Last night I opted to try a highly recommended restaurant, famous for it's Bahian cuisine, Siri Mole in Copacabana. What a waste! Bahian food has deep roots in African cuisine, with a touch of native ingredients and some Portuguese, but it's mostly the African. Bright red dende oil, made from the nuts of a palm (and refined for diesel fuel, no kidding), coconut milk, peanuts, dried shrimp, okra are some of those African touches. I began cooking Bahian food around 1980, and can do a decent job with certain dishes, especially moqueca, a stew of coconut milk, grated onions and garlic, hot peppers and dende oil; the main ingredient is usually shrimp, fish, soft shell crab (siri mole). I stick with shrimp. I've made it for literally hundreds of people, twice for 200 at a time.
So, moqueca de camarão it was. Oh, the price? Ridiculous at 93 reais, about 50 bucks!!!! Why did I do that? It was maybe 30% as good as mine, but for 50 bucks, I could make a better moqueca for 20 or more folks. I cook my rice in a mixture of coconut milk and water. Theirs was plain, maybe parboiled, like Uncle Ben's. My moqueca just has more flavor, deeper flavors, more complex. I can't believe this place is so lauded, and SO expensive (but I've noticed all Bahian places in Rio are expensive). Maybe I should open a Bahian place in Portland....but it would be too much for those folks. "Where's the tofu burrito list," they'd whine. Don't get me started. So, if you're in Rio, do not go to Siri Mole.
P.S. Not only was the moqueca just average, the after-dinner espresso was nasty. I didn't drink it, I didn't pay for it. This is friggin' Brazil, and I have yet to have any coffee really worth drinking. But since I roast my own beans, and brew with a great Italian espresso machine, I'm spoiled. Coffee in Brazil is not fresh, not really, it's ground in advance, and they tell me here, sometimes polluted with cereal grains to stretch the yield, and just not very good. Sorry, Brazil, but, in general, coffee in bars and restaurants really isn't that great. It's better in peoples' homes. But not always. I think it used to be better. There's an awful lot of coffee in Brazil. So show me the good stuff!!!!!
I've been shooting lots of food photos, will post more reports later, but here's a link to photos (includes photos of musicians too..)