Basil: the best Brazilian this side of Bahia

 

Skip Johnny Rockets and Cheesecake Factory and instead head to this off-the-beaten-path cafe.

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"Gooch," Sioux Vargas and Joan Cerqueiro play outside Basil in the Grove. Photo: Walter Michot/miami.com
 

By Rayme Samuels

Restaurateur and New York native Samir Nadkarni has poured his love for Brazilian culture into the foundation of gastronomically stimulating Basil in the Grove café. Located on always lively Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove, the hip eatery's Carnival music and tropical ambiance just might cause visitors to forget what country they're in.

A true taste of Brazil is on offer at this colorful and warm cafe. Tropical juices include passionfruit, guava and mango, and for a taste of the rainforest, try a Brazilian refrigerante, or soda. Guaraná is ginger ale's bubbly Brazilian sister and comes from a fruit that contains three times the caffeine as a coffee bean.

For those with a sweet tooth, try an Açaí smoothie, a favorite with Brazilian surfers on Copacabana beach. This purple berry from the Amazon is packed with antioxidants and other feel-good properties. Here at Basil you can find it blended with ice, honey and banana in a cool treat that perfectly accompanies any lunch special.

People have been known to come back regularly just for the house salad, a mouthwatering mélange of fresh mixed greens, tomatoes, red onions, parmesan cheese and special soy house dressing. Other delicious starters include homemade empanadas made Angolan-Brazilian-style and Pão De Queijo, a traditional cheese bread.

The national dish, a hearty black bean stew filled with sausage and pork chunks called feijoda is served every Saturday. The feijoada comes second only to Basil's signature dish: a 12 to 14-ounce picanha steak, otherwise known as top sirloin, perfectly roasted in a garlic salt marinade.

"My first experience was definitely one to be repeated, and soon, if possible," says Angela Roe, a Ph.D. student from Amsterdam. "Basil is a cute place with a very savory price-quality ratio and an excellent cook. I can absolutely recommend it to everyone who wants an affordable taste of Brazilian 'soul food'." Who can pass that up?

Basil in the Grove, 3301 Grand Ave., Coconut Grove; 305-444-4848; hours: Mon-Thurs. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

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