By Ram Alcoseba-Martinez |June 29,2018 - 09:08 PM

WE BOOKED our hotel on West 46th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue in New York City, and little did I know that this little neighborhood of restaurants and shops in Manhattan is the best place to have an authentic Brazilian experience despite its close proximity to Times Square.

I mean, I wanted to taste food other than American pizza, hotdogs and medium rare steaks.

While I would also like to eat the famous NYC steaks, I can’t stand the madding crowds at Times Square.

So to satisfy my cravings on my first day, I headed back towards my hotel to look for good food at a place that’s far from the throng of people congregating at the touristy intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

Fortunately, a few blocks off Broadway there were many places to choose from, especially on 46th Street.

There’s Brazil Brazil, a steakhouse; Emporium Brasil, home to caipirinhas, Brazil’s national cocktail which is made from cachaca (sugarcane) made into a hard liquor plus lime and sugar; Via Brasil which serves grilled steaks and stews; and Ipenema which serves feijoada (stewed beans with beef and pork of Portuguese origin), vatapa (scrumptious seafood stew made from bread, shrimp, coconut milk and ground peanuts mashed into a creamy paste) and bacalhau assado (baked cod in olive oil and covered with slices of potatoes and onions).

Having no particular plans, I just decided to dine at Ipanema.

Aged top sirloin steak in a
sizzling platter

Perhaps influenced by the song “The Girl from Ipanema,” I found myself at doorsteps of this restaurant. The restaurant, which opened in 1979, is considered the best Brazilian restaurant in all of NYC.

Their list of options in their menu is said to be tightly rooted in the culinary crossover between Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine.

Their dinner menu is more than just a random list of dishes. It has six sections: Carnes (meats), Frutos Do Mar (seafood), Peixes (fish), Vegano (for vegans), Aves (chicken) and Os Classicos which includes Bitoque, their most popular dish of grilled NY strip with fried eggs in garlic sauce.

Under this section one can find Vatapa and feijoada completa made from black beans.

But this is an elaborated version of simple bean dish because instead of the usual pork and beef, sausage, bacon, salted spare ribs or smoked pork tongue are used.

I asked the waiter to describe the dishes to help me choose from the menu. I was getting really hungry, famished even.

Under the Carnes section, which is listed first, there were five choices: Picanha, my first choice; Fraldinha Com Chimichurri, which is skirt steak in an uncooked sauce made of parsley, cilantro, crushed red pepper and cumin; Churascco Ipanema, that is grilled NY strip with shrimp, crab meat and melted cheese on top; Churrasco Misto, or a mixed-grilled platter of chicken thigh, pork sausage and pork belly on sirloin; and Churrasco Gaucho, that is another grilled NY strip with fried potatoes and parmigiana.

I ordered their Picanha, three pieces of aged top sirloin served on a sizzling platter.

potato chips in a basket

To compliment my dish, I also got the black beans feijoada dish. And rice— yes, rice—although their potato chips were incredibly tasty.

The specially trimmed prepared sirloin steak was almost perfect, juicy and very tender.

It had a delectable combination of melted fats and the yucca powder and vinaigrette placed on top of it enhanced the taste.

Instead of the usual A-1 sauce, I think it’s the yucca that made the steak more flavorful. Yucca (very similar to our cassava) is dried and toasted.

Like potatoes, it contains nearly zero fat, has low protein content but high amounts of carbs.

A 100 grams serving of yucca contains about 38 grams of carbs and just under 1.5 grams of protein.

The good thing is that rice was included as an option for the Picanha aside from the potato chips, which are equally good when eaten with the steak.

Rice plus the feijoada (which almost looks like our Dinuguan dish as it was black in color) even made my meal more enjoyable.

I was bursting at the seams.

I did try their caipirinhas, but since I’m not really a drinker, I settled instead for a cold Pepsi.

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