also features an extensive wine list,featuring many Chilean varieties. There is even a bottle of the house red put on the table, and most people do seem to take advantage of it.

Chilean Empanada

Chilean Empanada

One of the most popular items on the menu, according to reviews, are the empanadas (in Spanish) or empadas (in Portuguese), terms basically referring to the same sort of delicious carb filled with meat or cheese. The cost was a reasonable at R$6 for baked and R$8.50 for fried. We ordered a baked cheese, and fried shrimp. The baked empanada was slightly smaller and a had a lighter taste, perhaps it would be good for the “health-conscious” empanada lover (if such a person exists). The fried variety was seemingly twice as big and came out piping hot, with a tender crust and nice oozy cheese. They definitely made both of these varieties to order – and it showed. YUM!

El Guaton Ceviche

El Guatón Ceviche

Beyond empanadas there were a variety of meat and seafood dishes including picanha, fried fish, ceviche and humitas (Chilean tamales). Matt is a major fan of ceviche, and after our successful ceviche meal in Rio at Cevicheria Carioca (review forthcoming!), he wanted another hit. The ceviche at El Guatón was only R$53 for fish ceviche for two. It is plenty large enough for two people, and in many ways simpler and subtler than many of the Peruvian ceviches with which he, and many readers, may be more familiar. This ceviche was simple: just white fish, lime juice, diced white onions, and cilantro – a combination that resulted in a rather tame tiger milk, but still mixed and effectively presented all the great flavors.

We were also surprised to find lúcuma on the menu. A fruit native to mountain valleys in the Andes, Matt grew to love its sweet potato / maple / nutty flavor while living in Peru.  El Guatón featured a lúcuma cake (R$13), which was very tasty, but essentially just a puff-ball of whipped cream on a very thin crust. It needed a little more substance (and definitely a little more lúcuma).

We had a great meal at El Guatón and we wish there were more Chilean places around. We love it almost as much as Peruvian food! Maybe someday we will be back, until then we’ll have to scour for another Chilean eatery. Is there a Chilean restaurant in your neck of the woods?

Lucuma Cake

Lúcuma Cake

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How to Eat at a Kilo Restaurant in Brazil

brazilOne of the things you have to do before you leave Brazil is eat at a kilo restaurant. One of the quintessential Brazilian dining experiences, we long for places in the United States where you can get great food by the pound. While you can find kilo restaurants on nearly every street corner in Brazil, our absolute favorite kilo restaurant is the vegetarian-friendly Ramma in Salvador. Ramma2

But here’s the big question. If you find yourself in a kilo restaurant, what do you do? Where do you start? What do you order? Here are the basics. What happens is this: you are given a plate and a little order form/ticket. With this, you are welcome to serve yourself at the buffet, much as you do in a typical American-style buffet. However, be careful that your eyes are not bigger than your stomach, because it will end up costing you! At the end of the buffet your plate is weighed and you are charged by the kilo. The price is then written on your ticket, or sometimes at fancier places the scale has a machine that prints an automatic sticker. “Extras” like drinks, coffee or single-serve desserts are marked on your ticket as well, and sometimes you can order these from your table once you have sat down.

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The offerings at Aipo e Aipim, a fancy kilo restaurant in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro.

After getting your ticket, you sit down to eat your food. This can sometimes be tricky at more popular kilo places, which can get absolutely packed around lunchtime, especially in the business districts. As such, don’t worry about filling up the first time: if you want more, you can add to your ticket, or get a second one. When you’re done, you pay the cashier on the way out by handing them your marked ticket. It is absolutely imperative that you do not lose your ticket, and it is the only way that you can exit the restaurant. If you happen to lose your ticket you usually have to pay an exorbitant fee (fortunately this has not happened to us…yet) though we noticed that at certain other kilo places the fee is not too high (maybe 50 reais or about US $25 at the time we were there). Maybe this would encourage people to eat a ton, and “lose” a ticket?

Kilo Buffet

All this for only about $8

There are different types of kilo restaurants for all different tastes – including salad places, vegetarian places, pasta places (Spoleto) and places with homestyle Brazilian food (Aipo e Aipim), and many have several branches in Rio. Sometimes there is a whole separate dessert buffet or even a churrasco (grilled meats) station, which may be offered at a different kilo rate (the churrasco at Aipo e Aipim is great). The selection varies by price, but most restaurants will have at least a dozen options.

Cake buffet at Aipo e Aipim

Cake buffet at Aipo e Aipim

The menu at a kilo restaurant varies daily, so if you find a favorite kilo place you can go there a few times a week and not be too bored. Prices vary, but the lowest price at a decent kilo restaurant was about R$20 ($10) ranging up to about R$50 ($25). Prices are cheaper outside the tourist areas, obviously. The prices may also vary inside “peak” hours (12-2 or so), and off hours may cost less. At first we were bewildered, but we grew to love the kilo restaurant. It may seem like a lot to consider, but you’ll be eating at kilo restaurants like a native Brazilian in no time!

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