Brazilian food is going to be big this year so Mrs Munkee and I thought we’d get a head start on the trend and say ‘Olá bela comida!’
I was fortunate enough to have toured South America with a rugby team in my younger and more active days so I have experienced the gaucho barbecue first-hand so I was exceptionally excited to visit Cabana Brasil and see how the Brazilian BBQ had translated across continents.
I know this is wrong of me but in my head I had set expectations around Bem Brasil, which I must add is a fantastic place to eat, however what I got was so much more than that…
I’m a big believer in the power of first impressions when I’m eating out; they set the mood for the whole experience. This is what I refer to as the MOFI (or moment of first impact). I don’t want someone falling over themselves to take my coat off my back or scoop Mrs Munkee up in a politely situated chair but I just want to be made to feel welcome and have the ambience set by my surroundings. Cabana Brasil really worked hard on their MOFI and superbly set the tone for the rest of the evening…
Imagine the scene: as the door swings open your greeted by an enthusiastic FOH against a backdrop of a lively carnival atmosphere. The décor is bright, vibrant and authentic and the music compliments it perfectly with a lively beat to raise pulses. The furnishings all add to the authentic feel with extracts from steel tap-taps, candleholders fashioned from bottletops and a wall of upturned milk crates. The centre piece of the carnival is, of course, the grill which periodically spits flames and aromas to excite the entire room.
Despite the melee Mrs Munkee and I were expertly guided to a dimly lit booth which seemed to paint the atmosphere into a subtle wallpaper rather than an intrusive floodlight.
The service really was fantastic. Our waitress was enthusiastic, polite and offered sensible recommendations. I had that much confidence in the waitress that I allowed her to select my main course and sides for me. I believe that if you’re truly going to experience a restaurant you need to know what they’re famous for. Recommendations are a big thing for me and this was something Cabana Brasil is clearly adept at.
This is the crunch for any Food Adventure: how good was the food?
The menu was excellent. Despite being coined in the native language it was still easy to decipher and navigate so it wasn’t in anyway alienating.
First Course – Pulled Pork Sliders and Spicy Malagueta Chicken Doughnuts
Mrs Munkee and I opted to share a couple of starters between us. Both dishes looked amazing and were presented very well. There’s a danger with this type of cuisine, as with Bem Brasil, that it can appear quite glutinous and not feel special however Cabana Brasil displayed their food with a humble sophistication.
The sliders were inadequately named in my opinion. For me, sliders are an insignificant sandwich that offer little more sustenance than an amuse bouche but this dish was much more than that. Positioned delicately in the centre of the plate were three light cheese balls dissected by sweet shredded pork in a sticky BBQ glaze. The creamy cheese offered by the bread worked subtly with the sugary paprika and deep tomato marinade.
The Chicken Doughnuts were brilliant in their simplicity. The crispy coating encased a lightly spiced chicken with subtle cheese flavours.
Spicy Malagueta Chicken
Now for the main event! This the dish selected, in it’s entirety, by my waitress – no pressure!
Well it was brilliant! The theatre created with the presentation of my grilled chicken on a metal skewer set the mood for an excellent feast. The farm assured chicken was incredible with a light smoky taste and singed edges that gave way to warm, soft meat that was still moist under my knife. My waitress had selected sweet potato fries, that showed evidence of the bubbling oil and melted in the mouth, and Rio Beans, which gave a rich and intense flavour, to accompany my grilled bird.
My only minor criticism was that I was expecting a bit more of a kick to the chicken. However, heat is in the eye of the beholder and Cabana Brasil had this covered with my own supply of Spicy Malagueta Sauce to intensify my experience. I’d like to take a moment just to pause on this because the sauce is outstanding! This smooth hot sauce is fashioned from rape seed oil which gives it a velvety texture and earthy undertones which are layered with sweet and spicy flavours to leave a sizzle on the lips. I could write an entire blog on the Cabana condiments!
Chocolate Raindrop Doughnuts
Finally, Mrs Munkee and I shared a dessert because my stomach had forgotten to tell my brain that I was already very full! This was the perfect way to end our meal with fluffy, sweet doughnuts hiding a molten chocolatey secret accompanied by an indulgent, not at all superfluous, hazelnut and chocolate dipping sauce.
Brilliant! I definitely went in with expectations but I left thinking ‘Bem…what now?’ If I was to call-out one aspect of my dining experience that made it feel as special as it did then I would have to focus on the little things. In my opinion, Cabana Brasil works so well because the little things were done well. From the big band music and the Latin décor to the personal recommendations and the fantastic ingredients I was impressed.
Verdict – in a word, brasiliant! I was taken by the Brazilian charm and culture throughout the evening. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to visit Cabana Brasil but they’re going to get used to my Munkee face because I intend to be frequenting regularly – oh, and if anyone reading wants to know what I want for Christmas: a Cabana Cookbook and a range of their brilliant condiments will do just nicely thank you! So if you’re foraging in the North West I urge you to visit Cabana Brasil and to the restauranteurs I say ‘Bem Feito!’ and bring on Rio 2016!