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May 12

Great food in a favela: Bar do David

Remember I was talking about Comida di Buteco recently? Well today I thought I’d tell you about one of the participants that I visited recently. Bar do David is located in Chapeu Mangueira, a favela in the neighbourhood of Leme, right next to Copacabana. It has been on the ‘favela food map’ for a while now, renowned for its excellent food, in particular a seafood feijoada.

So, last weekend we decided to go and see what all the fuss was about. The idea of seafood feijoada had already piqued my curiosity and when I realised it was involved in the Comida di Buteco competition I had one more reason to go!

 

One of the best favela restaurants in Rio, Bar do David is situated in Chapéu Mangueira, not a million miles from Copacabana.

 

 

It was a Sunday and we were feeling seriously lazy, so we took a cab and were dropped on Copacabana’s Avenida Atlântica. A short stroll later and we found ourselves in Leme, Copacabana’s laid back next door neighbour. In the usual Carioca way, we were given directions by some locals who were hanging about on the corner doing nothing very much and 15 minutes later after a fairly steep climb up a winding, chaotic street we found ourselves at Bar do David:

After being corrected for the hundredth time by she who shall remain nameless, I stopped calling it “Bar do David” in an English accent and started saying it properly, which sounds like “Bar do Davee”.

 

If you’re looking for ‘fancy’, this ain’t for you. If you’re looking for delicious, satisfying Brazilian food made with care and served with a genuine smile, then this is the place. As with many favela locations, there is a pronounced slope which was delightfully dealt with: little wooden blocks had been attached to two of the four legs on every table to provide diners with a level surface. As soon as I saw that I knew that I was going to like this place.

We started off by ordering the tira-gosto that was their entry for this year’s competition: Croquete de Frutos do Mar (Seafood Croquettes). Seeing as there was a “y” in the day, we also ordered a beer (remember that the temperature of the drinks is also a judging criterion).

 

This year’s entry – seafood surrounded in (I think) mashed mandioca with a crispy golden coating. The two sauces (we never got round to identifying them) were great.

 

Antartica Original, more generally referred to as simply ‘Original’, is usually the best choice of beer. Top marks in the ‘Temperature of beverage’ category.

 

The croquetes were yummy and exemplified what is so good about this Comida di Buteco competition – it drives innovation. The sauces were very unusual (in a good way) and I’m sure they were a direct result of the cook(s?) trying to come up with something new and interesting.

Next up we tried the famous seafood feijoada. In case you don’t know, feijoada is probably as close as you can get to Brazil’s national dish. Of Portuguese origin, it is a hearty bean-based stew featuring assorted cuts of pork, and sausage. The idea of a seafood version was intriguing. Here is what it looked like:

 

Seafood Feijoada?! Yuh-huh! Using white beans instead of the usual black version, this was (relatively) light and utterly deserving of its notoriety.

 

I often find that my enjoyment of meals at even the fanciest restaurants declines as the meal goes on. I’ve come to understand that appetite levels play a strong part in how much you enjoy food. To illustrate my point, the meal I enjoyed most in my entire life was fish and chips eaten out of paper wrapping in the back of a car after a full day standing in the rain in a river in Scotland trying (unsuccessfully) to catch a salmon. But this place bucked the trend – each item improved on the last!

We finished off with the top treat of the day – Empanado do Camarão – golden crispy coating surrounding fluffy mashed mandioca. In the middle? A juicy prawn, bathing in a buttery, creamy sauce. Add a drop of fiery hot sauce and you have one seriously good snack.

Seriously delicious.

 

The staff were really friendly (especially our waitress with the cute freckle on her nose!), the food was great and the prices were low. If you have an ounce (or even a couple of grams) of culinary curiosity, you need to try this place.  And (hard to believe I know) even though this place is in a favela (gasp!), there were no shoot-outs, no hijackings and no one tried to sell us drugs. It’s enough to make you suspect that people who live in favelas are just like you and me! ;)

More and more people are finding that the availability of cheap flights is making Rio an affordable holiday destination. However, when they get here they find eating out in neighbourhoods like Ipanema is really hurting their wallets. Eating in a favela is not only fascinating, but also brings money to the poorer communities and helps the visitor who is watching his/her spending – win-win!

 

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  1. The Gritty Poet

    But Alex hijacks, sells drugs and shoots poodles for fun: so you are wrong in claiming that those from that locality are “like you and me” (if said me is in the me group you referred to).
    It am guessing that the name would be pronounced Day/ee/veedj , and that someone got some payback for the cannonball incident . . .

