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Monday, April 18, 2011

Cafecito, Sydney

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

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

Guava paste

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
Cafecito on Urbanspoon

Shop 25, Town Hall Square
473 Kent Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 02 9267 5575

Opening hours:
Monday to Sunday 7am-5pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Brazilian - Churrasco, Coogee
Peruvian - La Parrillada
29 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/18/2011 02:21:00 am


  • At 4/18/2011 6:49 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    I've eaten here once before & quite liked it. It really is easy to just walk straight past as it looks just like some ordinary arcade cafe. The oozing cheese on the picanha looks divine

  • At 4/18/2011 7:05 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    I've never noticed this cafe before; that serving of fish and chips is indeed humungous! Love to try the sundried beef risotto, looks nice.

  • At 4/18/2011 8:19 am, Blogger Sydney Shop Girl said…

    Thank you for revealing this little secret in the city! It's interesting that Parmesan is used in Brazilian foods. I never knew that.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  • At 4/18/2011 8:58 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I regret I never went to Brazil before moving to Oz. Good to know there's good places like Cafecito to sample their food.

  • At 4/18/2011 9:28 am, Blogger Mel said…

    How totally random. I've forwarded your post to an old work friend who used to live in Brazil...I think he misses the fodo there.

  • At 4/18/2011 9:35 am, Anonymous Petra said…

    I am assuming that a lot of their food would be gluten free (I have bought and made that cheese bread before, delish!). Can't wait to go and try this place out!

  • At 4/18/2011 10:03 am, Anonymous betty said…

    the guava paste looks like something special!

  • At 4/18/2011 10:04 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    ooh i want cheese bread!

  • At 4/18/2011 11:11 am, Anonymous Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said…

    Great find - must check that out! Although, it does bring back memories of the many, many meals of rice + beans + meat from our South American travels. *Shudder*

  • At 4/18/2011 11:17 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Sun dried beef - that's different! The prawns look so rich and yummy...!

  • At 4/18/2011 11:22 am, Blogger Gastronomy Gal said…

    Great find Helen. It is a shame they don't provide translations though- I'm sure heaps of people would be curious to try.

  • At 4/18/2011 11:54 am, Blogger Maria said…

    You always find the most fascinating places to eat! This sounds interesting, I don't think I've ever even had Brazilian food before!

  • At 4/18/2011 12:12 pm, Blogger Viv said…

    what!! didnt know this place exists...been walking in town hall squ for the past 3 years everyday but didn't go in to that corner!!! would've made a great lunch time spot too!!

  • At 4/18/2011 12:50 pm, Blogger sugarpuffi said…

    ohhhh~~guava paste! i wonder what that tastes like. i tried acai at taste of syd and it was awesome!

  • At 4/18/2011 2:04 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    I had no idea this place was a Brazilian cafe! I love cheese bread and lucky you to get the very last one! Definitely going to try this place out next time I'm around there

  • At 4/18/2011 2:20 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Ooowah! Airy cheesey chewy mini breads? Yes please! I'd also love to try the risotto - beef in small, shredded, salty amounts I can do :)

  • At 4/18/2011 4:21 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    Good on you for asking about the second menu - it looks like it was well worth it. The exotic fruit juices sound great, but the guava paste seems like the most unusual thing.

  • At 4/18/2011 6:58 pm, Anonymous Lau@Corridor Kitchen said…

    I have never seen noticed place but I really wanna check it out. Brazilian food intrigues me.

  • At 4/18/2011 9:03 pm, Anonymous FoodieChat said…

    I walk through town hall arcade EVERY day - twice! and I STILL have no idea where it is! hehehe :)

  • At 4/18/2011 9:40 pm, Anonymous Sara (Belly Rumbles) said…

    Never ever noticed that this place had a Brazilian menu! Nor Brazilian goods for sale. I seriously must walk around with my eyes closed most of the time.

  • At 4/18/2011 11:02 pm, Blogger Jen said…

    I love that they have so much cassava on the menu, I can't get enough of the stuff.

  • At 4/19/2011 1:01 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    loving the look of that Fish and chips in a beer batter although looks more crumbed than beer battered to me :-)

  • At 4/19/2011 9:37 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    looks amazing! must try this place :)


  • At 4/19/2011 5:27 pm, Anonymous chopinandmysaucepan said…

    Being a meat lover, I'm still drawn to a good old Brazillian churrasco. I might come here for a few beers and soak up the atmosphere during a world cup soccer match though I'm no Brazilian fan :)

  • At 4/19/2011 9:05 pm, Anonymous Julie said…

    Wow i never knew of this place! Thanks Helen I look forward to trying it :)

  • At 4/19/2011 9:12 pm, Anonymous JasmyneTea said…

    What an amazing discovery! Love trying new types of food, and love it even more when you step out for a sandwich and BAM - a surprise cuisine :)

  • At 4/19/2011 10:38 pm, Anonymous Food Fashion Victim * said…

    I have literally walked past this place a thousand times ~
    and cannot believe I have not tried it yet.
    Great find Helen !

  • At 4/20/2011 10:53 am, Blogger susan said…

    Wow those brazilians sure do like their carbs. I can't believe they don't market themselves as a brazilian cafe, I am sure they would do very well.

  • At 4/22/2011 12:46 am, Blogger German said…

    I just i want to said one thing: "I LOVE GUARANA"


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