You will have walked past Cafecito hundreds of times. This busy cafe in Town Hall Arcade looks like any other sandwich shop until you step in a little closer and notice the Brazilian flag on the ceiling.
A handwritten menu behind the counter lists the usual sandwiches and salads, but buried on the far right is a listing of Brazilian options, most of it written in Portuguese. It can be a little daunting to unravel at first, but the Brazilian staff behind the counter and happy to translate, although it seems a shame that English translations aren't automatically provided for curious diners.
There's a clear divide in the buzzing dining area - most of the Caucasian diners are happily tucking into salad rolls and ham and cheese sandwiches. The Brazilian ex-pats are easy to spot, digging into bowls of feijão black beans with gusto.
Pão de queijo cheese bread $3
We were lucky to get the last of the pão de queijo cheese bread on our last visit. These popular street snacks are made using tapioca flour (from the cassava root), eggs, milk and Parmesan cheese. These airy buns are chewy inside, and the Parmesan cheese gives a pleasant tang.
Brazilian soft drinks: Guarana Antarctica and Su Fresh Nectar de Uva grape juice
Miss Brasil is ecstatic to find her favourite soft drink, the Guarana Antarctica which is second only to Coca Cola in sales in Brazil. The fridge also stocks a range of Braziliain Su Fresh juices, including grape and strawberry.
Brazilian soft drinks: Su Fresh Nectar de Fresa strawberry drink and Guarana Antarctica
Polenta frita $4
There are plenty of Brazilian snacks to choose from, including bolinho de arroz rice croquettes ($3.50), bolinho de bacalhau salted cod croquettes ($4.50) and mandioca frita cassava fritters ($3).
We share a serve of the polenta fritters, thin planks of pan-fried polenta that have an enviable crunch, dusted lightly with parmesan cheese.
Sun-dried beef risotto with sweet pumpkin and haloumi cheese $10.50
A couple of Brazilian dishes sneak onto the English hot food menu, including the picanha burger with fries ($13.50) and the mucqueca ($14.50), a fish and prawn coconut stew.
The sun-dried beef risotto is another Brazilian dish, made using carne seca, a salted slab of beef that is air-dried for about two weeks. Carne seca is rehydrated and then usually shredded for use in dishes. Here the beef is mixed through a pumpkin risotto, the grains plump and separate, although not quite as creamy as an Italian version.
Fish and chips in a beer batter $11.50
Fish and chips is a monster serve of crumbed fish served with chips, salad and a dish of tartare sauce.
Prato feito: Picanha with rice, black beans, rice, fried egg and fries $14
The Daily Specials offer the most fun. Last year they were priced at $12, but we noticed that prices have been bumped up to $14 this year.
Tuesday is always Prato Feito day, meaning "commercial plate". This Brazilian menu item is commonly found in restaurants and bars, and is always made up of rice, beans, salad, fries and some form of meat.
Our meat was two picanha steaks, taken from the rump cap, covered in a tangled nest of caramelised onions. It's a huge meal, carb-loaded with fries, rice and black beans, with extra protein from the fried egg.
Black beans are close to the heart of most Brazilians, turtle beans cooked until just tender and seasoned with onion, garlic, bay leaves and salt. It's easy to understand the addiction, especially when you drizzle the beans and sauce over your rice, relishing the comforting texture and flavour of this dish. Wednesday is always feijoada day, a hearty stew of black beans cooked with beef and pork.
Picanha with provolone cheese and garlic, rice, black beans and salad $16
We had the picanha with provolone cheese from the specials board on another day. The meat was deliciously tender, coated in an oozing layer of melted cheese.
Black beans on rice
Without any chips to distract me, I had much greater success finishing this dish, although I still had to leave some rice and beans behind.
Bobo de Camarao prawns cooked with cassava puree, rice and mashed potato $15
Bobo de Camarao is another hit, a creamy stew of prawns in cassava and coconut milk. It's usually served with chips but Miss Veg requests mashed potatoes instead, studded with chunks of potato and buttery in its deliciousness.
Bobo de Camarao shrimp in cassava puree
Bobo de Camarao shrimp in cassava puree on rice
In the back corner of the cafe is a miniature shop of Brazilian products. Guava paste is commonly served with cheese, so much so that this magical combination is known as Romeo and Juliet! It's also used in biscuits and cheesecakes.
Acai powder and Farinha de Mandioca cassava flour
You can pick up acai powder, cassava flour and cheese bread mix. We got into the pacoquinha sweet peanut rolls last time, crumbly biscuits that remind me of Chinese peanut rolls. I've also become a fan of Brazilian coffee, which has a lingering intensity of chocolate, nuttiness and dark-roasted oomph.
Pen de Queso cheese bread mix
View Cafecito in a larger map
29 comments - Add some comment love
4/18/2011 02:21:00 a.m.