We decided this evening to explore another previously-unknown restaurant, courtesy of the batch of www.restaurant.com gift certificates I’d purchased earlier in the year. We thumbed through our dwindling stash (I need to go buy more!) and settled on a Brazilian establishment just north of the U-District called Tempero do Brasil
Here’s the official address of the restaurant, just in case you’re local … or visiting:Tempero do Brasil 5628 University Way NE Seattle, WA 98105
From the first moment I walked in the door, I liked the look of the place overall. It smelled good from half a block away–which is always a plus in a new restaurant–and I really liked some of the black and white artwork on the walls. Right inside the door, there was a porch area with tables, sort of an inside/outside seating area (with a heater for the colder months), and then another inner dining room further on, complete with a fire place and walls decorated with what looked to be family pictures. It felt homey immediately. The hostess greeted us warmly, and we were quickly settled at a table with menus and a couple of glasses of water.
I started reading each offering carefully–I didn’t want to miss anything–but before I even got through the first page, my husband grabbed the front of my menu and started shaking it. He said: “Cashew juice! They have Cashew Juice!”
I flipped to the page he indicated, looked, then waived our waitress over immediately to order one. She came back a few minutes later with this little bit of icy heaven for me, called a Suco de Fruta Cashew!
I absolutely LOVE cashew juice, and this glass was no exception! It was full of blended ice and thick, sweet fruit juice … perfect on a warm evening. And, no, they didn’t get the juice by squeezing a bunch of little curved nuts. Cashew juice comes from the cashew apple, the fruit that surrounds the outside of that wonderful nut we Americans love so much. Brazil and other South American countries grow a lot of the cashews we eat here, but they keep most of the cashew apples and juice for themselves. In fact, ever since I discovered how much I love cashew juice … I’ve also discovered just how bloody hard it is to find in this country The fruit is apparently very perishable. It doesn’t travel well fresh. And people here just haven’t been exposed to it much apparently … else, I know it would have developed a following! It’s just that good!
It was easy to find when I lived in Austin, TX, thanks to Fiesta Mart. They carried it in their glorious international foods section, a place I spent hours exploring! I bought my first bottle of Dafruta Cashew Juice Concentrate there (along with Treacle Pudding, Three Crabs Fish Sauce, and a whole lot more) and I’ve been drinking it ever since, even when it costs a small fortune to get it shipped to me.
Cashew juice tastes like a mix of pineapple and apple juice, with a little bit of green pear thrown in for good measure. Bonus points: Dafruta Cashew Juice Concentrate is amazingly low in sugar. In fact, a 16-ounce bottle of cashew juice concentrate–mixed with another seven bottles of water, per the label instructions–makes one gallon of fruit juice … with a mere thirteen calories, and ONLY FOUR GRAMS OF CARB per 8-ounce glass! The instructions call for you to add ice and sugar to taste, but–of course–that adds calories and sugar grams. However, if you sweeten your cashew juice with Splenda (or some other non-carb sweetener) rather than real sugar … your juice is still only four grams of carb per 8-ounce glass.
Beat that with any other real fruit juice on the market!
Also … bored with lemon and lime? In addition to being tasty, an 8-ounce glass of cashew juice gives you 75% of the RDA of Vitamin C. That makes it a great potential acid to add to jams and jellies, too … especially in concentrate form. I’ve used it in the past to make cashew lime jelly, which tastes a lot like lemon curd, and I’m currently experimenting with it in other fruit spreads. Just remember, though … there’s almost no sugar in this juice. If you want to use it as a main player in a fruit spread, you’ll have to add some in order to use it with most pectins: even some of the so-called sugar-free, low-sugar, or no-sugar-added pectins. If you don’t want to have to add sugar, consider ClearJel (also available in Instant ClearJel) or Pomonas Universal Pectin instead of the more common versions. They both work well in no-sugar or extremely-low-sugar environments.
I enjoyed my Suco de Fruta as our appetizers began to arrive. First, on the table came the Kibe:
Kibe is a spiced mix of ground bulgar wheat and minced meats, made into a falafel-type patty and then deep fried. Tempero do Brasil’s came topped with an onion, pepper and tomato relish, tossed with a little of what tasted like white wine vinegar. The combo of hot, crisp brown wheat and meat with icy cold sweet tomatoes and onions, crispy bell peppers, and vinegar was magical! It hit all the temperature receptors on the tongue, as well as all the different taste receptors. We decided we could easily eat several orders of them!
The second appetizer to hit the table was our Quiabo Frito, billed as deep fried okra and homemade shrimp dressing drizzle. As far as the okra goes, it was AWESOME! I’ll admit it: I was a little nervous when I saw whole pods on the plate. Some people have problems cooking whole pods. It takes a certain balance to get the outside crispy and brown, and the inside done to perfection at the same time. And I’m pleased to say that the chef at Tempero do Brasil knows how to balance! They were perfect: crispy on the outside, tender and succulent and still amazingly green on the inside. I absolutely LOVED them!
