Tag Archives: Salvador

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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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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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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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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Picoleishion: Celebrity Popsicle Seller of Itaparica

brazilIn our travels we met perhaps the most amazing food cart purveyor in all of Brazil, nay, Latin America! His name is Picoleishion, and he is a one-man show based in the town of Itaparica, on the northern tip of the island of the same name. He sells picole, which is simply Portuguese for “popsicle” but he isn’t a normal popsicle seller. Picoleishion is readily identified by his gigantic sombrero, frenetic dance moves and the fact that his popsicle cart is actually a giant boombox blaring Axé hits like “Billie Jean” by Magary Lord. Check him out in action (and again). The Praia do Forte in Itaparica is idyllic and quiet, and Picoleishion is hard to ignore as he rolls across the beach blaring his tunes. Over the course of one beach day we sampled 4 picoles – Mangabation (Mango), Limation (Lime), Chocolation (Chocolate), and Amendoimshion (“Peanut” was basically a peanut butter popsicle –cool! que legal!). Picoleishion is definitely a charismatic guy – and had beachgoers dancing and posing for pictures, so it is no surprise to us that he is a minor celebrity and has made an appearance on the Jô Soares show, a Letterman-type talk show in Brazil (at the start of the clip below). We love you Picoleishion! Adorei Picoleishon!

 

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A Visit to “Delícias do Porto” Street Food Market in Salvador da Bahia

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July 2nd (Dois de Julho) is celebrated as Independence Day in Salvador da Bahia, and was considered the definitive end of Portuguese rule in 1823, so it’s the perfect day to celebrate Bahian food! Bahia has great street food, and you can find wonderful Acarajé on nearly any corner, so what could be better than an Acarajé stand surrounded by tons of other great eats? On Friday evenings during the summer (December – April in the southern hemisphere) there is a great street market put on by the Instituto Mauá in the neighborhood of Porto da Barra in Salvador called “Delícias do Porto (Delicacies of the Port)” Though the summer is now over in Brazil, it appears to be a yearly event, so check back for further updates. We highly recommended this fair for its variety, and for bringing a little culinary nightlife to the Porto da Barra area, which can feel empty during the evening hours.

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The Xinxim (whick we had before, but in reference to a VERY different dish) was made of ground nuts, dendê (palm) oil, coconut milk, okra and shrimp. Though perhaps not the most visually appealing dish, we loved the unusual combination of savory flavors. Don’t forget to add the hot sauce and dried shrimp!
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Of course no outdoor market in Bahia would be complete without Acarajé – the trusty black-eyed pea fritter that is pure “Bahia.” This one was from Dona Emilia (whose booth is there even when the whole fair is not), and was cooked fresh to order. Everything at the fair was very reasonably priced, and we couldn’t think of a better way to spend a balmy evening – watching the sunset and washing down our Acarajé with some Guaraná soda in hand.

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Delicious Kibbe in Salvador: Kiberia

Kiberia
Barão de Itapuã, 145
Salvador – Bahia

brazilWe had some good kibbe (fried Middle-Eastern bulgar-and-meat meatballs) in Rio. But this tiny little counter in Salvador blew them away. You can’t miss Kiberia’s signature neon orange building, tiny as the restaurant itself may be. There are maybe only four seats in counter space in Kiberia, and the take-out trade is brisk. With three people in there it was a full house! The menu truly is limited, and all you can order are several permutations of kibbe and bottled or canned drinks. The cost for a kibbe (500 grams) is a surprisingly reasonable R$ 6. Another option is to get 6 mini-kibbe for R$ 12.

Kiberia in Salvador, Bahia

Kiberia in Salvador, Bahia

In the larger size, you can get a plain meat kibbe or one with cheese added (paradoxically this one is slightly cheaper and smaller). As kibbe purists, we went for just plain meat. The kibbe were fried up to order, and came to us piping hot, even garnished with a wedge of lime. The shape of the kibbe was not too overly-footballish, as we were accustomed to seeing in Rio. The outside was perfectly crisp and crunchy, and the bulgar and meat inside was tender and moist. We also appreciated the wide range of dressings set up on Kiberia’s counter: tahini, sriracha, malagueta pepper, tabasco, Molho Arabe and garlic sauce, among others.

