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!
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:
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).
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:
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.
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!