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Bacana Brasil is a churrascaria: You sit at your table, and costumed "gauchos" bring you meat until you tell them to stop. Most selections at least offer the simple pleasures of grilled meat. Standouts include juicy, tender top-round sirloin and super-size lamb shish kebabs. Side dishes and salads are available from the salad bar and hot buffet -- but considering how much meat you'll ingest, you probably shouldn't visit these more than once. Everything but drinks and dessert (if you can manage it) are included in the all-you-can-eat price.
With its candlelit bar, thatched décor and the gentle sounds of bossa nova in the air, atmosphere alone is worth a trip to Brasilia. The South Grand restaurant showcases traditional Brazilian fare (and a few non-traditional items) in a quint setting that all but begs for a round of caipirinhas. Stand out dishes include coxihna, an appetizer of chicken filled fritters that taste like savory chicken doughnut holes. Pastel is another must-try. These empanada-like hand pies come in your choice of beef, chicken or cheese and are so delectable you’ll wish you had ordered two. Entrees include feijoada, the traditional Brazilian black bean stew with beef, pork and sausage and vatapa de frango, which is a chicken breast covered in rich cashew nut gravy. Brasilia offers a variety of seafood dishes, including whole fish, and stews, but really, it doesn’t matter what you nosh on -- the setting steals the show.
The nonstop creative mind of Bill Christman -- the man behind those whimsical sculptures at the City Museum -- helped to fill Maya Café with offbeat artworks. There's a large deck out back, complete with the whimsical addition of a real antique fishing boat, making Maya Café the only place in landlocked Maplewood where you can drink a margarita on a boat. Owner Jay Schober has created a restaurant to match the decor, with pan-Latin cuisine just as varied. Far from simply a Mexican restaurant, Maya Café offers a plethora of dishes that span Central and South America, not to mention Spain. Specials have included shrimp with coconut milk (from Brazil), banana leaf-wrapped tamales (Colombia) and flank steak with fried plantains, topped with a fried egg (Venezuela). Maya Café features live music on the weekends and house-made margaritas that are so good you'll want a pitcher to yourself.
CLOSED A big, bold pan-Latin restaurant with a breathtaking design, clockwork service and dishes that are always satisfying, often excellent. The best dishes play with the contrast between savory and sharp - beef tenderloin served with succulent langostino tails in a bright garlic sauce; adobo-seasoned chicken perked up with a "ceviche" of avocado and corn - not to mention the subtle interplay between sweet and earthy in the crab-spinach enchiladas. The wine list features an impressive array of South American wines, including a section devoted to malbec, and desserts are worth saving room for - an important point to remember, considering the generous entrée portions.
Yemanja Brasil preserves the authenticity of Brazilian cuisine as much as possible given the limited availability of the extraordinary fishes, fruits, spices and other raw materials native to South America. Be prepared to duke it out with a few red-hot chile peppers. Feijoada, for example, a stew of pork and black beans that serves as Brazil's national dish, is aggressive enough to sandbag anyone whose palate hasn't been in training. Many of Yemanja's dishes are deep-fried as well as spicy. But Brazil's cuisine is one of the most appealing in the world, and Yemanja does a fine job of introducing us to it.
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