Ahoy there mateys!
I’m planning on starting a restaurant spotlight feature on the blog. This post is more impromptu and informal, but I’ll probably set some criteria moving forward like restaurants primarily known for seafood. These are going to be Cleveland-based restaurants. I’m thinking of calling the feature Making Waves, but I’ll save that for the first official one if I’m still feeling the name. I’ve got a solid list forming already, but I would also love some suggestions.
So I was recently thinking about different ethnic foods, and couldn’t really think of anything that I haven’t tried before, and then I did think of one. (I’m sure there is plenty more though)
Almost nothing came to mind when I thought of Brazilian food. Well, that’s not entirely true, I thought of something but it was Argentinian food I was thinking of. I’m not sure why I thought they were so similar, though interestingly enough, it turns out they are in fact quite similar. They both have a reputation for steak, known in both cultures as Churrasco. They also tend to use a lot of the same flavor profiles, ingredients, and staples.
So there’s a fairly new Brazilian place in my old neighborhood of Larchmere that I had heard about, and there’s also one opening up soon in Eton. The one on Larchmere is called Batuqui (pronounced something like “Ba-too-key”) and it’s in the same building that used to be occupied by Bon Vivant, a French bistro styled place that I once had brunch at.
If you’ve never been to the Larchmere area, it’s pretty unique and quite charming. A lot of the restaurants and small businesses are inside of old houses. Batuqui is no exception. They had a pretty big patio which seated almost all of the diners this evening as it was beautiful out and not too crowded. It kind of feels like you’re at a really cool house party.
These features are meant to be more of a spotlight rather than a review. I always think people should go try things for themselves. If a spot sounds intriguing to you, go form your own opinion; not everyone has the same tastes. Also I don’t like to be thought of as a food snob just because I’m a chef and food blogger — I’m actually incredibly casual, and not incredibly picky.
That said. I do have a very good palette, high quality standards and an eye for detail. I try not to be overly critical, but when things can clearly use improvement, I have no problem voicing my opinion. Constructive criticism is a good thing, and you can always take it or leave it.
I meant to take a picture of the menu, but forgot. However, I just discovered that they have a very professional looking website with the menu listed here. I like the size and selection, it seemed perfectly well-rounded. They have a good selection of drinks, which my roommate enjoyed. (I almost never drink) They also had some good specials, and our server, Misty, did a great job explaining them. Honestly, she was one of the most knowledgeable servers I’ve come across in a while, and her Portuguese pronunciation was amazingly on-point especially for being American.
We started with Linguica with Mandioca Frita ($9.50). This is a simple appetizer of Brazilian sausage and fried yucca. I was really looking forward to this as I love me some fried yucca.
I must say, however, that this was the worst dish of the evening and it was disappointing. You can even tell from looking at the photo (if you’re familiar with yucca) that something is off with the yucca. Either it wasn’t very fresh, it’s been fried too hard, or the fryer oil was old; or several of those. What you can’t tell from the photo was that it also was completely unseasoned. It was bearable if you ate it together with the sausage, but the sausage was nothing to write home about either. Overall, this dish was honestly bad and made me nervous for the meal to come.
What followed was a mix of highs and lows.
We had a side of fried bananas as well, which were ok, but a little sweet for my liking; I would’ve preferred plantains.
Although I was most excited for our fish entree which was this fancy sounding ancient fish I had never heard of before, the stand-out of the evening was definitely the steak.
Churrasco de Picanha: The traditional Brazilian steak house cut — tri-tip sirloin. Seasoned with sea salt and grilled to perfection. Served with rice, pinto beans, farofa and tomato relish. ($28)
This steak single-handedly saved the experience because it was THAT good. I’d say it was easily the best steak I’ve had all year. Perfectly seasoned and cooked, with great presentation. I may suggest ordering it one temperature under what you want or taking it off the sizzler though because the residual heat continues to cook it.
The sides that came with the steak were all bland though, however. I’m not sure why they were so under-seasoned, but I would suggest that Batuqui not fear hitting their diners with some real flavor. This is the kind of “off the beaten path” kind of place that will mostly be frequented by more adventurous diners; They’re not afraid of flavor, so the chefs shouldn’t be either.
Farofa was something new to me, but it wasn’t very exciting. It’s toasted cassava/yuca flour; it just tasted like plain breadcrumbs and wasn’t very appealing on its own. That’s the one on the west side of the above dish.
As this was a special for the evening, I don’t have the description or price, but I did get the name of the fish right: Pirarucu. This was described as a pre-historic fish, and upon looking it up I see it is similar to the arapaima, which is a gargantuan Amazonian fish I’ve seen before. The name and description is where the excitement ended, as the dish itself was highly generic and lacking in flavor. It was completely covered up by a weak coconut curry sauce. The fish didn’t get a chance to sing. Looking at the plate, you can’t even tell what it is. The pirarucu could’ve been any other mild, white fish, so this dish was very blah, unfortunately.
Oh and when I said these are things are gargantuan, I’m not exaggerating. Here’s a photo of a pirarucu (not taken by me).
Yeah, holy cow fish.
We were very stuffed, but decided to try one of the lighter dessert options as it was something neither of us have tried much of before.
Mousse de Maracuja ($6) was a delicious passion fruit mousse. It was more of a pudding, but either way it was really delicious. I’ll have to try more passion fruit; I’ve never managed to find a fresh one at a market — they’re always past their prime.
It was funny because it was dark at this point, so I didn’t have much of a chance to get a shot of the dessert. I pulled out a few tricks though having my roomate hold a phone light and something as a reflector, so I ended up with one usable shot. We were fussing for awhile to get a picture, until eventually Misty told us to “Eat it, don’t tweet it!” which made me laugh. I think she thought she offended me, but I can appreciate some good sass.
I don’t know if I’ll be implementing any kind of rating system, but if I can think of something clever I just might. Like I said I’m more just showcasing the restaurant and giving my opinion. Unless a place is really bad, I will usually recommend you at least go check a place out once. I would definitely suggest giving Batuqui a try. It has a unique charm, unique cuisine, and amazing steak. I will definitely dine there again in the future and hope they can bring up the seasoning and some of the execution.
Until next time,
May the fish be with you!