The Happy Hour, Brazilian Style: Acai


My week-long Brazilian adventure came to an end on Friday. While I was happy and relieved to have everything I needed to accomplish in Brazil accomplished, a part of me wasn’t ready to bid farewell to this town, and the people that made my experience such a special one… at least not without a final lunch!

acaiTo make my last day special, as well as to celebrate the end of the long workweek, my friends took me to Acai for lunch, an outdoor restaurant that looks like it belonged in Hawaii rather than on the busy street of Faria Lima in Sao Paulo. Acai, they told me, is a real popular hangout especially on a Friday and although they are not known for authentic local cuisines, they have some great casual eats.

The restaurant, part juice bar and part tropical island-inspired restaurant, served wonderful variety of fruit smoothies, including its namesake, acai. Acai is a nutrient-dense Brazilian berry used to make drinks and desserts. I ordered the acai smoothie with ginseng, which was refreshing and satisfying. (Its grainy texture and sweet flavor is seriously addicting!)


I was not disappointed when I ordered a Filet Mignon sandwich with thick slice of mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes and arugula on a sesame bun, with a side of crispy fries either. The meat was tender and seasoned deliciously with salt and pepper, and the flavorful juice oozed out with each delicious bite.


I was too full to eat dessert but I took bites out of other’s, including the Papaya Cream and fresh pineapple with lime juice and zest. They were both so delicious that I wished I had some room left for the dessert of my own!



My weeklong adventure in Brazil was an amazing one. I could not have imagined having a better time than this, and I owe it all to the wonderful people I had the opportunity to meet here. I look forward to returning to this place soon 🙂

Not Bad for a Hump Day: Feijoada Wednesday!

buffet-plateThe conference rooms in the San Paulo office are named after traditional Brazilian dishes – Churascaria and Feijoada. Upon learning that Feijoada is a black beans and meat stew that is traditionally enjoyed as a Wednesday or Saturday lunch in Brazil, I would salivate every time I entered the conference room, just imagining how wonderful it would be to enjoy a big bowl of the hearty stew.

Unfortunately, my work ended at an odd time on Wednesday and had to miss lunch, but I was still determined to try Feijoada somewhere (anywhere!) before lunch hour was over and dinner began. Around 3:00 p.m., I walked by a restaurant that still had some patrons dining, so I decided to see if it had the dish I was looking for.

buffet-2Lucky for me, this place offered food buffet style, and customers would pay based on the weight of the plate. This was very convenient for me for several reasons. First, the obvious reason, is that I didn’t have to exercise my meager Portuguese (all two words I learned) and order something expecting it to be one thing and turning out be something completely different. And second, because it gave me the chance to nourish my body with much-needed vegetables.

buffet-3After mounting the plate with salads and side dishes, I finally arrived to the bean stew and poured a ladle-full of it on the bed of flavored rice. The stew had bits and pieces of everything – from beef chunks to sausages – and looked very hearty … and it certainly was. It was a total comfort food, and a good temporary departure from all the heavy meat dishes that I’d been devouring for days.

Let the Good Times Roll: Montana Grill Churrascaria


Do you think these skewers will fit into my suitecase?

There are some things in life that are so fascinating that you just have to put it on your “things to do in your lifetime” list. For some, it may be to climb Mt. Everest. And for others, it may be to run a marathon in all 50 states. Although my action items are not that ambitious, I too have the “list,” and to nobody’s surprise, many revolve around food. I want to enroll in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I want to go (just to go) to Tsujiki Fish Market in Tokyo. And I want to experience churrascaria in Brazil. Well, thanks to my new friends in Brazil who took the time to show me the great Brazilian culinary ritual, I can check off one from the list.

Churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse where waiters serve different types of meat on a huge skewer at a table, is not only delicious, it’s an experience in its own. We went to Montana Grill located only a few miles from the office, and although the restaurant is not as famous as Fogo de Chao which is the oldest, and the most reputable churrascaria in Brazil (and has a restaurant on La Cienaga and around the world), it was still as authentic and still delicious.


