Upon arriving to Avenida Brasil Gourmet, a cozy, inviting Brazilian café in San Isidro, we were greeted by the owner Gisele Gradowski. Born in Curitiba, in the state of Paraná, Brazil, she has moved around Latin America quite a bit. As we sat down, she began to explain that in 2010 she moved from Rio de Janeiro (due to her husband’s job) to the Dominican Republic, then to Costa Rica, Panama and finally Peru. She’s lived here since July 2014 and, in her words, likes Peru the best.
Gisele originally had the idea of starting a food truck, but for municipality complications, she ended up opening a Brazilian style café instead. At first she planned to sell just a few snacks, coffee, iced teas and juices, but clients began asking for meals. Today she serves some of the most typical Brazilian dishes, such as Feijoada and Bobó de Camarão (or shrimp bobó), among organic salads and açaí bowls.
Brazilian expat, Gisele Gradowski (Photo: Natasha Clay/Living in Peru)
Showing us great hospitality, Gisele offered us appetizers like Pão de Queijo (a small, soft roll with cheese) baked in the moment, Esfihas and Kibe (Arabian food that has become part of Brazilian culture), as well as Coxinhas.
Esfihas is a soft dough stuffed with (in this case) shredded chicken. Formed into the shape of a triangle, it is baked to reveal a delicate fermented flavor of the dough. Meat eaters will enjoy the Kibe, a Brazilian beef croquette seasoned with onions, mint and bulgur wheat. Though lightly fried, it tastes fresh because of the mint and, as any Brazilian would highly recommend, a few lemon drops added on top. The Coxinha is a potato based dough, shaped like a tiny chicken leg. Stuffed with shredded chicken, this appetizer is also deep fried, lending it a nice crunch. These little ‘chicken legs’ are great with Tabasco sauce. All the appetizers were accompanied by a nice, cold can of Guaraná Antarctica (a typical Brazilian soda much like Peru’s Inca Kola, and far tastier than the Guaraná offered by Backus).
The perfect pair: Guarana and crunchy appetizers (Photo: Natasha Clay/Living in Peru)
After the appetizers we continued to chat with Gisele, who brought us out a wonderful Tapioca Caprese. This is a cassava (or yuca) starch formed like a tortilla and stuffed with a tomato confit, basil and mozzarella cheese. It was a light plate that may not satisfy someone used to the typical Peruvian diet, but was perfect for a quick lunch on a hot summer day or as an afternoon snack.
The main dish we were served was a – needless to say – flavorful Feijoada. This is a typical Brazilian dish made of black beans cooked with pork meat and sausages. The beans arrived in a homey ceramic dish, set atop a colorful plate with farofa (toasted cassava flour), some orange slices and couve (a leaf that is sautéed with some garlic and usually contains bits of bacon). This was all accompanied by a small bowl of warm white rice. Filling and quite tasty, the humble ingredients of this dish make it the perfect way to introduce a Peruvian (or any nationality) to Brazilian food.
At this time Gisele offered us a lemon iced tea, made with “Erva Mate,” a common and very popular herb in the Pampas region of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. This cool drink had a nice flavor and was very foamy as the tea was blended with lemon and some Stevia drops with a lot ice.
At the end of the meal we were surprised by a tray full of desserts. Typically you would just select one, however with this variety of small, sweet treats we had to try them all. She offered us Paçoca, Crumble de Uva Borgonha (Borgoña grape), and classics such as the Brigadeiro, Quindim, and Sagu. We also shared the Brazilian staple, and current international trend food, the Açaí bowl.
Like all Brazilians, I was familiar with the industrialized paçocas, however the homemade ones are always best. Made from peanuts, vanilla crackers and condensed milk, it’s a must try. The Crumble de Uva Borgonha, is a dessert typical from the southern states, due to the German and Italian colony in the region. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that the crumble served by Gisele is just like the typical one in Brazil, stuffed with this kind of winy, grape jelly, resulting in an explosion of flavors in your mouth.
(Photo: Natasha Clay/Living in Peru)
The brigadeiro is probably the most common sweet in Brazil, as it’s the first sweet you will likely find at most parties, and can be found in every bakery shop. This bite-size treat is created by cooking condensed milk with cocoa powder and some unsalted butter, after which it has to be shaped into a little ball and covered in chocolate sprinkles. The Quindim at first doesn’t look so appealing, and once people have heard it’s made of egg yolks they often associate it to some kind of weird flavor. But it’s actually the mix of egg yolks, sugar, and coconut that makes this dessert extremely moist and a pleasure at every bite.
The açaí deserves a paragraph of its own because it was just perfect. For a Brazilian, it matches the feel of summer just as an helado de lúcuma would for a Peruvian. The açaí is very similar to a berry, and it comes from a palm tree originating from the Brazilian Amazon. Gisele blended the frozen açaí pulp with a fresh banana, making it thick but not clumpy, and served it topped with sliced banana, strawberry slices and granola. As it should be, it was refreshing and perfect, especially for the unusually hot summer day we visited.
As a Brazilian expat in Peru, trying dishes that remind me about my childhood and people (such as paçoca, which reminds me about my grandmother) is something extraordinary: what an expat misses the most (despite family) is the food of their homeland. Even though Brazil and Peru are neighbor countries, finding Brazilian food, or even the ingredients, is quite hard in Lima. Now that I have found Avenida Brasil Gourmet, right on the border of San Isidro and Miraflores, it is easier to treat myself. Brazilians, Peruvians, and other expats, will for sure be welcomed by Gisele, with a smile on her face, and her awesome homemade Brazilian food.
Avenida Brasil Gourmet
Av. Conquistadores 944, San Isidro
Open: Monday-Friday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Appetizers: start at S/ 10
Tapioca: S/ 10
Açaí Bowl: S/ 20 (individual packets of frozen pulp: S/ 7)
Main dishes: start at S/ 18
Brazilian sweets: start at S/ 4