We ate our kibbe so quickly, we were not able to get any pictures. Even after devouring our kibbe, we decided to go for a dessert. The only choice was a Belewa (spelled elsewhere as Beleua), for R$ 3. Beleua is a riff on baklava, but definitely not as sweet, and is composed of a spiced nut paste in layered puff pastry sheets. Like our kibbe, the beleua was delicious. We went into Kiberia expecting only a fast food fix, but we heartily recommend them for some great kibbe in Salvador.

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Açaí in Salvador: Cometa Açaí

Cometa Açaí
Rua Miguel Bournier, Barra
Salvador, Bahia, Brasil

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Cometa Açaí is a little different from most juice shops in Salvador – and certainly a lot newer – we remember it was under construction last year when we were in Salvador, and this year it is clean, bright and open for business. Cometa is definitely a little more upscale than neighboring açaí places in Salvador, and we appreciated the spacious, open seating area, which was raised above the sidewalk. This feature allows you to avoid sidewalk traffic and parked cars (unlike the other places on Rua Miguel Bournier). The menu is typical of the other juice shops in the area with Açaí bowls and assorted juices, though there is also a little selection of sandwiches and even some temaki sushi rolls (for R$12-18) though ordering sushi at a juice bar is maybe a little weird.

Cometa Acai Interior

Cometa Açaí Interior

Value: 4/5 Our 400 mL bowl of açaí was a respectable R$8.90, with no extra charge for granola. You pay a little extra for strawberries or bananas.

Taste: 12/15. This was more of a Para-style açaí, with a little more sweetness. Overall, we have decided we like this flavor profile a little more than the super-sweet Rio variety.

Texture: 8/10. Overall this açaí was pretty smooth, but had hints of icy graininess that could have been improved.

Granola: 5/5. We received the standard Tia Sonia granola that you get in Salvador – but we didn’t have to pay for it!

Extras: 5/5. Though you don’t have much of a view – this was our favorite seating in all of Salvador (at least so far). It’s definitely a place you can linger over your bowl.

TOTAL: 34/40 – Pretty respectable!

Cometa Acai Interior

Açaí na Tigela at Cometa Açaí

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Finding the Best Acarajé in Bahia: The Rating Scale

With our quest to find the best açaí bowl in Rio de Janeiro now complete, we turn our energies to sorting out the best of our favorite Bahian dish: the classic acarajé. From the cobblestone streets of the Pelourinho to the beaches of Barra and the largos of Rio Vermelho, no Baiana in Salvador is safe from our rating scale. We’ll be searching far and wide to find our favorite in the city. Here’s our rating scale:

Value: Out of 5. Below R$3, 5/5; 3-4, 4/5; 4-5, 3/5; 5-6, 2/5; 6-7, 1/5; over 7, 0/5.

Taste/Texture: Out of 15. We need a solid acarajé, not too mushy or too hard, and a fresh, baiana-made taste.

Vatapá: Out of 5. How amazingly peanuty is it? How’s the texture? Did you let it sit too long in the sun? You will be harshly judged for messing up our favorite condiment; but handsomely rewarded if you do it well.

Salada: Out of 5. Perhaps even more overlooked than Vatapá – salada is the Pico de Gallo-esque mix of tomatoes and cilantro that is supposed to add a little crunch to the mix. How fresh is it? Does it add anything to the acaraje or is it just a watery mess?

Extras: Out of 5. Friendliness? Speed? Cleanliness? General awesomeoness of baiana outfit? Anything extra goes in this potpourri category.


