When you hear “Brazilian food”, odds are your first thought is of the Brazilian steakhouses that have become so popular – the all-you-can eat selection of sizzling meats brought right to your table on a spear, and the endless buffet of accompaniments for it. You probably don’t think cream (creme de leite) sauces, hearts of palm (palmitos) and savory cupcakes (empadões). These are staples of traditional Brazilian cuisine, and these are what you’ll find at Rio’s Brazilian Café in Austin.
Dinner here was my first encounter with this particular culture’s culinary niche. I could not have asked for a better introduction. From the varied – yet not overwhelming – menu, to the wonderfully colorful décor, to the Brazilian waiter who kindly helped us through our clumsy pronunciations of the Portuguese words (and who asked me whether I took my water with ice! Someone on this side of the Atlantic that understands the desire to not get brain freeze while trying to stay hydrated, imagine that!), I was nothing short of delighted – and that was before the food even arrived.
When the food did arrive, both my companion and I were very pleased with our respective orders. As he polished off every last grain of rice from his plate, I turned my attention to the dessert menu and picked out the Pastel de Banana com Sorvete – a “sweet banana and cinnamon stuffed pastry, served with vanilla ice cream”. I was quite happy with my choice; it wasn’t as decadent as the sweets I typically go for, but it was something new and it was certainly satisfying. The pastry was similar in concept to the fried pies you sometimes see at fast food restaurants and the like, although I feel like such a comparison cheapens the dessert. The dish at Rio’s was far superior. The crust had a good consistency to it, and held up well to the mushy inside; the filling was both warming and fresh. The vanilla ice cream was topped with a few dashes of cinnamon, a truly genius idea that I wonder at never having experienced before.
For each item I decided on, I saw three others that I wanted to try. And with so much novelty for me and such a great atmosphere, I predict it won’t be long before I’m back for more.