In 1979, Alfredo Pedro—who was born in Portugal and moved to Flushing, Queens, as a teen-ager—give up his job as an engineer at IBM and purchased a restaurant: Brazilian Coffee, on West Forty-sixth Street. Opened seven years prior, it was the harbinger of Manhattan’s Little Brazil, attracting all method of Brazilian and Portuguese entrepreneurs to arrange store close by. In 1988, Pedro modified the identify to Ipanema, for the well-known stretch of seashore in Rio de Janeiro, and thru the many years he upsized a number of instances, with out leaving the road. The menu, drawing generations of regulars, was a relentless: coxinhas (shredded-chicken croquettes), bitoque (Portuguese-style strip steak with a fried egg and rice and beans), moqueca (coconut-milk-based seafood stew from Bahia).
By 2020, pre-pandemic, the place that had began all of it was one in every of Little Brazil’s final standing institutions. When Ipanema reopened after the primary lockdown, it had been transplanted to South Norwalk, Connecticut, close to the house of Pedro’s son Victor, who, along with his brother Carlos, had largely taken over the enterprise. But in 2021 Victor and Carlos—who grew up, they informed me, as “these restaurant children that will sleep on chairs pushed collectively underneath a desk, and be on the bar simply, like, mixing random stuff”—took out a brand new lease on West Thirty-sixth Street. In May, Ipanema hung its shingle in Manhattan once more, down the block from Keens Steakhouse, which opened in 1885 and is the final survivor of the Herald Square theatre district.
Where Ipanema’s authentic iterations tended towards kitsch, the newest inside is pure glamour, a managed riot of luxe supplies: curving wooden, gleaming marble, jungle-green tiles, cascades of tropical foliage, efficiency velvet, romantic lighting, Getz and Gilberto on the stereo. The meals, too, from a Brazilian-born chef named Giancarlo Junyent, who cooked at Tom Colicchio’s Temple Court, veers fancy, in a barely outmoded manner. On a latest night time, a wonderfully spherical mould of foie-gras mousseline was capped with a translucent layer of passion-fruit gelée, and bacalhau, or salt cod, got here elegantly molded, too, one layer in a tower that additionally included shredded potato, egg yolk, and olive tapenade.
Entrées have been homier. An wonderful feijoada, an inherently rustic Brazilian black-bean stew, thick with kielbasa and pork loin, was served in a ceramic cauldron alongside miniature clay pots of white rice and steamed collard greens and a dish of farofa, or toasted cassava. More satisfying nonetheless was lunch every week later, on the daytime-only café inside the restaurant referred to as Bica, which is shorthand for the Portuguese equal of an espresso (and an acronym, some say, for “beba isto com açúcar,” which means “drink it with sugar”). Here are the coxinhas, the pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg tarts), the pão de queijo, gently blistered, chewy cassava-flour-and-cheese rolls ubiquitous in Brazil.
It’s straightforward to roll your eyes at an açai bowl, however what’s turn out to be a manic health-food craze in America, smacking of snake oil, originated as a traditional, scrumptious beachy breakfast in Brazil, the place açai berries develop. The thick, tart, candy frozen slurry, topped with sliced banana and strawberry, may not hit the identical, as the children say, on the sun-baked sidewalks of midtown because it does on the well-known mosaic pavement of Copacabana, however it’s undeniably refreshing. If Bica’s number of bowls might technically be described as fast-casual, there could be nothing unhappy about having any of them for lunch at your desk. For the Lagos, tiny, garlicky shrimp, roasted fingerling potato, and a zingy chickpea salad are piled onto purple quinoa. For the Amazon, a mattress of child spinach and kale is decked with candied cashews, dried fig, purple candy potato, pink chicory, and inexperienced apple, as colourful and as cheerful as confetti. (Ipanema dishes $15-$48. Bica dishes $8-$18.) ♦