Brazilian meat on demand, and homegrown businesses on the move

Greetings from one of the world’s truly exciting cities, Rio de Janeiro. The city is undergoing major changes and expansion as it prepares to host the World Cup in 2014, and the Olympic Games in 2016. And for a hungry foodie like your humble reporter, the food scene is about as exciting as it gets.

Three weeks ago, I reviewed Fogo de Chão, a Brazilian rodizio chain, where meats are sliced from skewers at the table by a team of gauchos. Rio has a new Fogo de Chão as well, a concrete spaceship-like edifice even larger than the one in Las Vegas. The concept is the same, but the experience is quite different.

First off, Rio’s Fogo has a huge salad bar of exotic sides such as black rice, fresh hearts of palm (pupunha) and feijoada, a hearty stew of black beans and assorted pork cuts, dishes hard to replicate here.

The beef, sausage and lamb all taste different as well. Brazilian and Uruguayan grass-fed beef is offered, along with a chart containing dozens of cuts. In Rio, point to the part of the cow you want, and it is brought to your table.

Finally, costing 92 reals (about $50), it is slightly more expensive in Brazil than it is in the United States. And that’s not including any of the good desserts, such as a lemon pie the Vegas Fogo (360 E. Flamingo Road, 431-4500) doesn’t offer. (Desserts are not included in the set price here either, as I originally wrote.)

Speaking of feijoada, I loved Ipanema’s Casa de Feijoada, which Cariocas call the country’s best place for this dish. It comes in a giant ceramic pot filled with ribs, linguiça sausage and carne seca (dried meat), but aficianados ask for the ear, tail and tongue. Make sure and have a caipirinha, Brazil’s national libation, made with cachaça (Brazilian sugarcane spirit) mixed with lots of lime, and even more sugar.

But my favorite meal this week was at Aconchego Carioca, a modest locals café in Praça de Bandeira, where chef Katia Barbosa takes traditional Brazilian dishes such as feijoada and codfish with chickpeas and onions and turns them into bolinhos, bite-sized croquettes. Her hen Angolan-style with chilies, okra and onion is amazing. For dessert, the coconut pudding drenched in cachaça syrup is a revelation.

Finally, in local news, Mob Bar has opened in the former Sidebar space adjacent to the newly christened Downtown Grand Hotel and Casino (formerly Lady Luck), and Slidin’ Thru, the successful food truck, now has a permanent home at 6440 N. Durango Drive, where you can eat those Pulled Porkys and Yayas.

Hungry, yet?

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The pocket of Spring Valley near Fort Apache and Russell roads was once poised to be the next super suburb, but, alas, it was not immune to the flatlining of the real estate market. However, hope is not lost—where housing has come to a halt, commerce curiously continues to thrive. Hidden between vacant lots and stalled developments is a dining scene that’s alive and well. Three shopping plazas within a half-mile stretch host a wide variety of restaurants. Most depend on the patronage of locals and employees of nearby medical offices, but they are also worth a drive.



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