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Sep 25, 2009 08:13 PM

Blame it on Rio Brazil Cafe

More pics at
**with links included

Thanks to Miles Clement, Josh Lurie, and Das UberGeek for helping spread the good word!!

When I was gallivanting all over Little Brazil looking for the wonderful foods from Brazil I so long for, I came across some meaningful finds.

I first went to Rio Brazil Cafe when it was still Brazil Exotic Foods, before this space was briefly occupied by Delicias do Brazil and for a few years running had been Cafe Toros before that.

I started going regularly only to find it had closed, Luciene had told me she wasn't sure how long she could stay afloat, and then the health dept. closed Brazil Exotic Food for having a faulty hood on their deep fryer.I thought all was lost until I received an e-mail, yes I was on the small mailing list, from Luciene that she was back in business.

Luciene Peck has the only Brazilian restaurant in town featuring the cuisine of Rio de Janeiro, the marvelous city(cidade maravilhosa).During the week she does the typical complete meals found in luncheonettes and Brazilian pubs(botecos) called prato feito, which consists of a protein, rice, beans, farofa, and perhaps a side salad.This is Brazilian home cooking. On the weekends she pulls out all the stops and conjures up famous entrées, much needed in our saturated market of churrascarias(Brazilian steakhouses).

The restaurant is simple in decor, with a touch of sentimentality and the national colors of Brazil to welcome you into the warmth and spirit of Rio.

The feijoada of Rio is unique, feijoada is done with subtle variations throughout Brazil, different beans other than black beans in some parts, the ommitance of a particular side, a variation in spicing. But the most popular version of feijoada completa belongs to Rio.Black bean stew of salted pork parts including ear, trotters, tail,various sausages, and muscle tissue, with sides of farofa(toasted manioc meal), rice,couve(collared greens), and orange slices.

On a recent feijoada throwdown with good friend Exilekiss, we found Rio Brazil Cafe version to reign supreme, tied with Zabumba's.Luciene makes genuine feijoada, with tender meats, homemade carne seca, luscious beans, and all the pleasing textures of a real feijoada. This is required eating at Rio Brazil Cafe.

Casquinha de siri is Brazilian crab au gratin. It originates from Bahia, but is done the Carioca(person from Rio) way here in Luciene's kitchen.The differences in style are the secrets and spells of Brazilian cooks.Think of a crab au gratin laced with dende oil, and coconut milk, a whole other layer of sin.

The malagueta peppers mixed with olive oil and spices known as pimenta will temp you to excess. The heat creeps up on you, but the flavor is rich and full bodied.

Luciene's bobo de camarao, is another dish with Bahia origins,but adopted by Rio palates.This is a standout dish at Rio Brazil, delicate, with all those exotic ingredients in bold harmony.Add some pimenta and you've gone pro.

Moquecas(baian stews) of fish and hearts of palm are available on the weekends. The sauce is properly cooked down so that flavor is optimized in every bite. This is the mark of a great moqueca. There's something here for fish lovers and vegetarians.Again, a Rio translation of a plate from Bahia.A savory side of feijao fradinho(black-eyed peas) was included with my moqueca de peixe(fish).

Last weekend, I met up with Josh Lurie of FoodGPS with his girlfriend Allison, and Das Ubergeek of chowhound for a taste of Rio.And, to my delight, Renni and Ilma of Sabor da Bahia had stopped in for a bite, Renni, a lovely Brazilian singer sat in with a fine bossa nova guitarist.Other Brazilian diners sang along with bossa nova classics such as Corcovado, Agua de Beber, and Desafinado. It was a scene right out of a pub in Copacabana at 3AM. Look for Voz e Violao(voice and guitar) on Saturdays when Rio Brazil gives you the boteco(pub) experience known as Frigideira Carioca.The frigideira is a samba percussion instrument that looks like a little frying pan.It has a its roots back when people picked up whatever they could find, including pots and pans, to make music and party.

The desserts we had after our meal were amazingly good, The coconut pudding topped with blackberrie,rasberries, and bluberries was over the top delicious.

The mousse of passionfruit adorned with the fruit's dark seeds was pure Brazil, sweet and tart tropical fruit with stirring composition.

