That Brazilian Beat
My friend Pete Selin recently explained to me that Houston is the opposite of New York City. "You know how they say New York is a great place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there?" he asked. "Well, Houston is a great place to live, but I would hate to be a visitor here."
I mulled that nugget of wisdom as I spent 40 minutes tracking down Brazil Brasileiro, the latest addition to Houston's Latin dining scene. Without a guide, a casual visitor wouldn't have a prayer of finding our little gems like this one: a combination restaurant, grocery store and video-rental outlet tucked away in a modest shopping center on Kirkwood.
The Brazilian expat community hasn't had any trouble locating it, however. Though the restaurant has been open only two weeks, Brazil Brasileiro's oilcloth-covered tables are already crowded with Brazilian emigres from Houston, San Antonio and Austin, chattering in Portuguese and warmly exchanging cheek-kisses. Its charming Rio-born proprietor, Augusto Gaioso, offers a $4.95 all-you-can-eat buffet on weekdays; on weekends, you'll find a soul-satisfying clay pot of feijoada ($8.50), a rich stew of black beans and pork served with white rice and al dente collard greens livened with a dash of fresh orange.
Also noteworthy is chef Marinho "Bam-Bam-Bam" Ferreira's Brazilian spin on Italian gnocchi: His tasty little potato dumplings are called nihoque and are served as a side to a roast-beef-and-gravy dish similar to carne asada ($6.50).
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Gaioso, Ferreira and their Sao Paulan partner, James Leung, have big plans for the fledgling cafe. The buffet will be discontinued in a few weeks, replaced by an amplified menu that will include dishes from the Bahia region of Brazil. "Bahia's food is more like Louisiana food is here," explains Gaioso. "More spices, more seafood." Toward the beginning of October, Brazil Brasileiro will expand into the space next door -- formerly a storefront church -- and be rechristened the Samba Cafe. Perhaps they'll offer a little live bossa nova music on the weekends, says Gaioso; he also happens to play in a band called Atravessados.
And in case you thirty- to fortysomethings are wondering whatever happened to Pete Selin, after the demise of his Bon Ton Room nightclub and Pat & Pete's Blues Burgers, here's an update: Blues Burgers is now in the hands of Kent Marshall of T.K. Bitterman's fame, who's renamed it the Old Market Bar & Grill. but is still trying to decide exactly what to do with it. Look for Pete behind the bar of his "bunker": a snug pine-paneled ice house called the Shady Tavern on 20th Street in the Heights..
-- Margaret L. Briggs
Brazil Brasileiro, 1854-B Kirkwood, (281) 558-0830.