For now, please enjoy our favorite song about Acarajé – “Retratos da Bahia” by Riachão

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A Place for Macarons… in Salvador!

franceWe recently wrote about the boom of Macarons in São Paulo. However, the trend has even trickled down to Salvador, the 3rd largest  city in Brazil. In Shopping Barra, there is a relatively new store, called Avignon, which specializes in chocolates and macarons. The macarons are R$ 4.50 apiece in come in a variety of Brazilian and classic French flavors. When we visited there were: Doce de Leite, Chocolate, Almond, Passion Fruit and Strawberry varieties. While good, the macarons were a little soggy, not surprising given the humidity in Salvador, I guess. However it was great to sample a macaron after a 6-month drought! Other treats available at Avignon included financiers, croissants and a selection of chocolates.  There is also a small menu of drinks including espresso and hot chocolate. Definitely a taste of France in Bahia!

Macarons at Avignon

Macarons at Avignon by Gabiela Baleeiro for iBahia

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FIFA, McDonald’s, and the fight for acarajé in Bahia

brazilWhile we are in Salvador partaking in the city’s extensive acarajé offerings, visitors to Salvador for next year’s FIFA World Cup (possibly us!) will not have such an opportunity. For a series of complex reasons outlined by Jamie Anderson on her blog about life and culture in Salvador, the sale of acarajé will be banned within two kilometers of the refurbished Estadio Fonte Nova, the site of all the World Cup games here. Instead, McDonald’s – a major World Cup sponsor – will have full rights to all food distribution. As such, Bahia’s main street food – a major source of income for locals, and an integral part of the experience of Salvador – will be banned in favor of an American fast food establishment. Coca Cola’s recent billboard in support of baianas and acarajé (seen below) is a great commentary on the issue: Coca Cola claims it is working to “preserve this culture,” but what does it mean that a large corporate entity is working to preserve a culture of Afro-Brazilian street food? We’d like to think that acarajé is doing well otherwise, and will do even better if allowed to continue on its own terms.

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Needless to say, we at ETW do not support the move, and you can do the same: sign the petition at Change.org in support of baianas’ right to sell acarajé during the World Cup.

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Food for the Orixás in Salvador

On Saturday, we had the honor of being invited to the to the Ilê Axé Ijino Ilu Orossi, a temple (ilê axé) of candomblé nagô, an Afro-Brazilian religion closely related to the religious practices of the Yorùbá people of southwest Nigeria and Benin. The Saturday before Easter is one of the most important dates in the candomblé calendar: this day celebrates the new year with the Festa de Exu, a day-long celebration for Exu, the orixá (deity) of choices, pathways, and beginnings. At Orossi, the Festa de Exu is a lavish affair: a packed house, dressed all in white, dances and sings for six hours while navigating their way around spectacular offering altars and assemblages. Food and eating are important parts of the ceremony, and we were happy to take part!

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Two female initiates (ekedi) standing in front of offerings for Exu, including mini acarajé.

In a candomblé ceremony, it is just as important to feed your guests, and all attendees, as it is to feed the orixás. While Exu was very hungry on this day – he received extensive offerings of alcohol and meat – guests all received food as well, and enough to last us all day. Shortly after the first round of offerings to Exu, all guests seated in the audience section were invited to the main floor of the axé to receive a portion of abará, a dish resembling a tamale. Abará is a classic Afro-Brazilian dish and frequently used in candomblé  ceremonies as a food sacred to the orixás. It consists of bean curd mixed with dendê oil, wrapped in a banana leaf, and steamed (the same base as acarajé, the other classic Afro-Brazilian dish, but acarajé is fried instead of steamed). Abará, like acarajé, is very filling, and we had to force ourselves to finish just one by the time attendees came around to collect our used banana leaves.

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M’s unwrapped abará.

After everyone had eaten their abará, the ceremony entered its most exciting part. We once had a friend describe a candomblé ceremony as a party for all the gods where all the gods actually show up, and it’s true. On this day, three orixás arrived to interact with attendees and dance with initiates: Pomba Gira, a female version of Exu who loves to smoke and drink; Iemanjá, the orixá of the deep sea and motherhood; and Ogum, orixá of iron and war. After the orixás had come and gone, and while we were still full from our abará, two men brought out a huge metal pot of feijoada – more than enough to serve the fifty people in attendance with a bunch left over.