    1. Alex

      Yeah Gritty, you better watch out: I have a penchant for killing people too, especially people who tend to like grits. Sleep with one eye open.

      And the favelados are really like us. Ask my dad, he grew up in a place worse than most of the favelas in Rio, I am 100% sure of that. And look at me, perfectly normal offspring of the favelado! (well, maybe not normal.)

  2. The Gritty Poet

    Alex,

    Regardless of how one is labeled into a group (and how sadly human is that) nature and logic dictates that each person is actually an individual, and thinking like an individual is probably the best way to move beyond the shortcomings of bad habits one could be exposed to from the “group, nation” he or she would be normally associated with, and would hence promise his/her alleigance to.
    I would argue that your father was never a favelado: he just had the bad luck of being born in a society where, for one reason or another, the status quo would not allow for individual endeavors and everyone followed a faulty system which, in the end, was fixed to favor the same old people from that same old “intelligentsia”.
    I think favelado is a state of mind, not really pertaining to geography/heritage unless one buys into it. Some societies encourage individuals to buy into it, while other are more free thinking and end up allowing people to find their own way, via their own individual talents (and hopefullyt won’t tax them to death and hence allow them to spread their prosperity in a way that may seem unfair to you but is a huge step up for the person geting that job).

  3. Brae

    This place sounds like my style as well! Absolutely love the idea of a seafood feijoada – the photo looks heavenly. Glad you weren’t too cool to head into Leme :)

    1. tomlemes

      Ah, glad you liked this Brae – I can’t wait to go back! And I thought it was clear by now that there is very little that I am too cool for! ;)

  1. The New Rio: what to see and do « RioReal

    […] Bar do David, in the pacified Chapéu Mangueira favela above Leme. David draws a growing number of people up off the asphalt for his seafood feijoada. He was the first favela restaurateur to place in Rio’s annual Comida de Buteco (bar food) contest. Chapéu Mangueira is also worth a vist because it’s being developed as a model for sustainable living, as part of the Morar Carioca favela upgrade project, meant to bring all Rio favelas up to standard by 2020. […]

  2. O Novo Rio: o que ver e fazer « RioReal

    […] Bar do David, na favela pacificada de Chapéu Mangueira acima do Leme. David atrai um número crescente de pessoas do asfalto (inclusive, dia 19 de junho, o prefeito de Nova York Michael Bloomberg– e aliás, veja aqui uma divertida comparação prefeitural) para comer sua feijoada de frutos do mar. David foi o primeiro empreendedor de favela a ganhar um prêmio do concurso anual carioca Comida de Buteco. Chapéu Mangueira também vale uma visita por ser modelo de sustentabilidade, como parte do projeto de urbanização de favelas Morar Carioca, que pretende urbanizar todas as favelas do Rio até 2020. […]

  3. Traveling to the Rio+20 Earth Summit? A list of what to see and do. « traveling

    […] Bar do David, in the pacified Chapéu Mangueira favela above Leme. David draws a growing number of people (including, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg on June 19 – and here’s a fun mayoral comparison, by the way) up off the asphalt for his seafood feijoada. He was the first favela restaurateur to place in Rio’s annual Comida de Buteco (bar food) contest. Chapéu Mangueira is also worth a visit because it’s being developed as a model for sustainable living, as part of the Morar Carioca favela upgrade project, meant to bring all Rio favelas up to standard by 2020. […]

  4. Traveling to the Rio+20 Earth Summit? A list of what to see and do.

    […] Bar do David, in the pacified Chapéu Mangueira favela above Leme. David draws a growing number of people (including, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg on June 19 – and here’s a fun mayoral comparison, by the way) up off the asphalt for his seafood feijoada. He was the first favela restaurateur to place in Rio’s annual Comida de Buteco (bar food) contest. Chapéu Mangueira is also worth a visit because it’s being developed as a model for sustainable living, as part of the Morar Carioca favela upgrade project, meant to bring all Rio favelas up to standard by 2020. […]

  5. Favela Living – Chapéu Mangueira, Rio De Janeiro « WorldFoodTravel

    […] so they only had snacks for sale, so we ordered some Empanado do Camarão (good picture at this link), a type of fried prawn empanada, filled with cheese and prawns! They were delicious, especially […]

  6. Favela Living – Chapéu Mangueira, Rio De Janeiro – Part 1 ‹ WorldFoodTravel

    […] so they only had snacks for sale, so we ordered some Empanado do Camarão (good picture at this link), a type of fried prawn empanada, filled with cheese and prawns! They were delicious, especially […]

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