Restaurante À Mineira, Rio de Janeiro
Churrasco may be one of the best-known cuisines of Brazil, but after so much grilled meat in Argentina in the past few days, I was very happy to find some relief at Restaurante À Mineira (152 R. Visconde Silva, 2535-2835, plus several other locations aross Rio and other cities) today, as they apparently specialize in food eaten by the gem miners in the neighboring Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Now, they did have a grelhados grilled meat section, but I skipped that part. And while many of the dishes were still meat-based, these were at least prepared in ways other than being grilled on a flame. It was also good to get many staple items like feijao preto carregado black beans, the fluffy toasted yucca/tapioca-based farofa and the porridge-like angu cornmeal.
They served everything buffet style, which despite my apprehension about buffets (is this by chance a common practice here?), turned out to be a great way to get exposure to a lot of different dishes. More importantly, I really enjoyed the quality of the food itself...so much that I'm still having trouble wiping this grin off my face (kinda like Jack Nicholson in Batman, although less creepy of course).
The thing that really got me started was the feijao amigo, which was basically a black bean soup, but thin and poured into little cylindrical cups like one might pour a little breakfast fruit juice into (in fact, I think they described it as "black bean juice"). Now, this was salty of course (and borderline excessively at that), but the rich fatty taste really lit up my eyes, and I knew that we were onto something good. I thus went off and grabbed a number of other items, including some tongue (sliced very thickly but remaining very tender) as well as the osso buco-like oxtail, which was pleasantly surrounded by lots of watercress (I love the radish-like bite of the stuff).
Another one of my favorites was canjiquinha, which I believe was also some kind of grain but stewed into a tasty porridge-like substance that soothed on its way down. They also had some kind of shredded beef thing, but again, salty (unlike the sweet honey-like stuff from Thailand). I finished it all off with some of the candy-like licor de jenipapo, thus making for a very satisfying meal. It sure was a nice respite from all of the grilled meat, although of course that will inevitably be coming later as one must get churrasco while in Brazil. :)