Many associate Brazilian food with barbecued dishes, and, though correct, Brazilian menus extend far beyond. Luckily, Brasilina, which recently opened, tickles our tastebuds with a multitude of authentic cuisines found outside of the barbecue pit.
A standout in Hell’s Kitchen, the large family-owned restaurant is run by Mariana Bull, who sends South American fare out of her kitchen while her brother, Daniel Bull, muddles and mixes an imaginative drink list behind the copper-fronted bar.
The rustic São Paolo-inspired space features 300-year-old teak exposed beam ceiling, hand-painted tiles and intricately carved wall art. Though the acoustics make it difficult to hear your date, once the food arrives, you’ll be too busy eating to discuss the day.
My guest and I began our meal with their two of signature cocktails: The Caipiroska Sampa, a delicious libation with citrus zing, and the Maple, a caipirinha made with vodka, fresh lime and organic maple syrup. The complimentary bread basket was filled with breads inspired by the crunch but airy texture of a cheese puff, and served alongside dipping olive oil and herbed butter.
Our thickly-accented waitress was extremely knowledgeable in all of the menu items, guiding us to some of the restaurant’s most popular options. Our first course consisted of their Empada de Colher, a pastry recipe handed down by the chef’s grandmother, consisting of shrimp filling, as well as their scallop ceviche, which came highly recommended, with one bite revealing why.
The salad course, with our pick being Salada de Inverno made with mache greens, grilled pear, crispy chevre, caramelized pecans and truffled honey dressing. The textural pairing of the crispy chevre and pecans was unexpected in the simplistic dish.
Suggested by the waitress, we went with the Moqueca and Margret de Pato entrees. The Moqueca is a thick medley of cod, shrimp stew, pirao (a Brazilian fish gravy) and jasmine rice, the perfect anecdote to that particularly chilly evening. The duck dish was deliciously moist, grazed with a sweet cupuacu sauce and sided with mashed potatoes and green apple dices.
The desserts weren’t especially inventive – a warm chocolate molten cake with cucuacu crème anglaise and the Arroz Doce, a rice pudding with caramelized bananas. Though tasty, if you’re worried about having room for dessert, you’re better off cleaning your entrée plate.
The restaurant is certainly a welcome dining option in a neighborhood that lacks foodie retreats, especially since it serves up a side of Brazilian fare that is less mainstream.
836 9th Ave
Btwn 54th & 55th St.
Images via Brasilina