Cachaca with Passion Fruite. It’s typically made with lime.

The group that took me out to lunch this day was so out-of-this-world hilarious that I ended up crying the entire time from laughter, and when you add a few glasses of cachaca (the famous Brazilian liquor made out of sugarcane), you can just imagine how much of a side-splitting fun I had. It was me, Aldo, Essio, Gabriella, Monica and Bia, my little angel.



The lunch started out with the visit to the all-you-can-eat salad bar that puts ordinary buffet to shame. My favorite items here marinated eggplants, white asparagus, beef carpaccio with mustard and capers, and pickled octopus. There were salmon sashimi and sushi rolls there too. (FYI, what you see on the picture above is my second plate … the first one was a lot more packed with food.)

churrascaria-barRight when I returned to the table, the skewers of meat started appearing non stop, and I had to flip the little card that reads, “no thank you” just so that I can pace myself! As each meat arrived, Aldo explained for me what it is. “Oh, this is ‘Picanha’, the sirloin, and the most popular cut of steak here” and “This is lamb, you’ll like it.” When Cordeiro arrived, however, Aldo couldn’t find the word to translation it, so instead, he pointed at his rib and said, “it’s this, it’s this.” And Essio, the comedian, said, “That’s not a rib, that’s FAT!” and we all died of laughter (note: Aldo is a slim man). Essio told me that his motto in life is, “I may lose friends but I’ll never lose my joke,” and Aldo’s is, “I may lose my self esteem, but I will never lose my joke.” In a span of just an hour, I had every part of a cow imaginable, including the heart which was chewy and flavorful. I meant to take more pictures of food but I was so busy devouring the meat 🙂

churrascaria-posing1Aldo, the adventurous one, took me to the kitchen to show me how the meat is cooked. The manager of the joint was so gracious for allowing us to go inside and even letting me pose with a skewer! I was so tempted to take it and run!

Montana Grill Churrascaria
Av. Pres. Juscelino Kubitschek, 817, Sao Paulo

Tender Meat and Tender Memories: Trilha Do Trigo

trilha-do-trigoI am amazed at the level of intelligence and diversity the people I met in the Brazil office posses. Not only do they have a strong command of the English language (written and verbal), most of them are virtually fluent, and English in not the only foreign language they speak and understand. Many of them speak Spanish (which is very similar to Portuguese), French, and even Japanese (there are a high population of Japanese-Brazilians in Sao Paulo). The saturation of highly educated people here is probably due to the fact that our company is an American company and communications are conducted primary in English and this high, multi-lingual percentage may not be an accurate representation of all the businesses around, but still, this is a pretty fascinating phenomenon. And did I tell you that they all have wicked sense of humor?

Beatriz, perhaps one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met (and reminds me very much of my best friend, Maya), and her team took me to the little restaurant next to the office for lunch. She kept apologizing that this place is nothing fancy but I thought it was very cute. The place was called Trilha Do Trigo, and although I have no idea what that translates to, I’m assuming it has something to do with a chicken or a rooster because the place was full of the quirky bird decorations. We sat in the patio-like area by the entrance but there’s a huge dining area in the back suitable for big banquet or a meeting, as well as small tables to accommodate solo diners who’s looking for a quick lunch.

sheepI was told that pasta dishes are delicious here and patrons can watch the chef make fresh pasta from the glass window located in the center of the restaurant. When I dine, especially in a new place, I like to try the daily special the restaurant offers. There was something I saw under the “winter special” that caught my eyes (I couldn’t believe from the 75 degree whether that it is winter here) and I asked my friends what it is. They searched for the word, and after a moment, they said enthusiastically, “Oh, it’s a sheep! It’s a sheep!”

For a second, it didn’t register that sheep is a lamb, so I thought I was being adventurous like Anthony Bourdine for trying something I’ve never had before. After I realized that I had just ordered a little baby lamb, I felt a bit guilty, but after the first, very tender and flavorful bite, I didn’t care what I was eating.

