Several weeks ago, I was in Chicago on a Sunday evening to lend my ice cream maker to a CH. While in the city, I met up with RST for an impromptu dinner, which began with the classic exchange: So what do you want to eat? I dunno, what do you want? Really, what do you want? Ok, lets drive up North Avenue to see if we find something of interest. Just driving along we started pointing out to each other various restaurants and bakeries, deciding to drop in but not eat at place which specializes in food from Puebla. Along the road, RST suggests stopping in at little restaurant at California and North, just to check it out. I agreed however I wanted to read the menu before committing to eating there --- a trick learned from reading the Sterns road food books.
Remember, I did say we would read the menu first? Ha! We walked in to see three flags hanging by the door: Puerto Rican, Greek and Brazilian. Brazilian! Do you serve Brazilian food here? Once it was confirmed, we planted ourselves at a table without yet having looked at the menu.
RST immediately engaged the waitress in a conversation over Feijoida on the daily menu. He wanted an inventory of meats, especially interested whether the pigs tail and ears were in the pot. RST was somewhat disappointed the moo and oink as well as the tail and ears were not present, however there were smoked meats, sausages and spare ribs simmered in the beans. It was also accompanied by the classic side dishes of collard greens, banana, farofa and campanha sauce. A no brainer decision here, we just had to have Feijoida.
At the waitress suggestion, she suggested a first course of fried yuca, which was dressed with freshly grated Parmesan and parsley. These yuca chunks were highly addicting eaten hot for the crunchy exterior, salty melting Parmesan cheesy goodness contrasting with the soft interior.
We also ordered a second entrée of a beefsteak cut from the rump of the cow not usually available. The co-owner is a Greek who considers himself almost Puerto Rican from his long association with the Humboldt Park area. He said initially when they ordered this cut of beef, they were cheap but took some effort to get. Now that a market has been recognized for this cut, they are more available and more costly! As I recall, this beef was not exactly tender but it had a robust taste for what it was.
The other co-owner is Chef Ricardo, a Brazilian who formerly worked at MAS. He sat in with us to discuss his food and plans for the future. It was interesting to watch RST offer information to coax more interesting content out of Ricardo. They quickly discovered mutual friends in the Brazilian shop, which catered the Feijoida dinner for CH last year. Richard began to inquire if other Brazilian food not available generally could be made for a small gathering. Ricardo advised with a little advance notice he could make some off menu items. Consequently, we returned with a few friends the following week to try some off menu items, such as:
Aipim (or mandioca frita): Fried yuca with Parmesan and parsley we cannot get enough of this simple dish.
Picanha skewers: beef kabobs stuck in lemon halves with a fresh salsa
Bobo de Camarao: Shrimps in a cream sauce made of boiled yuca, squeezed to release the starchy cream which was the sauce base. The yellow color of the sauce was from palm oil. It was a fairly light application of palm oil because it was barely detected for an oil with such strong flavor. Chef Ricardo admitted a Brazilian audience may prefer a stronger concentration of palm oil, but he lightly uses it to reflect his personal tastes.
Moqueca de Peixe was pan-fried tilapia crisp at the edges and perfectly cooked in the middle with a sauté of onions and peppers on top. Again, there was another yuca cream sauce with palm oil as well as coconut cream served with rice.
Flan was served which had an intentionally lumpy texture, which everyone thought tasted great and admired.
Just last night, I brought my Mother where we again had Feijoida and a new dish: Cassava Chicken. It was grilled chicken with a mushroom cream sauce, which evoked a more European influence yet I was assured this was a well-known Brazilian dish.
Please note this restaurant is still in the start-up phases. Its potential and offerings are quite a contrast to the Brazilian grilled meat restaurants, which have arrived to Chicago in the last few years. These restaurants are complimentary rather than competing as they evoke different aspects of Brazilian cuisine.
Presently, this restaurant is named La Parrolla and will eventually be rechristened with a new name, which is in development.
Come, enjoy and help nurture this place onto the culinary tapestry of Chicago.
2808 W. North Avenue