Brazilian Eatery Struggles To Turn Up the Heat
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 21:09
The Grill from Ipanema (a clever play on the Grammy-winning classic of 1965) is touted by its owners and by many local foodies as the only authentic Brazilian restaurant in town. Chef Alcy de Souza immigrated to the United States in 1987 with the vision of creating a chic and modern establishment while still remaining true to the flavors and traditions of his Brazilian heritage. Located in the cultural and gastronomic hub that is Adams Morgan, this family-owned eatery has been serving up delicious cuisine indigenous to the country’s many different regions for over 20 years.
Upon walking through the door, my friend and I were greeted and seated immediately by the friendly Brazilian hostess. Our server then explained several of the dishes and helped us select ones that would complement each other. For our appetizer, we ordered the Coxinha de Galhina, which is a dish of lightly breaded balls of chicken and cheese served with a spicy sauce. This traditional snack, which literally translates to “little thigh,” was the perfect balance of crispy, fried crust and gooey, flavorful filling.
For our entree, we decided on the moqueca a Baiana, a slow-cooked fish stew native to the Bahia region of northeast Brazil. The base of this stew is a waterless blend of palm oil, coconut milk, cilantro, tomato, onions, scallions and green pepper. Restaurant patrons have the option to choose between fish, shrimp, squid or mixed seafood moqueca for their stew. We opted for the mixed and were pleasantly surprised by both the large amount of seafood in the dish and the pleasant texture of the meat. It was brought to the table, still sizzling, in a rustic clay pot and served with white rice and a fish broth yucca puree. For those who may not know, yucca is a starchy vegetable similar to the potato and is a staple of the South American diet. This puree was a substantial and saucy complement to the rice and moqueca, which are meant to be eaten together.
My one critique about this dish is that it was very mild. Patrons are asked how spicy they would like the dish to be when they order and I asked that ours be prepared “medium.” If you are a fan of spicy food, I have no doubt that you can get it here, but you must be sure to emphasize this request.
For dessert, we had the pudim de coco, or coconut flan. As cliche as it may sound, the folks at The Grill from Ipanema truly do save the best for last. The thick custard dish was decadent and rich, with an almost paradoxically light, melt-in-your-mouth texture. It was served with freshly shaved coconut and strawberries, the perfect culinary glimpse into the tropical flavors of Brazil.
One thing we, as freshmen, were unfortunately unable to partake in was the restaurant’s extensive wine list and well-known authentic mixed cocktails. In lieu of first-hand recommendation, the general consensus among legal drinkers is that the caipirinhas are a must. This drink, listed as a “Brazilian favorite,” is comprised of cachaca (a strong sugarcane liquor), fresh-squeezed lime juice and sugar.
Fortunately, for the average college student, The Grill from Ipanema offers upscale dining without the budget-busting price tag. We were able to get white table cloths, excellent service and a delicious meal for about $25 per person.
The 2.4 mile walk is more than worth it and totally doable; it winds through some of the most picturesque streets of D.C. and past several embassies. For those in more of a hurry or who prefer public transport, it is a quick 18 minute ride on the Metro into Adam’s Morgan from the Rosslyn station.