Monday, September 5, 2011

Brasilien: Nur mit Einladung

When mein Mann said that he was attending a function at the Brazilian Embassy on one of my rare nights off, I announced that I would join him. Usually, I pass on these functions because I end up in a circle of people discussing German politics in minutia -- my eyes quickly glaze over and the food is almost always disappointing. But the Brazil event (in honor of Brazilian independence day) came along just as I was needed some Brazilian food, so I decided to make an exception. The best part was the Brazilian band playing loudly in the corner. The worst part was the caipirinhas. First of all, there weren't enough of them - this beverage has trended in Berlin and they were in high demand, but low supply. The more serious problem was that they were mixed with instant lemonade. Yuck. It's not a good sign when at a Brazilian party you'd rather drink the French Champagne. The finger food was a little hard to come by as it often is at large receptions, but I can accept that the Brazilian government doesn't want to buy 200 people dinner. Still, the pre-made canapes (the kind you take out of the package already assembled) were really bad. The one I sampled tasted like cat food on stale bread. The shot glasses of black bean soup were pretty tasty, but there is something unpleasant about drinking a shot of hot soup. I nabbed something quichey that turned out to be full of canned corn (making it fairly authentic, I have to admit) and tasted so strongly of instant soup that I would have spit it out in less mixed company. Alas....after a couple hours of mingling and eyes glazing we headed out into the night still hungry and still craving Brazilian food.

We made our way to Café do Brasil in Kreuzberg. The place was hopping and many of the guests were Brazilian - always a good sign. The waitstaff was a little scarce, but there was a buffet (available Monday-Wednesday evenings and for Sunday brunch; 10.90 Euros), so we helped ourselves. This is basically a feijoada buffet, there was some chicken on a platter, but none of the churrasco-type meats (on Thursdays they offer a Churrasquinho buffet and you can order both a la carte at other times). In any case, the feijoada at Café do Brasil is very good. The beans are very, very flavorful with chunks of smoked sausage and pork ribs, served of course with farofa or toasted manioc flour. I did miss the collard greens, which are a traditional accompaniment, but they do have green salad and roasted vegetables on offer. There are also a variety of fritters to choose from: acarajé or dried shrimp, something spinachy, fried yuca, and fried bananas to name a few. The fried bananas are a must with the beans. I will say that none of the food (which is set out in chafing dishes) was quite hot enough - this wasn't such an issue with the beans, but the fritters would have been a lot better fresh. In all fairness, I'm not really a fried food person and with the exception of the bananas (which could have been baked or pan-fried rather than breaded and deep-fried in my opinion and in keeping with what I've eaten in Brazil), which you really shouldn't miss, I would skip the other fritters next time. On the other hand, a Brazilian restaurant without a variety of fried bits wouldn't feel quite right.

At the end of the day, I really liked Café do Brasil, even with it's small shortcomings. So we didn't see a waiter for most of our meal and I never got to order my caipirinha - at the end he pointed out that we hadn't had dessert (the buffet only had fruit) and brought us each an eggy custard with a splash of mango or passion fruit juice. I suppose it's easier to sell a Brazilian restaurant to the German public (than, say a Bulgarian one) and this restaurant feels very Brazilian - the food is fairly authentic (I can't find collard greens anywhere here and I've looked), the music is loud and Brazilian, the yellow walls are dripping with with fake foliage (which sounds tacky, but works in this space), and vibe is mellow and everyone seems to be having a good time.

Café do Brasil
Mehringdamm 72

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