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As always, guests were invited up first: we were given a decorated ceramic bowl, and then guided up to the ekedi who served us a heaping bowl of feijoada. That’s not all: out of nowhere appeared a buffet of accompaniments: rice, tomatoes, lettuce, green peppers, and pimenta malagueta: a sauce of flavored spices and famously hot malagueta peppers that is the classic accompaniment to any Bahian dish, but definitely not for the faint of heart. While we are not usually big fans of feijoada, this was excellent: beans, pork, and chicken cooked to perfection in a flavorful sauce, and the fresh veggie accompaniments and pimenta made for a very satisfying and filling meal. After six hours of exhausting singing and dancing, finishing off the feijoada put everyone into a food coma, and all the initiates in the house concluded the day by sleeping on the temple floor. A great end to a beautiful day of food and celebration for the orixás!

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M’s feijoada, complete with three spoonfuls of pimenta – apparently a record!

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Back to Bahia!

After eleven weeks in Rio, we are heading back to Salvador da Bahia for two months! We spent a good chunk of early 2012 in Salvador, where we sampled all the local specialties from acarajé to moquecas, and we are ready for more. Stay tuned!

Spices and dried shrimp for sale at the Feira de São Joaquim in Salvador. via

Spices and dried shrimp for sale at the Feira de São Joaquim in Salvador. via Trekearth

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Brazil: Deskolado Bar Futebol E Pizza

Deskolado Bar Futebol E Pizza
Just West of Shopping Barra – Exact address unknown
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

If São Paulo’s 1900 Pizzeria represents an elegant, refined pizza experience, Café Deskolado represents the quick, fast and cheap end of the scale, with its yellow plastic tables and menu written on poster board. Deskolado spills out into the street right outside the Shopping Barra mall, and most people prefer to mingle over their pizzas with gigantic bottles of Skol beer, while the latest futebol game is fed by satellite to the TV. The word “Descolado,” by the way, means something like “cool” in Brazilian Portuguese. The punny “Skol” in the name has been altered due to the fact that it is a Skol bar, an uber-popular Brazilian beer brand that makes itself known with a huge array of yellow and red branded merchandise.

Pizzas at Deskolado start at about R$13 for a large (about US $7) and R$16 (about $9) for a special large. This, as you may recall is a far cry from the US $25+ prices at fancy establishments, so this was a good place to soothe our sticker shock. Even at this lower price point, we were still spoiled for choice. The toppings at Brazilian pizza restaurants tend to be rather more eclectic (as we saw at Fogo 2 Go) than the typical American take out joint, and offerings at Deskolado including toppings of ham, Catupiry cheese, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, etc.

Our classic pick was the chicken and Catupiry pizza – a white pizza that was laden with both Mozzarella and Catupiry cheeses, as well as onions.  The pizzas at Deskolado arrive quickly, on a tasty thin crust, perfectly crisp. It may not be an elegant, artisan pie, but it sure is tasty. Above all, Deskolado is definitely is a great place to hang out with friends and enjoy a heated Esporte Clube Bahia match. It was a rare night that we didn’t see the dining area of bright-yellow Skol-branded tables completely full. The pizza is good, but won’t blow your mind, and the addition of friends, futebol and drinks obviously account for some of this place’s appeal. Due to its location and good selection, Deskolado definitely became a staple for when we were craving some take-out food at night in Salvador. However, we would have to go elsewhere for our lunch cravings. No matter how much you may want a quick slice over lunch– pizza is for dinner only in Brazil!

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Bahian Moqueca Tour, Stop 2: Paraíso Tropical

 Restaurante Paraíso Tropical
Rua Edgar Loureiro, 98-B, Resgate
Cabula – Salvador, Brasil

In general, it seems that Bahians do not like to eat at restaurants. Street food, little hole-in-the-wall places, vendors on the beach, these things Salvador does and does well; but the idea of dressing up and heading to an expensive restaurant for a long meal does not seem to be in the wheelhouse of most soterpolitanos. Which is why, as Chicagoans, we had to give Salvador’s most acclaimed restaurant a try.

