Film and Television

Get in the Gold Medal Spirit: 7 Top Brazilian Restaurants

You can’t go anywhere lately without hearing the trill of vuvuzelas or the roar of the crowd. The games are underway in Rio, where records are shattered, dreams are made, and heroes are born. Can’t afford the plane fare and the cost of the tickets? Don’t worry, you can still get a taste of the host country here in the States. Here are top Brazilian restaurants to fuel your dreams.

The Grill from Ipanema, Washington, D.C.
The Brazilian outpost in the nation’s capitol thrives in the buzzy Adams Morgan neighborhood. Chef Alcy De Souza offers an epic menu, which encompasses the width and breadth of his home country’s cuisine. He makes a mean feijoada, Brazil’s national dish. The thick black bean stew is fortified with plenty of protein, including beef, pork sausage, and smoked meats, ensuring it will stick to your stomach for hours after you dine. It’s the perfect preemptive order if you plan on enjoying the tropicalia-styled cocktail menu, which features caipirinha (of course!), maracujinha (cachaça-amped passion fruit juice), and batida de côco (a creamy coconut sipper spiked with cachaça and vodka). Make a reservation at the Grill from Ipanema.

Top Brazilian Restaurants

Tradicao Brazilian Steakhouse, Webster, Texas
Being your meal at this churrascaria with a trip to the outsized salad bar, which features more than 30 options. Make sure you don’t overload your plate though because this is only the beginning. Back at your table, you’ll be given a coaster with a red side and a green side. Leave the green side up and servers will continue to bring you an onslaught of meats, including beef, lamb, chicken, and fish, as well as sides, such as mashed potatoes, garlicky rice, and caramelized bananas. When you feel like you’ve had enough – or you just want to take a break, so you can rest up for the next round – flip your coaster over to the red side to stop the edible assault. Make a reservation at Tradicao Brazilian Steakhouse.

Top Brazilian Restaurants

Ipanema, New York, New York
Perched in the heart of Manhattan’s Little Brazil, this storied eatery has been giving diners a taste of their unique Brazilian-Portuguese (sometimes referred to as luso-Brazilian) cuisine for more than three decades. Expect the classics, including crème de camarão (shrimp bisque), vatapá (grilled monkfish and shrimp stew made with dende oil and crisped up hazelnuts), picanha, and feijoada. Wash it all down with a few caipirinha, which are available in the classic style or accented with your choice of coconut cream or passion fruit juice. Just don’t drink too many or you might wake up in Rio. Trust us, vuvuzelas sound even worse when you’re hungover. Make a reservation at Ipanema.

Top Brazilian Restaurants

Espetus Churrascaria, San Francisco, California
You could call this a fire-to-fork concept. The rodizio style restaurant brings diners a seemingly endless parade of skewered offerings, all cooked over mesquite by the gaucho chefs. Options include bacon-wrapped filet mignon, pork loin, chicken hearts, shrimp, lamb, and pineapple, whose juiciness and caramelized sweetness offers a nice counterpoint to the proteins. Complement this fare with sides from the salad bar, such as moqueca de peixe (fish stew) and the requisite feijoada. If there’s still room for something sweet after overindulging on savory items, try the pudim (caramel topped milk and egg custard) or crème de papaya (a blend of ice cream and papaya) lavished with crème de cassis and accompanied by a scoop of cassis sorbet. Make a reservation at Espetus Churrascaria.

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Dishes Worthy of a Game of Thrones: Feasts Fit for the Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms

In between the murder and mayhem, betrayals and backstabbing, trysts and torrid affairs, the characters on Game of Thrones love to indulge with a good meal. The kitchens at King’s Landing, Winterfell, and the Inn at the Crossroads are renowned throughout the Seven Kingdoms for turning out memorable feasts of epic proportions. So as the hit HBO show returns for its sixth season, we wondered what the Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryens would eat if they stepped out of our televisions and into our dining scene (we’ll take a pass on dining with Ramsay Bolton). Here are seven Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun-sized Game of Thrones dishes worthy of the successor to the Iron Throne. Because #winteriscoming.

