|408 N. Pleasant Valley Rd.
Austin, TX 78702
Most Austinites are familiar with Fogo de Chao and Estancia Churrascaria, which are essentially Brazilian steakhouses. But there is a much more complex side to Brazilian cuisine. It was there at Sampaio’s which unfortunately closed, but very much in evidence at a little spot on Pleasant Valley near East 5th called Rio. It’s not long on decor or ambiance, but the food reflects all the wonderful nuances of traditional Brazilian fare.
The appetizers at a traditional Brazilian restaurant are some of the most flavorful and interesting choices a foodie can make. Such is the case at Rio. The Pao de Queijo Trio is a delicious sampling of cheese breads made with yucca root and parmesan cheese. They are an absolute delight with beautiful texture. The Apim Frito is the classic yucca root fritter. Healthier for you than the french fry and just as tasty, these fritters can be dipped in the delicious malagueta sauce. Highly recommended. The Mexilhões com Leite de Côco are one of the more interesting mussel dishes you’ll taste. The optimal word in this dish is coconut, with a savory coconut sauce and garlic coated coconut flakes. These are mussels worth flexing for! And the Sopa São Conrado is my favorite soup. This is an instant flavor rush followed by more nuanced levels of taste. The cauliflower, marscapone, spinach, green peppers, potato and onion all coalesce into a wonderful brew served with parmesan crisps.
The Salgadinhos are another section of the menu to which ample space is given and why not? These are handmade savory pastries named after the ingredients they are filled with. Try the Risoli de Camarão which is stuffed with sautéed shrimp, garlic, onions, potatoes and green peppers. This is seriously good. Likewise for the Kibe, which is stuffed with beef, mint, onion, garlic and tomato. You could literally make a meal from the Salgadinhos alone: they are that filling and exceptionally well-prepared.
The entrées are also reflective of the broader array of Brazilian dishes. No meats on the skewer here, but lots of savory delights. Start with the Estrogonofe de Frango which is a wonderful Chicken Stroganoff. This is a traditional dish served with mushrooms and a beautiful red crème de leite sauce over rice and yucca crips. I almost didn’t order this dish, and I am glad I made a mid-course correction. Very tasty. The Nhocchi de Arroz com Linguiça is another example of how compelling Brazilian cuisine can be. Rio’s version of this is gnocchi made from rice and stuffed with mozzarella cheese, carrots and spinach and served with sausage. The pink crème de leite sauce is a killer! The Peixe do Arco Irís is seared Rainbow Trout in a Parmesan cream sauce that perfectly complements the fish. Sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes complete the picture, and this one is suitable for framing!
So head out to Pleasant Valley near East 5th, and sample the wares of Chef Ben Goggins. This is a restaurant that Austin needs to round out its ethnic diversity: and they’ve done a stellar job.