When we read Veja Salvador’s annual food issue and their glowing reviews of Paraiso Tropical (Best Moqueca in the City! Best Chef in the City! ), we knew we had to go. That would be the difficult part: tucked away in the central Cabula neighborhood, the restaurant is almost impossible to get to from Barra. We had to take a bus to a large shopping mall and from there a cab – gasp! – through the only road leading to the isolated bairro. A confused cab driver to boot, and a trip of nearly two hours and R$40 (about US$25) and we were finally there.

But no one else was. We were so sure to make a reservation, we had to laugh when we arrived at 5:30pm on a Wednesday – about four hours before Bahians usually eat – to a huge, and largely empty restaurant. Inside, though, it was something of a paradise. The dress code seemed typically Bahian, with the only other couple donning jeans and tennis shoes. Simple wooden tables surrounded a central area of greenery. Our second floor table looked over the restaurant interior, while a large jabitiquaba tree’s branches nearly touched our plates – and oh how we wanted to grab some of the fruits!

The menu was extensive, with many moqueca offerings. Beto Pimentel, the Chef, has done a masterful job putting inventive and welcome touches on Bahia’s most famous dish. His offerings were divided into traditional and special moqeucas, and we opted for one of the special shrimp moquecas, to split. To this day, we are not quite sure of all that was in it. Fibrous nuts, tomatoes, peppers, any number of small sea creatures, long noodles of gelatinous consistency, and much more dendê oil than we were accustomed too (and we believe less coconut milk). Accompaniments were shockingly good farofa, with an orange peel added to absorb a little moisture and add flavor; spicy sauce made of malagueta peppers (good for M and his spice addiction), dried yucca; and rice.

All of which was fantastic. The combinations of flavors of the moqueca felt more like intriguing contradictions we were pleased to be eating. The many different textures and shades of foods all cooked together was a seeming metaphor for all Bahian cuisine in one dish. Unwaveringly complex and yet consistently delicious, we know this would easily be the best moqueca we would have in Bahia, or at bare minimum, the most inventive. We were sure to eat slowly, savoring this dish, as we knew we would not be back anytime soon. But, of course, there was dessert!

Paraiso Tropical, in addition to moquecas, is famous for its roscas: think of these as fresh fruit juice, frozen, and then very lightly thawed to a smooth but icy consistency, then piled high on a dish. We opted for the mango. Admittedly there was not much to it – essentially frozen mango juice, but still smooth and fresh. We had to be sure to eat quickly, otherwise it was going to melt all over our hands.

Our best surprise of the evening: a second dessert. With the check, the waiter brought us a tray of fresh Brazilian fruits and a plastic bag. We were baffled about what to do with them until we saw the restaurant’s other patrons putting the fruits in a bag to take home. We were happy to oblige, picking up a week’s worth of fruits: guavas, pinhas, and a mango.

To be honest, if you only have a few days in Salvador, this is not a place you should go. Stick to the wonderful beach and street food and the more famous parts of town, where you can meet more locals. But if you have a lot of time, and are willing to splurge, meander your way to Paraiso Tropical and experience the finest dining the city has to offer. The ambience is definitely Bahian upscale – read: American casual – and your taste buds will not leave disappointed.

Our favorite part? We only learned upon trying to pay they didn’t accept credit cards, only cash. We had no cash, and no ATM. The solution – apparently a common problem – was to give us a sheet of paper with the chef’s bank account number, and instruct us to just deposit the money tomorrow. We could have left getting this meal for free. But for food like that we are more happy to pay, so the next day I walked into Banco do Brasil and deposited R$160 (about $90) into the account. Well worth it.

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Bahian Moqueca Tour, Stop 1: Sorriso da Dadá

Sorriso da Dadá
Rua Frei Vicente, 5
Pelourinho, Salvador, Brasil

One of my first days in Salvador, I knew I wanted a moqueca. The word flows off your tongue smoother than the dende-oil infused coconut milk that is the backbone of this traditional Bahian seafood stew, and garnished with farofa (toasted manioc flour, usually with a little dende) and vatapá, there really is nothing like it. I was walking through Pelourinho, operating on the recommendation from a friend to try Panela da Bahia, a place he told me to go if I needed a “moqueca made with love.” Boy, did I!