Luciene has family and friends helping out, her 72-year old mother, known as Dona Lucia, is revered for her cooking.Dona Lucia helps in the kitchen sometimes and makes all the brilliant savories at Rio Brazil Cafe. Coxinhas de frango(little croquette of chicken), shaped like little chicken thighs are perfect here,my favorite snack on the planet. They have croquettes with cheese, risolis of shrimp, and whatever Dona Lucia may feel like. They are the small party size, so get a sampling of whatever they have that night. These are made at home until they can replace the hood of the deep fryer.

If you find yourself singing songs by Gilberto Gil, of Carlos Jobim, thinking about an afternoon on Ipanema beach or a rowdy night in Copacabana after leaving Rio Brazil Cafe, you can blame Lucience Peck and her crew. They're bringing superior cooking and a bona fide Brazilian aesthetic to LA's dining scene.Beleza!

Check out Miles Clement's review of Rio Brazil Cafe from the LA Times.Thanks again, Miles.And, good friend, Josh Lurie's great review from our visit together.

Rio Brazil Cafe
3300 Overland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 558-3338

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  1. are those shrimp in the second dish in the yellow sauce from the left?

    also, that's what i what to get out before, is Cafe Toros related to the new Rio Brazil Cafe Toros? or is it an altoghether different operation? And what's the fascination with Beef Stroganaoff on Brazilian home cooking menus?

    sadly, no i'm not brazilian, just stayed there for a few months. amazing country. spent a few weeks just lounging in rio, a truly different world and at a different pace.

    3 Replies
    1. re: kevin

      Hey Kevin. Cafe Toros isn't related to Rio Brazil Cafe. Nalva, the chef at Zabumba, was working at Cafe Toros, but it was just as a line cook.

      Many Russians came to Brazil during WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution, from 1914-1915.Stroganafe, probably came during this time, although other Europeans in the late 19th Century might have also brought the dish, as it was popular in many parts of the world.

      Brazilians just love stroganafe de carne and frango(chicken), it's available in most lanchonetes,botecos, por kilos, buffets, and family restaurants. Everyone makes this at home, too. The Brazilian version uses Brazilian creme, top sirloin, and ketchup as the main ingredients.

      And yes, the yellow sauce is the shrimp dish, bobo de camarao.

      You were in Brazil for a couple of months straight? That is wonderful. I've done many short trips, but would love to have the luxury of being there for a long visit like the one you had.

      1. re: streetgourmetla

        Street Gourmet LA - the history notes on Stroganoff were highly appreciated. Posts like these are what make Chowhound truly worthwhile. Thank you very much for the information and best of luck in your Chowhound efforts.

        Tripeler in Tokyo

    2. the information i found on this post was what makes sites like chowhound such a great resource....RIo Brazil Cafe is an excellent find, and w/ my brazilian wife's support I can say this restaurant is a great find for non-brazilians and brazilians seeking the mythical "authentic" ethnic cuisine, in this case from all over Brazil. With so many churrascarias overtaking LA (not to mention the USA in general!), this makes a great alternative to anyone seeking the seafood and more soup-based dishes commonly found anywhere on brazils coast.

      3 Replies
      1. re: papajoel747

        Glad you both enjoyed.It's the most exciting Brazilian food in town right now. On Tuesday, Luciene made butter nut squash filled with carne seca with linguica and rice. Always a surprise at Rio Brazil Cafe.

        Take your wife to the authentic barzinho bossa nova jam on Saturday. She can sing along to Jobim classics, it'll make her feel right at home.

        1. re: streetgourmetla

          hey street,

          i forgot to ask can i go here for that shrimp in yellow sauce for lunch on weedkays (possibly today Friday) as well as the moqueca or is that only on the weekends and/or dinner on weeknights. i'm not really interested in going there for the beef stroganoff or other stuff at this tim

          1. re: kevin

            I've had bobo de camarao(shrimp in yuca, coconut, and dende) during the week, and moqueca, either hearts of palm or fish. Just called, they have it, so, go get it. Let me know.....

      2. I went today. I liked the food and am excited to go back but I will note two things. The menu only listed 4 things, 2 of them were for weekend only and the other two were just the basic Plate Lunch Specials. She did, after some prodding, start to list other dishes which could be made but it took some effort. Also her english is as good as my spanish which is not ready for primetime yet. Fortunately my co-worker who tagged along was fluent in spanish and knew some portuguese.

