Classic caiprinha $15 and
melancia and flor de laranjeira watermelon and orange blossom caipifrutas $16
Cocktails? Yes please.
Tonight we're at Boteco, a name given to the small bars commonly found in Brazil. These neighbourhood hangouts are filled with locals after work or on weekends, a casual spot to enjoy an ice cold beer and eat cheap and cheerful snacks known as petiscos.
Boteco in Sydney is significantly fancier than its counterparts in Sao Paulo, a cosy space that is warm with timbers, soft lighting and a cow-skin rug on the floor by the bar. Although there are sunny gerberas perched in miniature Coke bottles on every table, we're more impressed by the drinks list, where every beer is South American and the wines come exclusively from Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
Pisco sour $16
The drinks menu could keep you occupied for a month - a comprehensive selection that includes plenty of cachacas, the popular spirit made from fermented sugarcane.
Our party of four seeks post-work revival in the classic caipirinha, a combination of cachacas, sugar and lime, watermelon caipifrutas (a caipirinha with fruit) and the Chilean national drink, the pisco sour.
The pisco sour is particularly good, topped with a pristine layer of foamy egg white.
Menus double as placemats, with options supplemented by a list of specials written on the blackboard by the bar.
Bacalhau salted cod balls $9
Our first dish, bacalhau, kick off things with a bang. These deep-fried fritters of salted cod are only petite, but we bite through its golden skin to find a fluffy core that is generous with tender fish fibres. Other bacalhau fritters I've tried in the past tend to be more potato than fish, but these crunchy orbs are pocket rockets of flavour.
Parmesan rice balls with chickpeas and spinach $12
Parmesan rice balls are a great vegetarian dish, providing a textural contrast between creamy rice, deep-fried shell, tender spinach and moreishly toothsome chickpeas.
Pastel crispy cheese and herb turnovers $10
Our Brazilian ex-pat is overjoyed at the sight of the pastel, crescents of flaky pastry filled with molten cheese which we eat with dollops of salsa.
Mandioca frita cassava chips $6
But my heart tonight is won over by the cassava chips, a glorious vision of deep-fried starch that is every bit as good as it looks. The chips, so crunchy on the outside you want to weep, are sweet and starchy in the middle, like a cross between a potato and a white sweet potato.
Palm hearts salad with red onion, tomatoes and cucumber $7
Palm hearts are another Brazilian favourite, most often served in a salad. The palm hearts are tender and taste a bit like a pickled artichoke.
Nightly special: Picanha chorico skewers with cassava chips $16
includes glass of Cabernet Franc Roserra 2006
We take advantage of the nightly special that includes a glass of wine. Tonight it's skewers of chorizo interspersed with cubes of juicy picanha beef. The side serve of cassava chips disappears equally quickly.
Grilled pork chop carioca with tutu bean puree and kale $23
Grilled pork chop is the last dish to arrive, a hefty cut of meat with appetising grill marks beckoning us closer. The meat is perhaps a touch too salty for me, but the pork is tender, and I quickly grab the bone for a porcine lollipop.
Brazilians love their beans, and tutu is one reason why. This puree of black beans is smooth and satisfying, a dish that coos comfort food with every spoon.
Pudim de leite $7
Brazilian-style creme caramel
We find a little room for desserts. Of course we do. Brazilian-style creme caramel is a shimmering wedge of eggy baked custard, delicate to eat and silky in texture.
Dark chocolate brownie with homemade coconut and tapioca ice cream
The brownie isn't what I'd call a typical Brazilian dessert but the homemade coconut and tapioca ice cream is worth pursuing. Studded with tiny pearls of cooked tapioca, the ice cream is so good it deserves to be piled high in a parfait glass and served on its own to savour slowly.
But even after dessert I'm still thinking of those cassava chips. And maybe another bacalhau ball or two.
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10/27/2010 02:25:00 a.m.