Monthy Feature, By Ananth Ranganathan & Kevin Shalin
Each month, Ananth (a.k.a Rango) and I will hit up a local restaurant and write about one specific dish. Once the plate reaches the table, there’s absolutely no talking about it or any facial expressions. We go home, write separate reviews, and post them right here. We decided to check out Café Bossa Nova this month and try out the Brasileirissmo.
Café Bossa Nova is one of those places that my wife and I always toss out there when we are debating places to go for a date night, but it never seems to hook either one of us. So when Kevin held a gun to my back and forced me to eat a meal with him here, I literally had to try it out. For starters, we split the fried yucca root. I was pretty damn hungry when we arrived, and I love fried yucca, which made this starter a little less than impressive. The individual pieces could stand to be sliced a little thinner. Also, it needed either seasoning or something other than the spiced ketchup that accompanied it. I would explore other options for starters next time. We were both at the end of a long day, so a drink sounded good. We decided on the Caipirinha, which was unique and pretty tasty, but really strong. More than one of these drinks and you need to be calling an Uber.
The main dish we settled on was the Brasileirissimo (black beans and rice with grilled chicken and what tasted like a shredded kale salad). Overall, the dish was good, but suffered a little from a lack of flavor. The chicken was a thin sliced breast, which was cooked well in the center, but the outer portions of the mean were dry. In my opinion, dark meat would have meshed better. The black beans and rice were a little under-salted, but very tasty. The shredded kale salad was great. The dressing had some good acidity to it, so when you had a little bit of the salad with the beans and rice, it really tied everything in and made for a great bite. BTW, when the waiter brings by a small dish of spicy pickled peppers in oil and says “a little goes a long way”, this is not the time to try to be Billy Badass and slather it on your food. I tried a drop of it on a single bite, and that was enough to scorch my Indian taste buds for 10 minutes. Overall, I would say that I plan on being back to Bossa Nova in the future, just maybe ordering a couple different things. I can see why this place has been around for a long time, and will continue to be in the future.
Let me cut right to the chase … I absolutely love rice and beans. I could eat it five times a week and be a very happy man with the life I chose. So, it was a damn easy decision to order the Brasileirissimo ($16) at Café Bossa Nova. This traditional dish comes with black beans and rice, some fresh, diced veggies, and grilled onions. Everything about those elements of the dish was perfect, from the tender beans to the pillowy rice to the grilled onions that would have made a boot taste great. The main hiccup, however, was the thin, slightly overcooked chicken breast which also came with the dish. For the record, I wanted the pan-seared sirloin steak, but Rango, per usual, was being difficult and demanded we order the chicken. It’s not like the chicken was bad. It was just average and really didn’t add much to the overall plate. Those rice and beans, onions, and the shredded side greenery were all I needed. Next time around, I’m definitely opting for the steak.
A word to the wise … you will be offered a side of chile oil with the dish. Our waiter warned us that it was spicy. But, honestly, given that we live in Little Rock, the definition of “spicy” is always a head-scratcher. It’s never really all that spicy … unless you dine at Café Bossa Nova and the server tells you the chile oil is spicy. I applied way too much and the damn oil got my beautiful bald head to sweatin’ within two minutes. Good thing I had a Caipirinha to cool me down. This Brazilian drink includes muddle limes, sugar, and, apparently, a shit ton of rum. No complaints from me. I needed the alcohol to numb the burn.
Oh yeah, we also ordered a plate of fried yucca that also hit the spot, and although it could have benefitted from some salt and pepper, it was an enjoyable way to start the meal.
All and all, I really enjoyed my dinner at Café Bossa Nova and won’t hesitate to go back to one of Little Rock’s more underrated restaurants.