The homemade shrimp dressing drizzle was another story. I’m honestly not sure what they intended with it, but it was basically a light pinkish-orange puree of something. I wasn’t even sure what it was made out of … boiled yucca perhaps … but I didn’t taste a single bit of shrimp in it. The color was perhaps suggestive of the color of shrimp, so maybe that’s where the name came from, and I shouldn’t be expecting any shrimp flavor … but–honestly–it was cold, it was bland, and it was really unappetizing all the way around. It was basically the consistency of pureed navy beans, ones that were not quite cooked all the way through at that, so that you got a little bit of waxy grit on the tongue along with a cold, wet mush … but the taste was just basically cold and wet … without much else to say about it. And–to me–it did nothing whatsoever for my delicious deep fried okra. In fact, after trying it on two bites … I didn’t bother with it from there. All it was doing was detracting from my overall enjoyment. As far as I was concerned, the okra was perfect all on its own
Next came our Aipim Frito: Deep Fried Yucca with Parmesan cheese.
I love yucca … aka: cassava or manioc … so it was easy to love this yummy yucca dish. The only complaint I can make about it is they boiled it waaayyy too much before they fried it. The chunks were good–don’t get me wrong–they were brown and crispy on the outside, just like I like them … but some of them seemed to just be nothing but mush on the inside.
My husband ordered the Bifeacebolado:described as New York Steak, thinly sliced and pan fried with sauteed onions and spices. And it looked beautiful when it got there:
Problem was … it just didn’t taste as good as it looked. To be fair, the beans and rice were tasty enough. We both enjoyed the beans in particular, and the onions were a nice combo of crisp, sweet, and slightly browned. However, the best way to describe the steak is bland. In the mouth, it felt more boiled than pan-fried–someone didn’t get their pan hot enough before they put the meat in–and whatever spices it was supposedly cooked in got lost somewhere between the kitchen and our table. We had to add salt to even make it palatable … something–as we discussed at the table that night–that we can’t remember doing in a restaurant in years!
We’d ordered so many appetizers to start us off, and the size of my stomach was surgically reduced in 2004 (thanks to a gastric bypass) … so I decided–rather than order a huge meal on top of all that–I’d have the Casquinha de Sirí from the appetizer menu as my main course, described as crab, vegetables and spices, sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, and served au gratin.
I instantly loved the crab-shell baking dish when it was served!
The crab and vegetable medley, however, was as bland as my husband’s steak. There was salty shredded parmesan on top, but even that wasn’t enough to save it. After our beautiful, well-seasoned appetizers … I’ve got to say it … both our main courses were both pretty disappointing. Adding salt helped mine some, probably a bit more than my husband’s steak. It at least made it so that I could eat/enjoy it … so that was something. And before you get the wrong impression of us–I swear–we are NOT salt junkies! We only salt lightly at home. We tend to more let the natural flavors of our food come through, and we’re definitely NOT the sort of people who routinely grab the salt shaker for other people’s food either. Most foods are more than salty enough for us, but there are just some foods you need salt on. Crab and steak are two of them! However, the people in the kitchen at Tempero do Brasil are apparently trying to keep their salt level down … at least, in those two dishes … to the point of nonexistence. It was even more confusing when you consider that the okra and kibe dishes were perfectly seasoned, so they salted them. Why not the steak and crab?
We decided at the end of our meal that we wanted to try something else we’d seen on the menu, plus I wanted to clear my palate of the heavier foods we’d eaten, so we ordered Musse de mar acujá for our last course, described as a light and fruity passion fruit dessert.
Not only was it pretty … it was AWESOME! We may have had some bumps along the road in our meal, but this finish made it all worth it. I’ve tried other passion fruit desserts in the past, and I think a lot of chefs try to stretch that very expensive ingredient as faaaaaaaaaaaar as they can manage to stretch it … and still call a dessert passion fruit-flavored. Most just give you a hint of passion fruit flavor, and figure that should be enough for you. However, that’s not the philosophy at Tempero do Brasil! Their Musse de mar acujá was rich. It was creamy. But–most importantly–it was POWERFULLY PASSION FRUIT-FLAVORED! It filled every square inch of my mouth with the taste of passion fruit, and left every taste bud begging for more!
So–final tally–we’d definitely eat at Tempero do Brasil again, even with the weakly-seasoned dishes … though, I don’t know that we’d order the exact same main courses again. My husband said that–despite his usual course of avoiding breaded and deep-fried meats (with the exception of shrimp and catfish, of course)–he’s going to try the Bife a Milanesa the next time we go. I’d seriously considered ordering the Quiabada this last time–the spicy beef and okra stew–so that’s probably what I’ll try next time. And–of course–we’ll have to order the Kibe, the Quiabo Frito, a couple of Suco de Fruta Cashews for me, and at least one Musse de mar acujá for dessert … maybe two!
Bottom line: B+