But, sadly, the “love” would have to wait another day. Panela da Bahia was closed on this Monday, and I had to settle for the restaurant next door, another moqueca-specialist place called Sorriso da Dadá (“Dadá’s Smile). It was not until after my meal, returning home, that I discovered Dadá has one of the most famous restaurants in Bahia. So, to give the readers a luxury I forgot to afford myself, please read the following reviews and ask yourself: would you have gone to this restaurant? From Frommer’s, via NYT:

Dadá has made quite a name for herself and contributed to a renewed appreciation of Bahian cuisine. Brazilians and foreigners come from far and wide to taste her food, journalists write articles about her, and gourmet magazines rave about her restaurant. Her food certainly showcases the best of Bahian cuisine, specializing in seafood moquecas, vatapá, and bobó de camarão. However, Dadá may be coasting a little bit on her success. We found service uninspired and the prices higher than at other restaurants — typically 25% more than elsewhere. The food, however, was still as delicious as ever.

An OK review, I suppose. I’ll take uninspired surface as long as the food is justifiably delicious. However, my own guidebook, Bradt (2010), had this to say:

The restaurant takes its name from the perpetual smile of the former queen of traditional Bahian cooking, Aldaci ‘Dadá’ dos Santos. She began her career selling acarajé on the streets of Salvador. In her heyday Tropicalista & culture minister, Gilberto Gil was a fan of her moquecas & Dadá was serving her spicy, Afro-Brazilian dishes to distinguished visitors to Bahia, including Hillary Clinton. But when we ate here last, Dadá had either taken her eye off the ball or was busy in one of her other restaurants in Salvador or on the Costa do Sauipe. The food was bland, lukewarm & over-priced.

So, what to take from these two reviews? Potentially bland and lukewarm food with uninspired service? Turns out that is exactly what I got. And while the food was acceptable, it was a little pricey for what was received, and I would recommend to anyone they try any number of other solid moquecas in Salvador (three of which will have glowing reviews on ETW in the coming days).


Dadá’s restaurant is not an uninviting space, but I also didn’t find it the most welcoming. The windows to the outside don’t do the best lighting job, and I found the eating space surprisingly dark for always-sunny Salvador. On this day I had the restaurant to myself; an American couple were finishing up their meal just as I arrived, but otherwise the place was empty. Service was a little inattentive by Bahian standards (where service is usually inattentive; it is seen as impolite to bug the customers unless they want to be bugged), though Pelourinho usually operates on a more touristic agenda for the Europeans and Americans coming through seeking an authentic meal.

I decided quickly on a traditional fish moqueca, with a white fish filet cooked in coconut milk and dende, garnished with tomatoes, green peppers, and cilantro, and served with vatapá. It was not, however, served with farofa – something in the coming weeks I would come to cite as a cardinal sin.

Though this was my first moqueca in Brazil, and the flavors were new and inviting, I could tell there were problems. A lack of flavor punch, a watery moqueca broth, and the fish a tad undercooked for my taste (perhaps stemming from the thin broth, which probably needed more time to cook down). “Watery” is a word one should never have to utter in reference to a moqueca, as water is not an ingredient. But it tasted watery to me, and lucky for the restaurant I am not a Bahian, otherwise someone may have made a scene. Portions were generous, more than what was needed for one person at R$39 – but less than what one usually gets in Salvador for the same price, and better quality, elsewhere. The uninspired food left me hungry for what I knew were better moquecas in the city. And our next three posts will let you know: boy, did we find them!

StGeorge (Oxóssi) stands guard over the cash register at Sorriso da Dadá.

