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Santa Cruz report Pt. 1 - Cafe Brasil

PolarBear | Feb 6, 200502:50 PM

Spent last weekend here, two clear sunny days after the storm went through on Friday. We met two friends from home at Cafe Brasil for an early lunch at 11 am. The place was packed and people waiting outside but we were seated in about 5 minutes (they don't take reservations). We all opted for the lunch menu rather than breakfast.

Our pal Gene was the more adventurous of the group, in the mood for fish he was leaning toward the Peixe A Baiana, tilapia in a freshly made tomato sauce, or the Bacalhoada, sauteed codfish in olive oil with onions and tomatoes, potatoes, green olives and garlic. Learning from the waitress that the latter was a rather salty dish he asked about the Muquecas (8.25), freshly made tomato sauce with coconut milk, palm oil, and green pepper with either shrimp, fish, or mixed seafood. He chose the fish after confirming that it too was tilapia. His wife ordered the grilled chicken breast A Madeira (7.95), covered with sauteed mushrooms in a wine sauce. I decided on a new menu item, the Fish Florentine (7.95), grilled tilapia over fresh spinach and topped with hollandaise. My wife didn't need a menu, had her heart set on the same dish as our last visit, the grilled chicken breast A Carioca (7.75), served on a bed of spinach and topped with a freshly home made cream of corn which, BTW doesn't in the least resemble the runny mush that comes from a can. It appears to be more of a corn relish or salsa with just enough creaminess to marry all the flavors together. We all shared bites and this dish was the hands down favorite.

The chicken A Madeira was good (I'm not a big Madeira fan) according to my wife but rather pedestrian when compared with all the other great choices. Likewise, my tilapia while not unusual was a great piece of fish cooked perfectly covered with an excellent homemade sauce with a nice lemon subtlety. All the ingredients in the Muquecas worked so well together and had a hint of some exotic spice or herb that we couldn't identify, my thought was it would be even more tasty with the shrimp or mixed seafood. All of the beef, chicken and seafood lunch dishes come with a salad, rice and farofa (which they were out of unfortunately) described as crunchy ground manioc root, also known as yuca, tapioca plant, or cassava.

We shared the two desserts that were offered that day, the Pave which resembled tiramisu with little crunchy bits of pecans and chocolate was very tasty and a hit with the three chocoholics at the table but I found the Passion Fruit Mousse to be stellar, the sweetness of the fruit offset with tangy lemon, I need to wipe the drool off the keyboard as I'm writing this. Both were perfectly light and refreshing. We were treated by our friends but the total was in the neighborhood of $50 for the four of us.

A tell tale sign that we consider a place hound-worthy is when we start not only planning a return visit while we're still eating but also try to decide on what we want to try next. Here are a few leading candidates:


Omelette Brasileiro (7.95) filled with cream of chicken and mozzarella chese topped with cream of corn.

Omelette Marinheiro (new 8.75) - sauteed shrimp and spinach filled with mozzarella, topped with home made hollandaise

Cocota (5.25) - two poached eggs topped with Cocota (spicy cream) sauce, with baguette and fresh fruit


Beef a Cavalo 7.95) - two fried eggs over steak on grilled bread topped with tomato and mozzarella

Feijoada Completa (9.25) - traditional Brazilian specialty, black bean stew simmered with variety of sausages, sides of rice, farofa, slices of orange and sauteed greens. Extra plate (4.95) of rice, farofa, greens and orange slice for sharing the stew.

Looking around at other tables we noticed that another hot item on the menu is the banana pancakes (3.25) listed under the kids portion of the menu (apparently no limit on size or age of a "kid"). They are huge, look light and fluffy and cover the plates.

Cafe Brasil is loud and lively, don't plan on quiet conversation, go with friends that like to yuk it up, the outside has been repainted in a multi-color melange that just screams Carnival. We wanted to take another friend's daughter who attends UCSC for lunch around noon on Sunday but the wait was at least an hour so had to resort to Plan B. The clientele at this time was mostly students (damn, they're sure eating a lot better than when we were in college).

CB is only open for breakfast and lunch (close at 3 pm IIRC) and offer 10% off daily to cyclists. A narrow driveway leads to a small parking area (maybe 5 cars) behind the converted residence. Best to park on one of the side streets on either side of Mission.

Also, they are not listed in the current phone book, located at 1410 Mission St., north side about a block and a half east of Bay St. Ph: 831-429-1855

Will report on afternoon wine tasting at Soif, dinner at Oswald, and Sun. lunch at El Palomar in Pt. 2

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