Little Rio in West LA – Cafe Brazil

executive lunch, cafe brazil, west los angeles
I’ve noticed that in this area of Culver City, there are quite a few establishments that very prominently sport the green and yellow diamond flag of Brazil. Driving along Venice and Washington Boulevards, I’ve seen what looks to become a Brazilian hotel (not sure what will make it Brazilian), a Brazilian grocery/market, and several Brazilian restaurants. I went to the one called Zabumba a long time ago. The other restaurant, just a few doors down on the north side of Venice Boulevard, is quite appropriately called Café Brazil.

Café Brazil is built somewhat like a well-kept roadside shack, a small, casual joint, not a sit-down restaurant. Even though there’s valet parking in the back for you Angeleno, inside, there’s no hostess to seat you, there are no servers who take your order and bring your meal to your table. There’s about a five by five space inside the cafe/shack where you can stand and review the menu on the back wall above and behind the counter. The open space on the counter where you place your order is flanked on one side by a refrigerated case with imported drinks and other stuff and on the other side by a case with shelves sparsely populated with various Brazilian breads, pastries, and what appear to be desserts. The woman behind the counter is a little brusque, but it doesn’t seem she has a rude personality; she’s just trying to keep the line moving. Café Brazil seems to be pretty popular at lunchtime.

The menu is fairly simple, with nothing too out of the ordinary. Brazilian flavors are not all that different from many of the other South American and Latin cuisines. Feijoada, Brazil’s signature dish, was on the menu, but slow cooked pork and black bean stew seemed a bit too heavy for the daytime, especially in ninety degree weather. I’ll save that for another visit to Café Brazil. In December.

executive lunch, cafe brazil
executive lunch special for $6.95 – what a cheap ceo

We all ordered the Executive lunch, which was an incredible deal for only $6.95. The meal has a choice of chicken, beef or pork. Just in case you were unsure, they let you know that it’s “dark meat chicken.” There’s no space inside to wait for the food, so as we stepped outside with our numbered receipts to find a table on the patio, I wondered what Café Brazil does with all the white meat.

I’ve never been to Brazil, but I can only imagine that the side streets of Rio are lined up with joints like Café Brazil. Small establishments with large outdoor seating areas full of darkly tanned shirtless men smoking cigarettes and bikini-topped girls from Ipanema and oversized sunglasses draped over their chairs fanning themselves. Even though patios are protected from the sun and heat with canopies and trees, it’s still open and airy and allows for people-watching and socializing both on and off the street. At least in Brazil. On Venice Boulevard, you just watch the traffic whiz by and an occasional homeless person pushing a shopping cart full of his life.

table top centerpiece, cafe brazil
decorations just like aunt rosa’s patio
guarana, brazilian soda, cafe brazil
all natural, but not very high

The tables and chairs are all different – plastic, wrought iron, wicker, some with vinyl tablecloths, some with thin, faded floral printed seat covers attached with little string ties. The patio looks a bit like a rummage sale. We took a table against the front edge, two of us wedged into a wrought-iron garden bench painted white, and the other balancing on a plastic chair on the other side of the stone-topped patio table. On the table, there’s a footed platter piled with fresh tomatoes. Every table has a different centerpiece – large decorative bowls or platters of lemons, limes, and tomatoes, just like a dining room at home. The patio actually makes me think I’m in the garden of my crazy Brazilian Aunt Rosa, who still thinks and lives like it’s 1978. (That’s all made up of course, but let’s just pretend I’m Brazilian for now).

Café Brazil doesn’t serve alcohol, so no caipirinha, which was disappointing but probably for the better, since it was lunch time and I had to go back to work. Caipirinha is a Brazilian cocktail made with lime juice, sugar, and cachaça, a Brazilian liquor that means “burning water.” Now I am really disappointed, lol! Cachaça is made from sugar cane, like rum, so the caipirinha is similar to a mojito, but without the mint. So I just went into a lot of detail about a drink that Café Brazil doesn’t even serve, LOL! I settled for a Brazilian soda made with guarana, a natural source of caffeine. Diet of course ;) Nothing like a regular American cola, it’s a light, caramel color, and tastes almost like ginger ale. For $2.50 a can, I was expecting to be extremely stimulated, but I didn’t feel any different than if I had downed a Diet Coke. Damn, I was hoping to discover my next high.

chicken and onions, cafe brazil
modest chicken covered with lightly grilled onions
deep fried plantains, cafe brazil
platanos are boy bananas – no wonder they taste good

For such a small price tag, the Executive lunch is pretty generous. A chicken thigh (maybe it was two?) that has been lightly pounded out and grilled lies side by side with deep-dark fried plantains on a king-size bed of glossy white rice that’s fragrant with what I would guess is garlic. The chicken is modestly dressed with onions that have been tossed with cilantro. Garlic, onions, cilantro are prominent flavors. Thank goodness the onions were lightly grilled, since raw onions give me heartburn. The chicken is dark meat, so it’s naturally juicy and tender, but the flavor is what makes it taste and smell delicious. I tried my best to stay away from the accompanying salsa made of chopped tomatoes and onions and cilantro. I am not fond of cilantro, and though just the leaves were okay with the onions on the chicken, the cilantro taste was rather overwhelming with stems and all in the salsa.

tomato onion cilantro salsa, cafe brazil
too many cilantro stems in the salsa
black beans, cafe brazil
black beans, sneak preview of feijoada

There’s a small bowl of black beans that came on the plastic cafeteria tray with the lunch plate. They were tender, flavorful, and hopefully a good sneak preview of the feijoada I plan to try later later later this year.

Or maybe earlier. I don’t think I’ll stay too long away from Cafe Brazil. ‘Cuz you know, I am the girl from Ipanema.

Cafe Brazil
10831 Venice Boulevard (@ Westwood Boulevard)
Los Angeles, CA 90034
310.837.8957

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 BoLA August 26, 2005 at 11:35 pm

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. This was a great place my boyfriend introduced me to pre-boyfriend days and during my first few baby steps as a newbie-blogger. :)

It’s funny~I think I do have a crazy Brazilian auntie in my family. That and an Aunt Verina who was from Italy. But then again, I have a pretty big extended family and am fourth generation with family all across the country, including Hawaii…which makes for a great multicultural flavor. lol!

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2 Only Teasing August 27, 2005 at 12:45 am

You know, young lady, there is a limit to how late I will let you be with your Rachael Ray post ;P

But its your party and you’ll be late if you want to!

So far you are the latest,

you might get the crown yet

xxx

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3 Not teasing at all. Completely serious... August 28, 2005 at 3:21 am

Oh its you holding up the round-up! Ah ha, now I see how it works…

;-)

xoxo

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4 sarah August 29, 2005 at 6:43 pm

hey kn! i just saw your post about cafe brazil on your blog. well done! i really do wish i had more ethnic diversity in my family so i could learn a lot more, but *eh* i’m okay with learning through my tastebuds on my own. good thing l.a. has a pretty decent representation of cuisines!

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5 George Garrigues October 12, 2005 at 5:39 am

Cafe Brasil is a great place — very Brazilian, very informal, very friendly to kids. Also a good, cheap date place.

You might want to correct the spelling of the cafe: It is Brasil, the Portuguese spelling for Brazil.

It is in Palms, not Culver City.

Sincerely,

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6 The Bulldog March 24, 2007 at 4:12 am

I love this restaurant!!!
Peace,
Brent

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7 aya_quest October 29, 2007 at 8:23 am

hey there! i’m hoping to move to southern california and am looking for some brasilian communities in either LA or san diego, know of any? anything is much appreciated. obrigado.

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