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Monday, January 4, 2010

Let The Feasting Begin!

Actually, the feasting had already begun a looooooong time ago - last year to be exact - and we started 2010 all feasted and fattened up already. I feel as if all this food has already sunk to hip level and attached themselves snugly to the inside of my jeans.

Before coming to Brazil, I had no inkling what Brazilian food was really like. We all know about this country's famous churrascarias (steakhouses) where piping hot, tender, juicy meat is brought straight from the grill and sliced right off the skewer and onto your plate. Back home in Singapore, a visit to a Brazilian churrascaria is always a full-blast all-you-can-eat pig-out event.

But looking at the svelte bodies on the beach, it's hard to believe that the locals stuff themselves with grilled meats at every meal. If Gisele Bundchen could eat a cow a day and still look so fabulously slim, then I can't help but hate her. So what do they eat here in Brazil?

Kilo Buffets

At home, the concept of a buffet is to let you consume as much as you can for a fixed price. It preys on a certain human weakness - greed - to entice people to get their moneys worth by either overeating or zooming in on specific items like oysters and sashimi, which are considered to be of higher value. More often than not, I feel really sick after a buffet and end up regretting that extra slice of cake (and ice-cream, and pie, and prawn, etc.) or an overdose of raw fish. And admit it - how may of us actually finish every plate of food that we cart back from the buffet spread?

Kilo buffets, on the other hand, are great way to eat anything that you fancy from the buffet table and yet control your gastronomic desires. You fill a plate with food from the spread, which is then priced at a fixed rate accordingly to its weight. Kilo buffets also help curb the temptation to make repeat trips to the buffet table - you try to fit your meal onto one plate, cos the weight of the plate is taken into account, so you don't want to keep paying for each plate that you take. The end result is that you pay only for what you eat, and that helps minimize food wastage from the buffet table too.

In Singaporean terms, a kilo buffet is basically the same as ordering "economical rice". But instead of choosing 2 Meat + 1 Vegetable, you can dine on quality steak, rich seafood and sinful deserts.

Or you could think of it as eating yong tau foo. The more pieces you pick from the fishball and beancurd spread, the more you pay.

Holding my breath for the result at the weighing station

Kilo buffets come in various qualities, which are priced anything from S$0.98 per 100g to more. We had our first buffet lunch at Broth, a small lunch-only restaurant with an average spread. Together, we consumed about S$30 worth of food.

Not cheap huh. Wait till you dine at Frontera. The buffet is priced at a higher rate than Broth. Rightly so, because the quality of the dishes at Frontera is excellent. Plus, you can really good churrasco hot off the restaurant grill.

My pick of the buffet: saffron rice, slices of picante from the churrasco, caesar salad, fillet of steak and some fall-of-the-bone stewed pork.

An amazing salad spread - which I didn't want to waste stomach space on

Large selection of meat, seafood, pasta, veggies and grains from the main buffet

Obviously, hunks of juicy meat weigh more than leaves. So you can pick according to your budget. If your pockets are feeling empty, you'll literally be eating grass to survive. What I couldn't fathom was why people were loading their plates with heavy potato dishes and dense, soggy, pasta! It's a pay-by-weight buffet.... hellooo....

We learnt, by trial and error, that certain food items are accorded a higher price rate. We paid dearly for a small plate of sashimi, which cost more than items from the main buffet.

How could we resist this after abstaining from (expensive) Japanese food for 6 months in South America?

Frontera is really popular and is pretty packed, all the way till midnight

We spent a whopping S$70 at Frontera during a dinner visit. Thankfully, we were too stuffed to seriously consider anything from the dessert counter.

But that didn't stop us from returning, just for dessert! We chose to come back on 18 December, to celebrate 4 years of marriage (4 years 8 months, if you take into account the day we legally signed our lives away to each other) with some sweet stuff. We chose our candies carefully and took care not to repeat items on each others plate. We learnt that Brazilians have a very big sweet tooth - the cakes were all stuffed with cream and custard and laden with caramel, sugar frosting, chocolate rice, chocolate balls, coconut, etc.

Which made dessert very heavy - literally. Which in turn made it very expensive, as cakes are priced higher than items from the main buffet.

Ouch. But wedding anniversaries are special events that call for some splurging right? (Please agree - it would make me feel better.)

