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Friday, September 25, 2009
Closed:Blame it on Rio Brazil Cafe
When I was gallivanting all over Little Brazil looking for the wonderful foods from Brazil I so long for, I came across some meaningful finds.
I first went to Rio Brazil Cafe when it was still Brazil Exotic Foods, before this space was briefly occupied by Delicias do Brazil and for a few years running had been Cafe Toros before that.
I started going regularly only to find it had closed, Luciene had told me she wasn't sure how long she could stay afloat, and then the health dept. closed Brazil Exotic Food for having a faulty hood on their deep fryer.I thought all was lost until I received an e-mail, yes I was on the small mailing list, from Luciene that she was back in business.
Luciene Peck has the only Brazilian restaurant in town featuring the cuisine of Rio de Janeiro, the marvelous city(cidade maravilhosa).During the week she does the typical complete meals found in luncheonettes and Brazilian pubs(botecos) called prato feito, which consists of a protein, rice, beans, farofa, and perhaps a side salad.This is Brazilian home cooking. On the weekends she pulls out all the stops and conjures up famous entrées, much needed in our saturated market of churrascarias(Brazilian steakhouses).
The restaurant is simple in decor, with a touch of sentimentality and the national colors of Brazil to welcome you into the warmth and spirit of Rio.
The feijoada of Rio is unique, feijoada is done with subtle variations throughout Brazil, different beans other than black beans in some parts, the ommitance of a particular side, a variation in spicing. But the most popular version of feijoada completa belongs to Rio.Black bean stew of salted pork parts including ear, trotters, tail,various sausages, and muscle tissue, with sides of farofa(toasted manioc meal), rice,couve(collared greens), and orange slices.
On a recent feijoada throwdown with good friend Exilekiss, we found Rio Brazil Cafe version to reign supreme, tied with Zabumba's.Luciene makes genuine feijoada, with tender meats, homemade carne seca, luscious beans, and all the pleasing textures of a real feijoada. This is required eating at Rio Brazil Cafe.
Casquinha de siri is Brazilian crab au gratin. It originates from Bahia, but is done the Carioca(person from Rio) way here in Luciene's kitchen.The differences in style are the secrets and spells of Brazilian cooks.Think of a crab au gratin laced with dende oil, and coconut milk, a whole other layer of sin.
The malagueta peppers mixed with olive oil and spices known as pimenta will temp you to excess. The heat creeps up on you, but the flavor is rich and full bodied.
Luciene's bobo de camarao, is another dish with Bahia origins,but adopted by Rio palates.This is a standout dish at Rio Brazil, delicate, with all those exotic ingredients in bold harmony.Add some pimenta and you've gone pro.
Moquecas(baian stews) of fish and hearts of palm are available on the weekends. The sauce is properly cooked down so that flavor is optimized in every bite. This is the mark of a great moqueca. There's something here for fish lovers and vegetarians.Again, a Rio translation of a plate from Bahia.A savory side of feijao fradinho(black-eyed peas) was included with my moqueca de peixe(fish).
Last weekend, I met up with Josh Lurie of FoodGPS with his girlfriend Allison, and Das Ubergeek of chowhound for a taste of Rio.And, to my delight, Renni and Ilma of Sabor da Bahia had stopped in for a bite, Renni, a lovely Brazilian singer sat in with a fine bossa nova guitarist.Other Brazilian diners sang along with bossa nova classics such as Corcovado, Agua de Beber, and Desafinado. It was a scene right out of a pub in Copacabana at 3AM. Look for Voz e Violao(voice and guitar) on Saturdays when Rio Brazil gives you the boteco(pub) experience known as Frigideira Carioca.The frigideira is a samba percussion instrument that looks like a little frying pan.It has a its roots back when people picked up whatever they could find, including pots and pans, to make music and party.
The desserts we had after our meal were amazingly good, The coconut pudding topped with blackberrie,rasberries, and bluberries was over the top delicious.
The mousse of passionfruit adorned with the fruit's dark seeds was pure Brazil, sweet and tart tropical fruit with stirring composition.
Luciene has family and friends helping out, her 72-year old mother, known as Dona Lucia, is revered for her cooking.Dona Lucia helps in the kitchen sometimes and makes all the brilliant savories at Rio Brazil Cafe. Coxinhas de frango(little croquette of chicken), shaped like little chicken thighs are perfect here,my favorite snack on the planet. They have croquettes with cheese, risolis of shrimp, and whatever Dona Lucia may feel like. They are the small party size, so get a sampling of whatever they have that night. These are made at home until they can replace the hood of the deep fryer.
If you find yourself singing songs by Gilberto Gil, of Carlos Jobim, thinking about an afternoon on Ipanema beach or a rowdy night in Copacabana after leaving Rio Brazil Cafe, you can blame Lucience Peck and her crew. They're bringing superior cooking and a bona fide Brazilian aesthetic to LA's dining scene.Beleza!
Check out Miles Clement's review of Rio Brazil Cafe from the LA Times.Thanks again, Miles.And, good friend, Josh Lurie's great review from our visit together.
Rio Brazil Cafe
3300 Overland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90034