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O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo

O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo
Shopping Iguatemi
Av. Tancredo Neves, 148,
Caminho das Árvores – Salvador – Bahia

A cake shop calling itself the “Best Chocolate Cake in the World” is a pretty gutsy move. With a name like that, they would HAVE to deliver. Intrigued by the bombastic name as well as our never-ending appreciation of chocolate confections, we set out to sample the chocolate cake from MBCDM. When we arrived at the store location in Shopping Iguatemi– we were surprised to discover it was a kiosk in the mall instead of a proper store. The offerings were unsurprisingly chocolate cakes sold by the slice (about 5 dollars), along with coffee and other cake accompaniments. Two varieties of cake were offered by the slice: Bolo Meio Amargo (70% bittersweet chocolate)  and Tradicional Doce (53% chocolate).  There was also a sugar-free version of the traditional cake on offer. We went for the dark chocolate cake: the texture was that of a flourless cake. The flourless chocolate was interspersed with layers of chocolate cake crust and chocolate ganache on top. The filling was dense and uber-chocolately, but unfortunately the cake layers all but fell apart when we began to eat. As you can see below, it is already starting to lose its structural integrity – even before the first bite. Final verdict: the cake was very good, but perhaps a bit oversold. Sorry, we’re tough cake critics!

O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo

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The best Açai bowls in Salvador

From right to left: All in Salvador, Bahia

Suco 24 Horas
Rua Miguel Burnier 108

Bom Sabor
Rua Miguel Burnier 110

Fábrica de Sucos
Rua Miguel Burnier 114

It seems that each new country we visit has an everyday snack treat that comes to us as something of a revelation. In Greece it was Yogurt and Honey, and in Brazil it must be the açaí bowl, known here as Açaí na Tigela. Açaí fruits, the product of a species of palm tree well-known in Brazil, has been making the rounds in the United States since about 2004, advertised by the health-conscious for its “antioxidant” properties (which has no factual basis, sorry to say). So why do we like açaí? Because its dark, sweet, rich pulp makes for some darn good eats, especially when – Brazil style – you blend it, ice it, top it with fresh fruit and granola, and serve it up in a plastic 700mL bowl all for around R$10 (about US $5.50). Yes, please!

Luckily for us, three great açaí bowl establishments are just down the road from our apartment in Salvador: Fabrica de Sucos (“Juice Factory”); Bom Sabor (“Good Flavor”); and Suco 24 Horas (“24 Hour Juice”), winner of nine consecutive “Best Açaí” awards from the annual food issue of Veja Salvador. We decided not to trust the food critics – isn’t that our job, anyway? – and try all three to determine the ETW Best Açaí in Salvador.

We should state now that between the three places we tried, we found no substantial taste difference between the actual açaí. It all came down to the extras. First up: Suco 24 Horas, the longtime reigning champion. Pluses: the açaí, like the others we will review, was ice-cold, with a rich, velvety flavor. Our server separated our order into two bowls (always helpful), and the free granola topping was a solid touch.  We left very happy with our purchase: R$10.00.

Second: Bom Sabor. We initially felt bad for Bom Sabor, since everyone was sitting at Suco 24 Horas, and the nice front-of-house hostess there seemed unable to convince anyone to stop by. But the second time we came back, there were a few people, probably because Suco 24 was full. That said, we left very impressed: though the serving size (700mL) was the same size as at Suco 24, it sure looked like more to us. Our toppings – banana and strawberry – were both fresh, and the granola at Bom Sabor was also free (and the same variety, Tia Sonia). Total cost: R$10.50, and an extra point for having a festive orange bowl (as opposed to the bland ones at Suco 24h).

Last up: Fabrica de Sucos. Note, savvy readers, the lack of photo. Fabrica de Sucos was out of the running as soon as they decided to charge us for granola. When the two places next to you are giving granola away for free, you had better be producing so darn good – ney, damn good – açaí for us to consider you. But your taste was no better, if not slightly worse, and the granola was exactly the same as at your two competitors. Sorry!

For us, the winner was pretty clearly Bom Sabor. We thought their portion was more generous, we like their toppings better, and frankly, they had a more enjoyable bowl. We’ve made two trips back since our initial taste tests, and we are still confident in our decision. And after a hot and humid day of walking around Salvador, there really is nothing more refreshing than a good açaí bowl from Bom Sabor.