There was something magical about the cannelloni beans that accompanied the dish. They were so delicious — easily the best-tasting beans I’ve had. They had a nice texture, simple flavoring and nothing like the ones that come out of the can. Rice cooked with garlic and onion was delicious as usual, and I was also pleased to see the side of broccoli sitting pretty on the plate (vegetable!).

The food was delicious but it was the company of the new friends I made here that made this dining experience such a special one. I am so blessed that I had the opportunity to come to Brazil for work and meet these fantastic bunch of people, and although I’ll be leaving here in a few days, I know that I will cherish these tender memories for a long, long time.

A Little Homesick (but still eating well)

food-standI had a hearty plate of steak, rice and beans at a little hole-in-a-wall diner a few blocks from the hotel. I actually wanted something else on the menu but they were out of all three items I wanted to try. I was happy with the dish I ended up having, but I was hoping that I would have maybe a side of vegetable to go with the steak (what was expecting?). The restaurant was part diner, part bar (and a juice bar too) and part convenience store — a one-stop shop for everything and anything you need.

Just to ensure that I’m getting enough vitamins for the day, I ordered an acai smoothie which were bright purple and delicious. My boyfriend called me on my Blackberry while I was dining there and I suddenly got home sick (yes, I was the strange Asian girl chomping down on steak and fried egg with watery eyes!). I really wish he was in Brazil and sharing these delicious food and experiences with me. I miss him, and my friends and family, very much.



Room Service Du Jour at Caesar Park Hotel, Sao Paulo

steakI’m realizing every day that I’m not one of those sensitive people who lose appetite when they’re under work stress or pressure (or just plain busy). Instead, I’m one of those unfortunate ones who eat under pressure – and eat enormously. And it certainly doesn’t help when the food here in Sao Paulo is so darn good – perhaps one of the better food I’ve tasted in a long time.

One thing I had decided before arriving to Brazil was to reintroduce meat back into my daily diet. I will eventually stop eating animal flesh again, I know this, once this whirlwind of travel is over in a few weeks (I’m off to New York after this for work … hello steakhouses!) and I’m back into my normal routine. But until then, I’ve decided to unapologetically enjoy the fine Brazilian cuisine this place offers. So far, I’ve been sticking to my commitment, even maybe a little too well.

If you omit meat from the Brazilian diet, you’re left with pretty much nothing, or at least nothing as exciting. It seems like steak, rice and beans are the center stage of the Brazilian gastronomic life. Of course, there’s always an option for me to dine at an Italian restaurant or other non-traditional cuisines in town to avoid meat during my stay here but I think that’s would a shame when you have some of the greatest tasting meat in the world here. And I’m not kidding when I say this. The way the meat is prepared here is simple, often with only salt and pepper, but this simplicity makes each bite so juicy, flavorful, and soul-satisfying. And the rice that accompanies meat is flavorful too with strong seasoning, very similar to the Cuban way.

On the first night here, I ordered a room service for dinner, because all the restaurants nearby were closed. Unfortunately, there are no fast food restaurants around either where I can just grab something to go (maybe there are some around, but I haven’t found them yet) so the room service was the only resort to tame my hunger. The food offered at the downstairs restaurant, as well room service, is very fancy but Westernized and generic, much like the repertoire you would see in any hotels in the states but one thing that caught my eyes was this — Filet Mignon Escalopes with Wild Mushroom and Parmesan Risotto (above).

Maybe because it was truly the first time I indulged in a beef of this caliber in a long time, but my taste bud started exploding after the first bite. The steak certainly lived up to the reputation. Risotto was surprising amazing too – rich, cheesy, perfectly cooked with still a bite left in the middle of each, crystal-like grain.


A basket of rolls.

Monday Morning:

The next morning, I decided to try the Pao de Queijo, traditional Brazilian cheese roll, for breakfast that my friend in the states suggested that I must try while I’m here. Unfortunately, by the time I took a bite into this tiny cheesy delight, it had already gotten a little hard. There were a bit disappointing, but I’m determined to try them again when they’re still piping hot from the oven, maybe elsewhere.


Tuesday Breakfast:

Delicious omelet with fine herbs and tomatoes, with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Totally delicious.


