Rio Brazil Cafe
Suite 1033300 Overland Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90034
I recently had the pleasure of being exposed to Rio Brazil Cafe and their wonderful authentic Brazilian food and drink at the expense of my friend and fellow food blogger, Bill from StreetGourmetLA. Bill has written about Rio Brazil here, and here and here. Back in September, Miles Clement of the LATimes deliciously described Rio Brazil Cafe's feijoada. Monday night (and weeknights in general) food outings are challenging for me due to early morning hours and needy clients. However in this case I am glad I made an exception. Also joyously in attendance were Fiona from Gourmet Pigs, and Cathy author of Gastronomy and co-originator of Eat My Blog Charity Bake Sale on 12/05 at Zeke's in Culver City to benefit the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
Rio Brazil Cafe is a postage stamp size room brightly colored and lovingly decorated. Above see the sandwich board that stands outside on the sidewalk during the day advertising their lunch special. $7 for three courses, the Ipanema Plate.
like love about Rio Brazil? A BYOB establishment, they take BYOB to a punchy level by offering to make authentic Brazilian beverages for you if you bring in your own bottle of Cachaça. Wiki tells me that while we think of rum as being made with sugarcane, usually rum is made with molasses. Cachaça is always made from the distillation of fermented sugarcane with some amount of sugar added in the process. Bill treated us to three kinds of Cachaça Monday, I tasted them all with uncharacteristic reserve, it being Monday and all. To the left, we sipped Isaura first, made in Minas Gerais the largest Cachaça producing state in Brazil, a clean and lightly sweet tasting liquor. And to the right, Weber Haus made in Rio Grande do Sul and available at Beverage Warehouse. Weber Haus is very smokey, characterized by undertones of wood and licorice. Weber Haus is definitely a sipping Cachaça that would please the palate of anyone loving aged bourbon, and the deepest dark tequilas. It wowed my tastbuds. Bill also brought a bottle of Cachaça 51, the most popular Cachaça in Brazil, making up 30% of the market share for Cachaça in the Brazil. Cachaça was used to make all the mixed drinks we enjoyed Monday.
We drank two batidas that night, both made with the Cachaça 51 Bill brought with us. To the left, the first one, coconut scrumptiousness. Cachaça 51, coconut cream, coconut milk and condensed milk, frozen and blended. Despite the fact some people think coconut blended beverages are best served at a Jimmy Buffet concert, there is never a wrong time for coconut anything. To the right is a passionfruit batida. Cachaça 1, passionfruit and condensed milk. This is worthy of recreating at home, it was that wonderful. Sweet but with an authentic fruity brightness. At Rio Brazil, if you bring in your own Cachaça, they will make you batidas for $3 a glass using your booze and their supplies. A great cocktail deal, IMO. They are even starting a Cachaça club where you can bring your own bottle, and leave the remains there for your next visit.
Bill arranged to have our first course delivered by a local woman who caters out of her home, her company is called Sabor de Bahia. Her specialty are street foods from Bahia, in particular, acaraje a black eyed pea fritter fried in dende oil (African Palm oil drawn from the palm fronds). Wiki tells us than dende oil is red due to the high amount of beta carotene it contains, however it is higher in saturated fats than other vegetable oils. Also served on the plate, to the upper left a shrimp paste, on the upper right a simple salsa with tomatoes and onions, and the little cup in the middle contains a malagueta pepper sauce. Malagueta is spicy, maing. It made me lips burn. It was exactly the right amount of spicy for me, any hotter would have been too hot and any milder would have been not really impressive. D wouldn't be able to even look at malagueta.
Constructing the acaraje. Somewhat reminiscent of falafel ( but really, only barely), you split open the acaraje and stuff it with shrimp paste, salsa, drizzle malagueta over, eat with your hands. On the street of Bahia these are sold as large as baseballs. The catering version Sabor de Bahia sells is made for easy eating by hand. Very crunchy on the outside, with soft yielding dried and ground black eyes peas (eyes removed) on the inside with the spice of malagueta and the tang of shrimp paste...this definitely goes into the file for something to attain for the next gathering of humans chez foodshethought.