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SENAC Restaurant School in Pelourinho, Salvador

  SENAC Restaurant School
Praça José de Alencar, 13/19
Largo do Pelourinho
Salvador – BA, Brasil

Regional Bahian cuisine has a flavor and style all its own in the landscape of Brazilian food. Its Portuguese and Dutch European backings, and Native Brazilian undertones and flourishes, and all heavily impacted by Bahia’s major western and central African influences. And you can experience the best of all of these wonderful flavors served up at the SENAC Restaurant School, which offers both “food by the kilo” and all-you-can-eat buffet options at reasonable prices. We opted for the buffet, run by the state restaurant school, and offering a wide variety (40+) of dishes including appetizers, mains and desserts, all prepared by students. The restaurant is open for lunch every day from 11 AM to 3 PM and the cost is 36 Reais per person as of writing (about $20) which is a pretty good price for an all you can eat buffet, even by Salvador’s very reasonable food prices.

For sheer breadth alone, this is a great way to get an introduction to a wide variety of Bahian foods. The appetizers and main courses are displayed in a traditional steam table, with a separate little table for desserts. Our chosen appetizers included:

  • Acarajé – Iconic Bahian fried bean patties (as described previously here)  flavored with ginger and dried shrimp
  • Abará– a variant on acaraje, but cooked in a banana leaf, much like a tamale
  • Farofa – toasted manioc
  • Vatapá, – paste made from coconut oil, peanuts, cashews, peppers and dried shrimp – typically used as a garnish for acarajé
  • Coconut Rice

Main courses:

  • Xinxim – chicken stew flavored with dende oil and spices
  • Carurú– Stewed okra in palm oil
  • Moquecas – one of the classic Bahian dishes, the food everyone’s Mom makes best. Moquecas are usually seafood stews made with coconut milk, and garnished with farofa, carurú, cilantro, and tomatoes. SENAC also served a chicken moqueca, but in tasting this was indistinguishable from the xinxim.
  • Feijoada – Brazil’s national dish, a hearty and smoky black bean and meat stew
  • Crab and Shrimp Salad

And the desserts:

  • Cocadas – fresh coconut patties mixed with a lot of brown sugar, coming in a variety of tropical fruit flavors
  • Quindim – Egg and Coconut tarts
  • Portuguese egg tarts
  • Ambrosia – Condensed milk, cinnamon and egg dessert(almost pudding-like)
  • Fresh  fruit

We can only assume that there is little change in variety each day, especially given the wide range of selections they already put out.  We’ll readily admit that while none of the food blew us away, the price, variety, and very solid and tasty dishes definitely met our expectations. And in addition to the food, the view is nice as well – located on the 2nd floor of one of the Pelourinho district’s many restored colonial buildings, it looks out onto Salvador’s most famous square below, and the many windows provide a nice breeze. SENAC’s friendly waitresses are dresses as baianas, and are very attentive (drinks are extra, about R$2). So if it’s your first day in Salvador and need a reasonably-priced way to experience Bahian cuisine, head to SENAC.


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Brazil: Café e Creperia Laranjeiras

Café e Creperia Laranjeiras
Rua da Ordem Terceira, 13
Pelourinho, Salvador – BA

Located on the ground floor of the Laranjeiras Hostel, it is no surprise that this little creperie mainly attracts a steady stream of backpackers. The speciality is (unsurprisingly) crepes, but the  menu also features a selection of sandwiches and fruit drinks. Though there are many traditional crepe combinations: sweet crepes with nutella, savory crepes with cheese and mushrooms, etc. However, there are also some patently Brazilian varieties, like those filled with passionfruit, Catupiry cheese or corn. M had a Hawaiian crepe – turkey, cheese and pineapple (R$ 13), which L went for the basil, tomato, and cheese (R$ 11). We were frankly surprised at just how filling and overstuffed the crepes were for such a low price – but that was fine with us since we were extremely hungry.

Like many restaurants in the area the creperie is open to the square, where you can get some people watching and a pleasant (if faint) breeze. There is very little air conditioning in this town. Another interesting point of difference are the cool comic-book themed azulejos on the walls (POW! BAM! etc), which also completely cover the inside of the restaurant’s bathroom. It may not be Paris, but the Laranjeiras Creperie is worth a stop for any in the area looking for a reasonable and quick lunch in Pelourinho.

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