Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Batuqui um restaurante brasileiro (Batuqui A Brazilian Restaurant)

I recently visited Batuqui, a Brazilian restaurant opened in the Larchmere/Shaker/Buckeye area with some friends to test drive the restaurant and the menu, at a soft opening. A soft opening is like a dress rehearsal for restaurants. Batuqui owners, Carla Batista and Gustavo Duarte invited a small group of people to practice on before the official opening.
Firstly thank you so much for opening your restaurant in the neighborhood. Batuqui fills a culinary void and I predict much success for the restaurant.

I enjoyed the experience very much and many of the dishes are exceptional.
Batuqui has a patio in front for diners. Being in a converted house it of course has an intimate feel inside and out.
Our entourage had a great time enjoying appetizers, salads, drinks, and entrees.

The first thing we tasted was Bolinho de Bacalhau, a Cod fish croquette appetizer. It was cooked to perfection. Out of all the ways to present this Batuqui serves several slightly larger than bite sized croquettes, breaded, and deep fried. The proportion of bread to Cod is perfect and pretty traditional, however the bread coating is coarser than I’ve had in past food forays. This provided for a fantastic contrast of the exterior crunch to the pâté like Cod interior. It was served with lime garnish which to my surprise complimented the Cod well.

Pao De Queijo, another traditional dish of chewy cheese puffs was wow wonderful! I made sure these stayed at the other end of the table so as not to eat them all. Pão de queijo are a lot like French gougères. With both, the end result is a hollow pastry puff. Unlike the French gougères pão de queijo are made with tapioca flour or cassava flour and didn’t seem as crisp as the French counterpart, but were kind of melt in you mouth chewy.

The next fantastic offering that caught my palate was Calamari Samba. Only the second time I can remember having good calamari in Cleveland (J Alexander's in Beechwood??). I enjoyed the red, light, tomato based, sauce though it ever so slightly overpowered the calamari ringlets. This appetizer comes with crostini, a thin, crunchy, seasoned toast.

Xim Xim (de Galinha) was yet another smashing dish, ok this dish is just plain addicting! It was so sublime I think I had a dream about it for a couple of days afterward. Ximxim in many African tongues simply means “stew,” and galinha means chicken in portuguese. Traditionally made with palm oil, dark meat chicken, coconut, shrimp, garlic, ginger and a few other sundries this dish greets your nose as it arrives at the table. If you have allergies, make sure you ask as this dish is often made with peanuts or cashews. Although this was chock full of solid foodstuff it was more of a flavorful soup as opposed to a thick stewy liquid. To many though the process and intent determine whether it is a stew or soup. On the eco tip I’d love to see this made with olive oil rather than palm oil, though it would alter the taste and tradition, still the verdict is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Churrasco Misto, the next entre, is a style of cooking I love. The flavor was very good. The chicken and sirloin tasted like a great dry rub. Is this ever made with chicken dark meat?? It was a great with the farofa, tomato relish, and rice. Farofa is a toasted cassava flour mixture, sometimes cassava flour is substituted with maize flour (farinha de milho). So when you see that sawdust looking stuff on your plate that often accompanies meat… yes, go for it! Eat it directly, sprinkle it on your food, mix it in, revel.

Batuqui, should explore their plating and presentation a bit. I did note that on a few dishes the presentation did not bespeak how marvelous the dish was, dishes should look as exciting as is practical, ergo the garnish. Long gone are the days when an establishment would just plop a sprig of parsley on the dish and call it a day. All things being equal in the restaurant business the experience is as important as the fare and can make a big difference.

Desserts were nice, light, and satisfying.
Pudim de Leite is rich and creamy, it’s a flan made with condensed milk something sweet like sugar or honey and eggs. This was ok but didn't do much for me. It got the least attention at our table and I think was the last to disappear. I don't remember any comments about it. I'm used to the more delicately textured, thicker flan flan and this was thin and the texture very different more toward chewy than melt in your mouth. I'll try it again next time I go.

In contrast the Coconut Butter Cake was such a delight and what a surprise and extra added treat that it came to the table warm!

Another dish was Mousse de Maracuja or passion fruit mousse. One person at our table wanted some addition to the taste, to break up the flavor and although that would work I enjoyed savoring the layers of taste and how some flavor hit my palate at the back and other flavors settle near the middle, just a lot of great movement lingering at the back of my mouth.

Our server was fun and engaging, attentive and made us feel very comfortable. So was hostess Alexis/Alexandra yes she was fun.
I loved the atmosphere and the decor was fun. It was exciting seeing a guitar in the corner and the young man on the cajon or box drum was a great addition. Batuqui plans to have music on Sundays.

Batuqui should not overlook promoting that they have vegetarian dishes and should seek to provide vegetarian versions of some of the dishes they have on the menu. I spoke to someone about trying Batuqui out, they responded, "don't they have meat? Doesn't sound vegetarian to me." They have two veggie dishes and a few nice salads, but I think they can turn at least one other dish veggie with not a lot of trouble, for instance, they can do a veggie Xim Xim without the chicken, with seafood for pescatarians, without for vegetarians.

I don't know if this would challenge being totally Brazilian but they have a lot of great tastes and flavors with which to work. They could possibly marry the sauce and calamari at the last minute, which they probably do anyway, and that sauce is a possible soup base. Samba soup and salad with a side of Pao de Queijo or with crostini. I'll stop showing how much I don't know about the cuisine.
My point is to make sure they stay competitive and capitalize on their inventory and the huge vegetarian market out there today.