2009-06-17 / Restaurant of the Week

Point Brazil Cafe...Grill...Buffet

Point Brazil Cafe...Grill...Buffet

This petite Brazilian café, grill and buffet rests on a quiet corner at 31st Avenue and 38th Street in Astoria. Quaint terra cotta bistro tables on the sidewalk are shaded by lovely canvas umbrellas for ideal al fresco dining. The cozy dining room holds several neat tables and is surrounded by walls in shades of sunny yellow with Brazilian paintings. Your gracious hostess, Elzi Botelho, has a very friendly, hospitable personality and has made all her guests feel welcome since Point Brazil opened eight months ago.

The concept is simple: help yourself to any of the delicious items on the buffet tables, add juicy barbecued meats if you like, and pay by the pound. In fact, for just $4.99 per pound, you can fill up your pretty square plate with so many Brazilian and international dishes, take your silverware wrapped in a napkin, and sit wherever you'd like, inside or outside. For $5.99 per pound, add succulent meats from the barbecue for a complete, satisfying meal.

The hot buffet table features over a dozen dishes which change daily to keep the steady clientele hungry for more. However, some house specials are always there such as tender tilapia fillet in coconut milk, flavored with cilantro and mild herbs. This fish is flaky and delicious and goes well over fluffy white rice. Tender chicken breast is sautéed with lemon and butter, while roast beef is braised in rich brown gravy. Creamy mashed potatoes go well with nearly everything. Two kinds of beans, red and black, were ready to be spooned over white rice or seasoned rice pilaf. I really enjoyed a traditional Brazilian side dish of beans, yucca and bits of bacon. There's even tortellini in tomato sauce with a touch of cream to enjoy. For summer, Elzi is preparing special cod fish cakes filled with fish which is a delicacy from Bahia, in northeastern Brazil.

Your next stop ought to be the churrasca, where lots of high quality meats are on long steel skewers over the fire. Choose what you'd like and the expert barbecue chef will slice your meat to order and place it on your plate. A sprinkling of course salt goes on after each slice, before returning the skewer to the fire. Picanha is a special cut of top sirloin, meant to be slowly barbecued on the rotating skewer, and is a favorite of mine. Traditional roast beef gets wonderful flavor from this style of cooking and you can have as much as you'd like, but you should also try their juicy pork or chicken sausages. Tender chunks of chicken breast are wrapped in bacon for extra flavor and the kids will love the barbecued chicken legs. Brazilians love grilled chicken hearts, a popular dish here.

After our first round of eating, my dining companion and I went to the cold buffet, where there are over a dozen freshly made salads and fruit. I took a nice portion of collard greens, cut into thin slices and quickly sautéed in olive oil and garlic for a healthy dish. Eggplant salad and colorful pasta salad are there for the taking, alongside fresh beets, cole slaw, couscous salad, cucumbers and freshly chopped salsa. You'll also find a selection of olives and cheese, as well as sliced fresh fruit such as pineapple and melons.

Everything at Point Brazil is made in house and replenished frequently for freshness, so nothing sits around for long. Point Brazil has an extensive bakery section, featuring pastries, bread and cakes from Brazil and beyond. Pan de queso are little rolls baked with cheese that I find irresistible. For dessert or an anytime snack, the chocolate mousse cake is decadently delicious, as is the plum layer cake, made with sweetened milk and plums. Cocada are little pastries made with fresh coconut, pineapple and sugar. Next time I'll try the yucca cake. A selection of cool and creamy flan, tapioca pudding, chocolate mousse and passion fruit mousse keeps cool in the refrigerated case. Freshly made fruit juices and smoothies are also available, as well as a selection of Brazilian and American soft drinks.

Come to Point Brazil for breakfast too, where the buffet opens at 7:30 am and tempts you with fluffy omelets filled with cheese, ham, spinach and mushroom and more. Fresh breads, rolls and delicious coffee fill the air with their tantalizing aromas. I know I'll be back to Point Brazil for delicious meats and side dishes from the sunny country of Brazil. Besides all the great food, you'll love the warm and friendly hostess, staff and atmosphere of Point Brazil.

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