Culinary cage match: Shrimp
In one corner, Francesco's, in the other, Boteco. Stomachs, let's get ready to rumble!
By Danny Brody
Everyone loves shrimp. It's not a confusing sea-dweller, like branzino or loup de mer; everyone knows what it's supposed to taste like.
At Francesco, that charming little Peruvian eatery in Coral Gables, it's served over squid ink risotto, covered in an aji amarillo sauce. The aji amarillo is a distinctive Peruvian yellow pepper, and it adds a little spice to the little shrimp. The squid ink risotto, however black it might be, tastes like good rice, but nothing special and a little salty. The combination really does nothing for the small but sweet shrimp, which, instead of being tossed upon the black rice, would probably be better served separately. There really doesn't seem to be any common ground for these ingredients. And at $32, this dish should perhaps have been more thought out. The atmosphere in which you eat also counts for something, though, and at Francesco's, if you're in the mood for romantic, this is your place.
At Boteco, the boisterous Brazilian hangout on Northeast 79th Street, anything goes. Loud music one night, Brazilian balladeers the next. And with caipirinhas going for just $5.50, perhaps the kitchen could be a little more slack with the limited menu of grilled meats and traditional Brazilian petiscos, or tidbits. Shrimp is served several ways, including sauteed in a fish soup, grilled on the skewer or, my favorite, camarao frito, or fried. Nine big shrimp, crispy and served with a little tartar sauce and a few napkins. They're juicy, flavorful and pair nicely with those caipirinhas. Bars called Botecos, incidentally, come from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, where they have a saying: não tem mares, tem bares; in other words, we may not have the beautiful beaches, but we do have loads of bars. And while customers often sit on crates to drink their big beers in Brazil, at Boteco, the comfort level is quite a bit higher.
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