Sabor de Bahia's business card.
Sabor da Bahia
Catering and Festivals
orders are for pick up only
First course served via the Rio Brazil kitchen were tantalizing little puffy savories. On the sides of the plate are coxinha de galhina, or chicken puffed savories shaped like little drumsticks. In the middle, in the same batter, risolis. Again, savory little puffs. We had one shrimp, one beef, one chicken and one cheese. Hoping no one had swine flu, we all had a nibble at each of the four flavors, all were yummy. To the right there is a little bowl of the fiery malagueta.
The inside of a coxinha galhina, lovingly stuffed full of chicken and vegetables.
Ubiquitous rice. Bill explained Brazilian food to us Northern Hemispherians can seem either too salty or too spicy. However most dishes are made to be eaten with rice which will cut the potency of the salt and spice. Fiona mentioned the the world wide serving of dishes with lots of rice is how poorer people make their food stretch...Fiona has an impressively stamped passport, I wish have traveled to half the places she has visited.
Not a great shot, but a delicious dish. Bobo de camarao. Shrimp in yucca cream with manioc meal, coconut cream and dende oil. The consistency was interestingly thick but also maybe a hair gelatinous. The flavors were comforting, thick, subtle, savory. I was surprised the coconut flavor did not stand out clearly against the other flavors. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, not even slightly chewy, just the right amount of firmness.
In the background, abobora com carne seca. Butternut squash with homemade beef jerky. Autumnally satisfying, I did not find the beef to be too dry at all. Certainly to the tooth and a little chewy. It brought out my inner carnivore.
Feijao. Black beans cooked with pork, bay leaf, onions and garlic. Yum.
Mi plata. Just a taste of everything.
Out strolls a fluffy green salad with a light vinaigrette in a small pitcher. I am reaching maximum capacity here, but everyone else dives in to refreshen their palates.
Moqueca de peixe. Clean tasting fish stew from cod, peppers, onions, tomatoes, dende oil and coconut milk. Again in this dish, the coconut milk is very balanced by the strong stewed veggie flavors. Surprising, because coconut can be such a powerfully distinctive flavor, in the dishes at Rio Brazil it is so well balanced it does not take over the other flavors.
Limaos para peixes.
Last, the piéce de resistance. Feijoada completa. I could smell this the entire time it was on the stove. The deep scent of the feijoada wafted from the kitchen through the entire room, my watering mouth ignoring the fullness of my belly. This is the national dish of Brazil, traditionally served on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Labor intensive, this black bean stew had pe' de porco (pork trotters), rabo (tail), costela (ribs), carne de porco (pork meat), carne seca (beef jerky) also laden with onion, garlic, bay leaf, and rock salt. Immensely fragrant.
We ladeled it out onto our plates with a giant spoon. My spoon contained a trotter, which was thoroughly enjoyable in the delicious richness of the bean broth.
Also part of the course are garlicky collard greens, rice and a small dish of manioc meal to be sprinkled atop the feijoada completa. Bill called the manioc meal edible sand, but to me it was similar to corn meal in taste and texture.
Cathy's plate was prettier than mine, with a runner's appetite this girl stayed the course through every stage of the meal.
At this juncture, out strolls a huge pitcher of caipirinha. I shouldn't, but I had to. Just.one.small.glass. An ever so slight syrupy-ness from the added sugar cut beautifully by the lime, Cachaça and ice. Again, they will make this for you if you bring in your own Cachaça.
And dessert. Experiencing my Violet Beauregard moment, I refrained from all but one. Above is a coconut cream with fresh blueberries and raspberries.
And a mousse de manga, mango mousse.
Could not resist. It was smooth,
cool, creamy and delicious.
Spending some time out of town in the near future, as soon as I return I am carting Mr. FST across town on first the #704, then the Santa Monica #12 on a Saturday with a bottle of Cachaça in our backpack to gorge on the feijoada completa, drink caipirinhas and listen to local Brazilian musicians drop in to jam Bossa Nova classics like Corcovado, Agua de Beber, and Desafinado. Can't wait.