        On to the Food. I had the Strogonoff which was unlike any I've had. It came with a side of Potato Stix . Made with Skirt steak, the sauce was creamy but light and just tangy enough. Plus it came with rice and Black beans which were so good it makes me want to come back for the feijoada.

        My co-worker had the Pollo Lunch plate. He said he liked the one @ Cafe Brazil better.

        Take Care.

        - P.

        Rio Brazil Cafe
        3300 Overland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034

        6 Replies
        1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

          The food is all prepared by Luciene, but Li, who waited on you, speaks only Portuguese.Feijoada is available on the weekends only, as are a few other dishes. The things listed on the menu were likely, Bobo de camarao(boe-boe gee caw-ma-rowng), which is the shrimp in yuca cream; moqueca de peixe(mo-keh-ka gee paysh), a fish moqueca; moqueca de palmitos(mo-keh-ka gee powlmeetoes), hearts of palm moqueca.

          These are all prepared by Luciene.

          You ordered more wisely than your co-worker.The strogonafe is done the way it is in Brazil, with Brazilian crema and ketchup, the potato sticks are the tradition, and yes, you need to come back for the feijoada. Glad you such a nice typical carioca lunch.

          Luciene is there in the evenings and on Saturday, sometimes they have others helping out, but try them on the weekend and let me know how your feijoada was.

          1. re: streetgourmetla

            Yeah, I was there about a 3pm today. Lucienne was very nice. It kind of sucked that the credit card machine was out of order. So I dropped by the liquor store to grab some cash, ATM-style.

            Anyhow, the dishes were listed on the board: the bobo shrimp, the red snapper moqueaca, and also the fejeioda. I had the bobo shrimp.

            It was good but the sauce was not really light and pretty darn gloppy. I may be a naysayer on that dish. But I do want to try the fish moqueca one day.

            And it was hard to communicate with her but she did have quite a bubbly endearing personalilty. And it's a true mom-and-pop operation. She did comment if I liked the Brazilian singer concert on the tube (I had no clue who it was but there were thousands of adoring fans.

            Anyhow, I'm up for trying it again. Suffice to say, for about 20 bucks for the shrimp dish and a soda it was not cheap either.

            Maybe it's better to try when she has a band there on Saturday nights she told me as well as alcoholic beverages(???)

            A very interesting place to be sure, Luciene is a very interesting, warm proprietor. She's pretty darn cool in my book. But the shrimp bobo did not quite do it for me (Don't worry street i still continue to thoroughly enjoye mariscos chente)

            By the way, I like the touch of the mannequins by the door dressed in skimipy bikinis. Says Copacabana to me.

            1. re: kevin

              That liquor store ATM comes in handy, I showed up without cash the other night, too.

              No worries, just try something else, and I trust that you will. The bobo is supposed to be gloppy, sometimes pudding like.But, a regal gloppiness.

              And, shhhhh, it's BYOB. I bring cachaca, do shots, and make cocktails.

              I think Li was there, because Luciene speaks english perfectly well. But, Li is cool, very carioca.

              The artist you saw on the DVD was probably Ivete Sangalo, love her to death.

              1. re: streetgourmetla

                Oh, then I think Li was preparing the dishes too? I didn't happen to see or notice anyone else working there. Also, it was a little disconcerting that I was the only customer there though to be fair it was a late mid-afternoon lunch. Li talked about spending 20 years in Spain too and lived in Sao Paolo for a couple years (and she mentioned she spoke both Spanish and Portuguesse, but she was still taking some English speaking courses after only a year in LA).

                Anyhow, a very cool gal and for some reason even though I was not crazy about that initial dish I want them to succeed (and you're right they remodeled the joint since Cafe Toros, no more Panda Express-style steam tables/heat lamps, a completely different operation).

                1. re: kevin

                  I'm glad you made it out. I'd go tomorrow night but I have a job, so....

                  Funny, everyone calls her Li(Lee), because even the Brazilian's have a difficult time saying her full name. She told me once and I went.....huh? OK, Li will be fine.

              2. re: kevin

                That machine is still on the blink?? Sheesh... they need a better vendor.