Here are some pictures from my home away from home.


The hotel room.


The hotel bath.


The view from the window.

P.S. My body is craving vegetables and I think I gained at least five pounds in the last few days, no joke. My pants that I brought with me are a bit snug now 😦 I went to the gym last night and ran five miles but I still feel very out of shape and bloated with all these meat!


Note: A few days later, I FINALLY got a dose of vegetable and fruit via this grilled vegetable sandwich and a side of steamed vegetable, along with the sweetest mango I’ve ever tasted! 🙂




Caesar Park
Sao Paulo, Faria Lima

Hungry Gal in Brazil: Andiamo Ristorante

store-frontHello from Brazil!

After 14 hours of flight, plus the two-hour layover in Miami, I arrived to Sao Paulo safely. The flight was surprising pleasant with no delays or unnecessary troubles that often accompany international travels. The service provided by the American Airlines flight attendants — a mixture of both U.S.- and Brazil-based crew — was superb, an adjective not often associated with airline services but quite appropriate for my experience this time. Dinner (a cardboard meat with a side of rubbery mashed potatoes and defrosted, watery vegetables) and breakfast (piping hot croissant what quickly became hard, from the galley oven, accompanied by a cup of yogurt that certainly didn’t taste like one) served on the flight, however, was a different story altogether but it’s my fault for even expecting it to be somehow edible.

I arrived at Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport in the morning, and although my body was still operating under the Pacific Standard Time which is four hours behind, I was wide awake. It is surprising what adrenaline can do. Even after picking up my luggage and clearing custom and arriving at the hotel around noon, I could not sleep. So I did what I know best – go out for lunch 🙂

Unfortunately for me, the part of Sao Paulo I’m staying is a major business district so there aren’t much around. It’s an understatement to say that it is quite on a Sunday. I see NOONE on the streets! I took a quick walk around the very quite neighborhood of Vila Olimpia, found the office I’ll be reporting to tomorrow, and found an only place that seemed to be open for lunch at this hour.

dining-roomAndiamo Ristorante is a little Italian restaurant on Rua Do Rocio, a street populated by office high rises and cute eateries that make businesspeople happy every day. Italian cuisine wouldn’t have been my first choice in a city full of wonderful, unique native dishes had there been more places open, but I was happy with my selection when I was greeted by a kind, English-speaking hostess. This may be an equivalent of a chain Italian restaurant in the states, but what the heck. This place was cute and I was hungry!

I was seated in the back booth that made even a solo diner comfortable. I don’t mind dining alone. In fact, I enjoy it, but the atmosphere of the restaurant can really dictate how the overall dining experience would turn out. The waiters spoke no English so I thought the communication would be difficult but the magic of food is so powerful, that it brought one English- and Japanese-speaking hungry gal and Portuguese-speaking staff together!


Simple is good.


A glass of red wine the waiter recommended.

I ordered a dish called Fusilli Rustico — butterfly-shaped pasta tossed with sliced olives, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and topped with a generous portion of grated Parmesan cheese. It was a simple dish but a delicious one, with juicy tomatoes adding distinct tanginess to the dish.


I heart strawberries.

For dessert (who could resist one when they bring you a tray full of sweets to choose from?), I had this strawberry cream concoction that had the perfect combination of fruity tanginess and subtle sweetness. It reminded me of the way that French eat strawberries where you pour milk on a bowl full of the fruit and squish them, making it a delicious milk dessert. My mother likes eating it this way too, and although it may not sound appetizing at first, it is most certainly a great way to enjoy this heavenly goodness! The drizzle of strawberry liquor added a punch to this lovely plate.


The street the office located.


An interesting graffiti I found on the way back to the hotel.

The fatigue finally caught up with me after lunch. Once I got back to the hotel, I went straight to bed and slept for the next five hours! It was a great start of my Brazilian trip and I’m looking forward to tasting some more wonderful dishes in the days to come.


My home away from home for the next six days.

Andiamo Ristorante
Rua Do Rosio, Sao Paulo