Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Prices: Dinner entrees, $7.95-11.95.
I'll tell you naive: Coming from landlocked Tennessee, where fried river cat is about the only nonfrozen fish recognized by a majority of the population, I thought I was moving to a seafood town. (That was before I discovered that Hogate's was the house that fried built.)
With the coming of age of the sushi generation, though, things are improving, and now there are restaurants that specialize in Italian accented seafood, mesquite-grilled fish, eggshells stuffed with bass mousse and stuff-yourself seafood buffets (this year's "in" brunch). And over the past couple of years, Washington has developed more appetizer mussels than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Comes this sweet-tempered little Brazilian bistro, bringing codfish to its greatest notoriety since Victorian times. And except for the obligatory surf 'n' turf ("mar e terra," in the vernacular), don't look to see your lobster broiled: This is a kitchen where steaming is standard, and the succulence of the shellfish is a strong point.
This is a gentle cuisine, flavored with coconut and sweet peppers and diced tomato and the slick-rich palm oil that gives sauces the smooth consistency of butter but with a sweeter flavor.
Among the appetizers are two sensual indulgences of the first order: casquina de siri, an au gratin dish full of lump crabmeat in the coconut-scented sauce that is the restaurant's signature; and incredibly tender little scallops cradled in a cream sauce with just a hint of avocado puree.
There are also steamed clams and mussels, garlicky shrimp and half-shell oysters; but if you must have meat, try the cubed beef, quick-seared and tender morsels of filet.
There is a black bean soup, but since all entrees come with beans and rice, it seems much of a muchness; the caldo verde, collard greens and sliced sausage in a potato-based stock, is interesting but rather bland.
There are a number of hefty dishes, including grilled loin of pork and a porcine shish kebab; a New York strip and a grilled steak with eggs and greens. Feijoada (described as the national dish) is a sort of amalgamation of the rest of the menu, mixing beef, pork, and sausage with black beans and collard greens; there is cod stew and "vatapa," a fish and shrimp mixture given tang by the addition of dried shrimp.
"Stew" doesn't refer to the squashy stuff, though; the tender xinxin de galinha, the so-called chicken stew, is more like braised chicken under a thick peanut and coconut sauce. Chicken also comes grilled with ham, or with sweet bananas.
The kitchen's best efforts, however, are expended on the marescada, against not a "stew" but a mix of shellfish, lobster and shrimp floating in a fragrant broth of steaming juices and sauteed green peppers. Good as the black beans are, it's hard to avoid tossing your rice into the broth.
Service is fine and friendly (bread appears as fast as you can eat it), though all dishes are cooked to order, and when the room is full, there can be a slight wait.
This last little space ought to be saved for the orange puree custard, a first-class first cousin of the creme caramel.