Close your eyes and pick your calories


Away from the buffet tables, there are a couple of snacks that we liked in Brazil, like this molten lump of cheese encased in a layer of bread:

Chewy cheese-filled pao de queijo or cheese bread

Fresh Fruit

Brazilians enjoy an abundance of fresh tropical fruit like papayas, pineapples, watermelons, honeydews and rock melons. Plus, they are blessed with the fruits of the Amazonian jungle - many of them known only by their indigenous names that have no English equivalent.

We loved assai, an Amazonian fruit rich in vitamins and minerals, and reported to aid weight loss, give you nice skin and heighten your prowess under the blankets. It's the new wonder fruit! The purple berries are blended with ice, and you eat the gritty slushy mixture by the spoonful. It's hard to describe the taste - I would say, like Ribena blackcurrant drinks, but more flavourful.

We also tried cashew juice. Yups, you've heard and eaten tonnes of cashew nuts, but few people know that the nut is actually the stem of the cashew fruit. Which is what makes these nuts so expensive - you have to wait for an entire fruit to grow and mature before you can harvest it's stem. The fruit itself, which looks like a yellow pepper, is not usually eaten. Not surprisingly - cos it doesn't taste too good. It doesn't even have much taste, really. And the juice leaves a strange after-feeling in the mouth. It's funny how drinking juice left my mouth felt dried out!

Fruit juice stands are literally chock-a-block - there is at least one for every block you walk, and sometimes even 2. Brazilians are a lucky lot.

My favourite - a healthy does of assai. A great frozen snack to have after a hot day at the beach.

Japanese Food

We were surprised to learn that Sao Paolo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. So it's no wonder that Japanese cuisine has found its way to Rio and into the hearts of the cariocas.

When we heard about the all-you-can-eat ala carte buffet or
rodezio at Nik, a Japanese restaurant in Ipanema, we purposely avoided going there until our final night in Brazil, with an idea of saving the best for the last.

Sad to say, all that deprivation only made the glutton in us reared its ugly head. We had arrived at the restaurant pretty late for dinner, around 10pm, only to learn that the place closes at 11pm. All discretion flew out of the window as we frantically ticked plate after plate of sushi off the food list. Even before we had finished eating what was already delivered to our table.

Chew. Chew. Chew. Tickticktickticktickticktick!

While it was a pretty good selection, I was a bit bummed to find out that many cooked items like tonkatsu, agadashi tofu and grilled fish weren't available for the rodezio.

Which means that we ended up with lots of sushi...

Clearly very happy to be eating sushi again

And more sushi... and a couple of giant handrolls.

Stuffing our mouths with rice

And finally, TOO MUCH FRICKIN' SUSHI!!! My eyes widened each time the waiter appeared with a platter filled with rice rolls and my mind whirled, "Did I really order that?!" And to make things worse, we were horrified to discover that we had somehow ticked off bowls of rice, noodles and vegetables along the way. I didn't even remember doing that! My stomach must have had wiped out my brain and taken over my entire body, especially my writing (or ticking) hand.


Erm, waiter, can we da pao please?

We knew that leftovers were charged at S$1.50 per piece. We did a quick calculation of the damage. Not good. We sheepishly tried to ask for the leftovers to be packed for take-away, only to be told that the S$1.50/piece charge applied. Uh oh.

The next best thing to do was to minimise the damage - but not by eating (cos I couldn't eat anymore - not with pieces of half-digested fish threatening to come back up my throat!) I'm not proud to say this, but I found the bowl of fried rice very useful for hiding pieces of sushi under. And the remains of the broccoli skewer found a new home in the bowl of vegetables while the leftover chicken pieces gravitated towards the noodle bowl. Dan, however, was an honourable being and made a highly commendable effort to put away the food with his mouth. Unlike his wife who was guilty of fervently stabbing at her food to make it all fit into the rice/veg/noodle bowls.

We finally admitted defeat when the restaurant closed it doors and all the staff were waiting for us to finish eating so that they could go home. We felt like criminals for wasting all that food.

And so, that brain-numbing eating ordeal meal put our pre-Christmas feasting to an end. We repented greatly by surviving on instant noodles and airline food (not that there was any served on American Airlines at all. Lousy airline!) till the after Boxing Day, where we restarted our feasting machinery with pancakes at IHOP and kept it well-oiled with pints of creamy Ben & Jerry's!

But no, no sushi for us for awhile. Ugh.


Liming said...

Ooh I like this post!

Yi Lin said...

Yeah, next time, we shall only attempt full buffets (not the kilo buffets) with real foodies! You're invited!

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