In Carioca Grill's open kitchen, skewers of sirloin, sausage, and short ribs roast in the fiery churrasco. Steam rises from a nearby buffet, forming stratus clouds above hot dishes including fried yucca and shrimp stew. At the back of the dining area, a cashier weighs fare by the pound after taking off its shoes. Though the restaurant has a minimalist, casual vibe, its food brims with complex flavors and tropical ingredients prevalent in Brazilian cooking.
The chefs’ mission at Favela Grill is more challenging than it may seem: take simple ingredients and transform them into the flavorful bites that characterize Brazilian cuisine. To attain this goal, they have spent years playing with combinations that achieve surprising harmony, such as grilled, marinated salmon with a passionfruit reduction and shrimp sautéed in palm oil and flavored with coconut milk. But according to Time Out New York, “it’s the beef that lures the crowd,” be it served carpaccio style with capers and shredded parmesan or in the Costela Bam-Bam, a signature entree comprising slow-roasted Prime beef ribs served over cassava. In the kitchen, top sirloin, skirt steak, and sausages rotate on spits before being served churrasco style in the romantically lit dining room. While surrounded by colorful paintings, exposed-brick walls, and three-dimensional artwork, diners pair their seafood stews and grilled chicken with Brazil’s national cocktail—the caipirinha—or wines from France, Italy, California, Argentina, Chile, and, of course, Brazil. On Fridays and Saturdays, the sound of live Latin-style guitar permeates the room for a bit of authentic flair.
Seen from afar, the food crossing the counter at New York Pão de Queijo might convince you that the bright, tiny storefront is a typical burger-and-shake shack. It's the details that tell you something else is going on—namely, Brazil's wildly creative, colorful take on the American burger and its accessories.
More than 10 beef, veggie, and turkey patties come gussied up with a kitchen sink's worth of fixings, including corn, potato sticks, sausage, house-made Brazilian cheese, banana, and pineapple. Smoothies attempt to balance out the towering feats of indulgence with nutrient-dense combos of papaya, passion fruit, peach, açai, and oats. The kitchen's commitment to snackery is also evident in the signature pão de queijo, a yuca-based bread puff filled with deliquescent cheese. Among other treats, The Daily Meal has praised its traditional bauru ham sandwich and its "great quick snacks" that can easily be downed while playing a typical soccer match.
New York City is a long way from the Rio Grande do Sul region of Brazil, and the wait staff at Churrascaria Tribeca certainly don’t live the rough-and-tumble lives of gauchos—Brazilian ranchers who gathered around wood-burning fires after hard days’ work to slow cook prime meats. But don’t let these discrepancies fool you. Hunks of bare prime meat are still slow cooked above wood fires at this Brazilian steak house, a faithful nod to the gauchos of days past. And the waiters still carry knives in their belts, which they unsheathe at diners’ requests—via the flip of a colored coaster—to shave off perfectly tender cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and chicken. Every day, amid a parade of skewered meats, waiters march out a specialty dish, such as a roasted suckling pig towed by cart from table to table. To enjoy this spectacular parade of slow-cooked meats, it’s best to have a ravenous appetite—which is trickier than it may first seem. Each meal begins with unlimited visits to the banquet-style buffet and salad bar, where a veritable garden’s worth of vegetables, salads, and seasonal casseroles await. During meals, waiters continuously replenish sides such as fried plantains, mashed potatoes, and cheese bread, and every meal ends with the appearance of a dessert cart full of sweet and decadent treats made in-house.
There’s no questioning Berimbau chef Carlos Inacio’s intimate connection to the cuisine of Brazil when you scan his menu, a focused collection of dishes rich with traditional ingredients such as calabresa sausage, yucca, and seafood. He hails from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, an area known for its “stellar cuisine,” according to New York magazine, which also lauded Berimbau as a “pioneer” among NYC Brazilian restaurants. Berimbau is far from a common rodízio steakhouse, although there’s no lack of pork or steak on the menu. But instead of all-you-can-eat feasts, patrons select elegant presentations of distinctive dishes, such as fraldinha, grilled skirt steak served with yucca purée, sautéed collard greens, and creamy hearts-of-palm sauce. Chef Carlos continues to position his homeland’s food in a fresh, colorful context through dishes such as risotto with asparagus, sautéed shrimp, and cilantro butter. Berimbau’s wine list has been curated with pairing in mind, and the white, sparkling, and red wines—categorized as either Old World or New World—add grace notes that perfectly emphasize the potpourri of Brazilian flavors. But the beverages of choice here are the caipirinhas—Brazilian cocktails that can be mixed with passionfruit, strawberry, coconut, mango, or lime.
Though it's steps down from street level, the dining room at Circus Restaurante maintains a sunny air. Perhaps it's the circus-themed art, the lemon yellow seats, the bossa nova floating through the room that give the space its warm and tropical feel. No matter, because drifting from the kitchen are the scents of garlic and herbs, coconut and lime?all signs that delicious Brazilian cuisine is on its way. Shortly after opening, the New York Times claimed, "Circus serves the food your mother might cook if you were raised in Sao Paulo or Bahia."
Here are some classic Brazilian dishes to which Circus's kitchen gives a nouvelle cuisine touch.