2004-09-03 / Restaurant of the Week

Via Brasil Has Great Food And Samba Too

TYou don’t have to go to Brazil to sample that country’s fine cuisine, music and friendly people. Just venture across the East River to West 46th Street in Manhattan between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, where you can enjoy a trip to the tropics right here in New York City.

One of the most outstanding Brazilian restaurants on this one-block stretch of West 46th Street, where there are many, is Via Brasil. The beautiful décor sets a lovely mood in which to partake of the luscious grilled meats and fish that exemplify Brazilian cuisine. The festive atmosphere features warm wood floors, tables dressed in crisp, white linens and stained glass etched with colorful images of parrots. Waiters bustle through the airy dining room carrying frosty caipirinhas (kai-pee-reen-yas), the national cocktail of Brazil. This refreshing drink is made with fresh limes and a local libation called cachaca that packs a powerful punch. Passion fruit cocktails and coconut and mint drinks are also available, as well as a fine selection of wines from Brazil, Italy, Spain and California, most of which are reasonably priced. Live samba music is performed on the centrally located stage every Friday and Saturday night from 7:30 p.m. to midnight, creating an even more inviting atmosphere that’s conducive to a romantic evening.

 Via Brasil
  34 West 46th St.
Via Brasil 34 West 46th St. Manhattan 212-997-1158 Even with all the relaxing ambience, Via Brasil’s prices are surprisingly affordable. Delectable appetizers start at just $1.50 and include tasty codfish croquettes, which are crisp on the outside and tender and flaky inside, and golden empanadas stuffed with seasoned chicken. Tender, flaky pastries called pasteis are filled with seasoned ground beef. Yucca rolls are Brazil’s answer to potato croquettes. There’s also a hearty black bean and pasta soup, as well as caldo verde, a traditional green soup made with sausage, potato and collard greens.

The cuisine of Brazil relies on abundant high quality meat and fish. Perhaps the country’s most famous culinary contribution to the world is the churrasco; meat on a skewer cooked on a rotisserie over an open flame. Via Brasil prepares a churrasco misto, or mixed grill, that supplies a king-size portion of succulent filet mignon, juicy pork, tender chicken breast and Brazilian sausage cooked to perfection and served with a generous helping of French fries, fluffy rice and savory black beans ($21.95). An accompanying salsa vinaigrette is a wonderful complement to the juicy meat. Juicy shell steaks with fried onions ($16.95) and filet mignon wrapped in smoky bacon also come from the Via Brasil grill. Steak tidbits sautéed with tomato, onion and green peppers over rice make another satisfying meal. The beef and polenta casserole is unique. A traditional dish called fejoada, a thick and hearty stew, includes black beans, beef, salt pork, fresh pork, sausage, ribs and collard greens.

Fish and seafood are served at their peak of freshness at Via Brasil. The waiter will describe daily specials such as a whole grouper served with shrimp and a lobster tail. Flaky filet of flounder is served with shrimp sauce. Plump shrimp sautéed with garlic, oil and fresh parsley make for a lighter meal. Codfish and vegetable casserole is another example of Brazilian cuisine, and Via Brasil prepares it very well.

There are plenty of poultry dishes too, such as grilled Cornish game hens or chicken breast sautéed with white wine and mushrooms. Diced chicken in a simple garlic and lemon sauce with rice and beans, yucca or fried plantains is just $14.95.

Desserts at Via Brasil keep the tropical theme going. Heading the list are creamy coconut custard topped with plum sauce and lighter-than-air passion fruit mousse. It’s no surprise that the coffee is outstanding. Enjoy your meal at a leisurely pace while you soak in the music and atmosphere at Via Brasil. The service is excellent and the staff is friendly and courteous.

Since 1978, Via Brasil has been serving the best of Brazilian cuisine and on weekends offering soothing music to diners as well. Its location makes it an ideal choice for pre-theater or late night dining and they’re open seven days a week. Try the flavors of Brazil at Via Brasil—a taste of the tropics in midtown Manhattan.

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