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Don Ricardo's, South End

hiddenboston Feb 21, 2008 05:12 AM

We tried Don Ricardo's, a Peruvian and Brazilian restaurant on West Dedham Street in the South End yesterday evening. It felt a bit off the beaten path, in a little shopping area between Tremont and Shawmut. The inside was a bit plain but comfortable, with a well-worn carpet, lots of ferns and palms along the windows, and a mix of photos and traditional art on the walls. The couple who own the place were exceedingly nice, and seemed quite happy to see us (perhaps because we were the only ones there!).

We started with the guacamole appetizer--the guacamole was smooth, creamy, and mild, which is exactly how I like it (no harsh onion taste), while the tortilla chips were decent enough. Sangria had a bit of a kick to it, and had many little pieces of fruit floating at the top, adding to the flavor.

The entrees were excellent, though mine was rather unusual; the tallarin en salsa verde included a linguini-style pasta in a type of pesto sauce, with thin, flat pieces of beef milaneza (kind of like a chicken-fried steak) laid on top of the pasta. The steak was delicious, and the pasta was tasty, too, though just a bit overcooked. My GF's salpicon de pollo (sauteed chicken with peppers, onions, and tomatoes in a garlic white wine sauce) was terrific, and it came with an equally nice side of beans in sauce as well as white rice that was ok but a bit on the bland side. I also ordered a side of yellow rice, which had a bit more taste to it than the white rice.

Desserts looked tempting, but we both decided to pass on that, opting instead to walk off our meals in the neighborhood (and checking out some dining spots that are on my list, including Joe V's and the South End Buttery).

Don Ricardo's is just one of many excellent restaurants I've gotten to in 2008, making it a great start to the year. Between the Jasmine Bistro (Brighton), La Siesta (Winthrop), the Elephant Walk (Cambridge), Sahara (Worcester), and Fasika (Somerville), it is really tough to choose a favorite so far this year, but I'm still thinking the Jasmine Bistro might have them all beat thus far.

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  1. MC Slim JB Feb 21, 2008 05:47 AM

    Excellent review of another place I love! So overlooked in the South End (thanks to the zero-glitz factor and the fact that it's in Villa Victoria), yet so friendly and reliable. I even brought myself to try the Mexican dishes besides the guacamole (as they're clearly on there for anglos who don't know Peruvian or Brazilian food), and they're very good too. The Don is Peruvian, his chef Brazilian (does a pretty good moqueca), his second wife responsible for the name change: it used to be called Botucatu, after the Don's first wife. A useful reminder to revisit!

    8 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB
      chowciao Feb 21, 2008 09:34 AM

      MC - we noticed when we were there a dessert called Quayaba con queso..I've looked it up, and I have figured out this is a fruit-like pasta(?) Have you ever had it? Anyone? Was very curious, but also too full to try.

      1. re: chowciao
        limster Feb 21, 2008 09:51 AM

        It sounds like guava paste with cheese, which is popular in many parts of latin america.

        1. re: chowciao
          itaunas Feb 22, 2008 07:47 AM

          Definitely Guava Pasta with Cheese. The Brazilian name for this is Goiabada, Guayaba is the Spanish name for the fruit, but the name for dulce de guyaba can vary by country. In Latin America its definitely a don't miss item, often with locally made caseira/casera guava paste and cheese. Here there is a lot of variation and some of the products which come in a tin are frankly awful. I haven't had it at Don Ricardo's, but never thought it was that great at Buteco.

          What I usually look for locally is Goiabada Cascao (slicing goiabada, similar to columbian bocadillo) and in Brazilian markets can usually find one that looks like its from a small provider. I serve it with fresh cheese, but occasionally like a queijo minas curado (aged/sharp, but soft, brazilian cheese) or some queijo sao jorge from portugal. Its even good with a cured ham. In any case, if you don't wan to risk ordering just ask some questions about it before ordering -- does it come from a can, is it "casera or caseira" style, etc.

          At Don Ricardo I mostly stick to the appetizers, plus some of the Brazilian dishes they held over from Buteco (now trattoria tuscana and DR was their second restaurant) and carrot sauce that comes with some of them are excellent. I wish they had a few more of the Brazilian dishes as Buteco had some that other restaurants don't make, but if I lived or worked closer I would go more regularly. BTW, to add to MCSlimJB on naming Buteco means corner bar and Botucatu is a college town in Sao Paulo state.

          1. re: itaunas
            MC Slim JB Feb 22, 2008 08:02 AM

            Yep, Botucatu was where (so I heard) that the first Doña Ricardo was from. But we may be in urban legend territory here, since the Don is Peruvian and his chef is Brazilian.

            1. re: itaunas
              chowciao Feb 22, 2008 08:44 AM

              When we asked the owner what Quayaba pasta con queso is he told us it's Quayaba with cheese. :-D That definitely clarifies things..thanks!

              1. re: chowciao
                Alcachofa Feb 22, 2008 08:50 AM

                Was is served with cream cheese? I've had guayaba with cream cheese. Also, it is good with coconut syrup. Or both! :O

                1. re: Alcachofa
                  itaunas Feb 22, 2008 09:16 AM

                  The soft dulce de guyaba is sometimes served with cajeta, which is a bit much for me (a few spoonfuls is nice). At Buteco it was served with fresh cheese. At Brazilian bakeries you can probably find the coconut and goiabada in cakes. Another sinful treat is a fried "pastel" filled with goiabada and queijo (sometimes done with ricotta)

                  1. re: Alcachofa
                    chowciao Feb 22, 2008 11:37 AM

                    He didn't say...I know the next time I go I'm going to have to try it for myself just to see!

          2. coookie Feb 21, 2008 06:52 AM

            next time, try the maduros (fried sweet plantains served with an awesome tangy carrot sauce). also good is the seco de cordero (lamb in a dark beer marinade). they used to make a nice xim xim, but i think it dropped off the menu.

            i always worried about this place when i lived in the south end. never saw more than a quarter of the room full on any of multiple visits.

            1 Reply
            1. re: coookie
              m
              mccarth Feb 21, 2008 06:59 AM

              I completely agree that the carrot sauce is worthy of swooning, we get it with the fried yucca. This is one of my favorite neighborhood spots and I also find myself nervous when we are the only ones in the restaurant on a Wednesday or Thursday night. I've been making my way through the fish options on the menu and I haven't encountered one that I haven't liked.

            2. C. Hamster Feb 21, 2008 07:55 AM

              I've driven past that place a zillion times and always wondered about it, esp being in the middle of VV.

              Will have to stop car, get out and chow soon.

              2 Replies
              1. re: C. Hamster
                MC Slim JB Feb 21, 2008 07:23 PM

                FYI: free evening parking out back; get a sign from the Don to put on your dashboard.

                1. re: MC Slim JB
                  hiddenboston Feb 22, 2008 05:10 AM

                  For me, half the fun of going to South End restaurants is strolling through the neighborhood to get to my destination, but I am glad to hear about the free parking at Don Ricardo's, especially if we go back there on a rotten weather day like this.

              2. Dax Feb 21, 2008 08:37 AM

                Try their take on chicharrones and the house made picante. Excellent pieces of fried, bone in pork.

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