Seaspice & Modern Garden, Miami, Florida
When Tyrion returned to Winterfell after his time on the Wall, the cooks whipped up a stunning supper starring roasted suckling pig. The Imp would surely approve of this rendition, which is served tableside with yucca gratin, green plantain fries, and pickled beets. Given the size and preparation time of this not-so-little piggy, the restaurant requires a two-day notice before the reservation and a four-diner minimum. We suggest fasting for those 48-hours, so you can truly do it justice. Make a reservation at Seaspice & Modern Garden.

Game of Thrones dishes

Makoto, Bal Harbour, Florida
Reminiscent of the fare served at Ned Stark’s first dinner in King’s Landing, the Kurosawa bone-in ribeye clocks in at a beyond-impressive 26 ounces. Marble-rich and imported from the Land Down Under (Australia, not Sothoryos), the beef is grilled on the robata, sliced up, and served on the grill in a stunning presentation that may have even given the King’s Hand pause to admire it. Make a reservation at Makoto.

Game of Thrones dishes

The Guild, West Hollywood, California
On Oath Day, the newly minted brothers of the Nights Watch dine on food normally reserved for the Master Commander and his high-ranking crew. Jon Snow and company enjoyed rack of lamb, which reminded us of chef Cho’s rack of New Zealand lamb chops. Pierced with a knife to create an Instagram-worthy presentation (#jonsnowisforever), it arrives with brown butter pommes puree, pomegranate demi, and a variety of veggies. Make a reservation at the Guild.

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City of Gold: Intrepid Dining Tips from Food Critic Jonathan Gold

Pulitzer Prize-winning insatiably curious eater and Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold, star of the new documentary City of Gold, shares how dining out is one of the best ways to discover a city, whether traveling or in your hometown.

Jonathan Gold

Finding a city’s hidden gem eateries — be it a dusty food truck with incredible fried fish tacos or a counter spot in a dingy strip mall slinging life-changing pho — is far more than an Instagrammable form of epicurean off-roading. It awakens us to the oft-underappreciated mosaic of cuisines and cultures that make up our cities’ landscapes.

For Jonathan Gold, longtime food critic at the L.A. Times and star of a documentary on this very subject, dining out has always been about uncovering culinary treasures — a quest that started in his early 20s with a mission to try every hole-in-the-wall restaurant and ethnic street vendor on a 15-mile stretch of LA’s Pico Boulevard.

Last month while in Chicago promoting the release of City of Gold, he caught up with OpenTable for a little Intrepid Dining: 101. From scouting foreign-language message boards for restaurant tips to eating at (literally) every Indonesian noodle house, he shared advice on how to discover — or perhaps re-discover — a city’s culture through its food.

Was there a certain cuisine or experience when you were starting out that sparked your curiosity?

I did this thing right after college when I was bored out of my mind working as a proofreader at a law newspaper – I decided to eat at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard. It was at the time of the wars in Central America, so there was a lot of new immigration there and a lot of new places, from street vendors to tiny little restaurants.

I’d grown up in LA and driven down this street before thinking those restaurants were monolithically Mexican because everything was in Spanish. And then you start going from door to door and you go, wait a second, this one’s Guatemalan, this one’s Nicaraguan, this one’s from El Salvador, this one’s from Mexico but it’s Jalisco, and this one’s also Mexican but it’s Sinaloa so the food is completely different. Then you do it a little more and you see which ones have big city or European influences because their menus are more continental.

It wasn’t even the actual basic things being served. It was just the knowledge that this wasn’t monolithic, that what had seemed like one big thing turned out to be this mosaic — an endless, tessellated grid of culture. And it was so good.

What’s your strategy for finding under-the-radar restaurants?

I do it a million different ways. I will go down certain streets and eat at every single restaurant. I’ll spend hours on message boards in foreign languages with Google translate, like Weibo, the Chinese Facebook. I also find that going to a restaurant that looks like the center of a community probably means what you’ll find there will be pretty good. It may not be the absolute best one. But then what I’ll do is eat at all of the Indonesian noodle houses to tell you which one is the best one.

How long does that usually take you?

Sometimes that takes quite awhile, other times not so much. I tend to try to spread them out, but there always comes a time where it will be six places in a weekend.

Is there anything that would make you skip a place? Your strategy seems to be to try pretty much everything.

Yeah, well (laughs), I don’t like being bored. One kind of restaurant I tend not go to is actually lounge restaurants. I find the food tends to be really subsidiary to what else is going on there. Or if I’m looking at an Italian restaurant and it has exactly the same menu that every other Italian restaurant has, there’s no point in going there.

Jonathan Gold

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Out of This World: 12 Ways to Dig Into Potatoes, Inspired by The Martian

With the Oscars just around the corner, we’ve got movies on the brain. Nominated for seven of the coveted awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name, has our vote. Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney — stuck on Mars and fervently plotting to survive long enough to be rescued, he (SPOILER ALERT) figures out how to grow potatoes on the previously barren planet. While Watney only gets to enjoy the fruits (or tubers) of his labor with salt or ketchup, his efforts inspired us to count the ways we love a good spud. Fried, baked, mashed, topped with cheese, or folded into pillowy gnocchi dough, potatoes are pure starchy pleasure. Below find some of our favorite ways to dig into a potato. Surely, The Martian would approve.

Marta, New York, New York
If you’re having trouble deciding whether pizza, potatoes, or pasta is the ultimate comfort food, head straight to Chef Nick Anderer’s Marta in Manhattan’s Martha Washington Hotel for your definitive answer. Marrying the best of all three, Patate Alla Carbonara is a white, thin-crusted pizza cooked on a wood-fire grill and topped with potatoes, guanciale, black pepper, pecorino, and egg, for an especially comforting and tasty iteration of the classic Roman Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. Make a reservation at Marta.

MARTA breakfast pizzas

Blue Duck Tavern, Washington, D.C.
This contemporary neighborhood spot in D.C.’s West End turns 10 this year, and while their signature Handcut BDT Fries have been on the menu from the beginning, they’re revamping the recipe for the occasion. Russet potatoes are steamed, dried, seasoned, and mixed. The mashed result is molded onto a sheet pan, hand cut, and fried for a delightfully unique take on your average french fry — inside, a fluffy foil to the perfectly crispy exterior. A happy birthday, indeed. Make a reservation at Blue Duck Tavern.

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No. 9 Park, Boston, Massachusetts
With a few ingredients, gnocchi can be made relatively easily, but in the hands of chef Barbara Lynch, simple potato dumplings are elevated to legendary status. In a multi-step process, Lynch’s Prune-Stuffed Gnocchi start with made-from-scratch potato dough, which cover prunes that have marinated in Vin Santo. Forget pillows; this dough is as soft as a down comforter, lovingly wrapped around each sweet wine-soaked fruit. The dumplings are covered with a foie gras butter sauce and topped with slabs of seared foie gras and slivered almonds. Licking the plate might be frowned upon in this stately Beacon Hill spot, but we’re not here to judge. Make a reservation at No. 9 Park.

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Bird Dog, Palo Alto, California
The menu at this sleek Palo Alto bistro highlights the best of Japanese meets California cuisine. Broken into three sections, ‘raw’ offers fresh crudo, ‘protein’ features salmon and Wagyu beef, and ‘vegetables’ includes, among other thoughtfully inventive dishes, the Potato Terrine. Chef Robbie Wilson’s version features paper-thin potato layers topped with Tuscan kale, nori, preserved grapefruit, and a butternut squash puree for a dish that’s as beautiful as it is flavorful and comforting. Make a reservation at Bird Dog.

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Prime & Provisions, Chicago, Illinois
At this swank steakhouse in Chicago’s River North, the name says it all. The Substantial Baked Potato is stuffed with thick-cut bacon, cheddar cheese, and crème fraîche for an elevated take on the quintessential steakhouse side. Your porterhouse needs this potato. Pro tip: it’s colossal, so get one to share. Make a reservation at Prime & Provisions.

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The Breslin, New York, New York
Oh, your favorite French fries are cooked once? How quaint. At chef April Bloomfield’s Michelin-starred gastropub in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, the Thrice Cooked Chips are boiled first, then fried twice for the ultimate in crisp, chewy, salty goodness. They come alongside the excellent Chargrilled Lamb Burger, or order a batch on the side with cumin mayo for dipping. They’re what all fries aspire to be. Make a reservation at The Breslin.

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