Traveling and eating are almost always on my mind. In my world, the two go hand in hand. Food is at the center of any vacation and cultures define nearly every dining experience I embark on. Even when just eating out locally, the food I consume almost always takes me to another land. Right now, South America is on the top of my travel wish list. While this may have something to do with living vicariously through one of my closest friends' recent honeymoon, the continent has long been calling my name. The history, the endless possibilities of outdoor excursions, and the amazing cuisine could not be more perfectly suited to my interests. And since 2009's travel schedule is basically set in stone for me, my South American dreams will just have to remain a fantasy. In the meantime, I will use my fork to take me there.
A recent trip to Washington, DC definitely took me a step closer geographically. But, it was the meal at the Grill from Ipanema in Adam's Morgan that truly transported me to the heart of Brazil. After one sip of their signature caipirinha, I was ready to tell people I had been to the Copacabana. It also probably didn't hurt that it was the perfect Spring evening (after what felt like solid weeks of cold rain in New York) and we were able to comfortably sit outdoors - as I imagine this possibility at all restaurants in Brazil. However, whether inside or out, this is a festive restaurant - entertaining both couples and groups through their authentic drinks, cuisine, and music.
Everything on the menu reflects the flavors and spirit of Brazil. We started with an appetizer of traditional spicy sausage sliced and sauteed with onion. This was delicious and perfectly prepared with a charred exterior. We then decided to mix it up in true vacation style and go for alligator, a dish that is a rarity in America - especially north of the wetlands. At this point in the evening, there was no longer any indication that I was still on American turf given the plate in front of me and the amount of Portuguese being spoken around me. And, I was nicely surprised by this delicacy. This meat which actually tastes like a combination of fish and chicken can be considered a healthy alternative to more fatty meats. The alligator was lightly breaded, fried, and served with a spicy honey mustard sauce on the side. Believe it or not, there was nothing but lettuce left on the plate in the end! For the main courses, we reverted back to more traditional items, but were very impressed with the quality of the meat and the authenticity of the preparations. My favorite, the grilled steak of picanha served with black beans, rice, collard greens, and farofa (grounded yuca roasted with garlic and butter), was served with a fresh vinaigrette sauce. The meat was extremely tender and there was enough of it to feed several hungry Brazilians (and probably one large American).
While the portion size was the only indicator that hinted at the reality of my actual American location, the ability to linger and enjoy the outdoor setting kept me in my own fantasy land for the rest of the evening. Traveling really comes down to how you choose to define it. Whether it involves a ten hour plane ride, a five hour train ride, or even a 3 block trek, a great journey is all about the experience and food involved. And whether you live in Washington, New York, or even Brazil, the Grill from Ipanema will transport you to that place we all truly desire where you can actually kick back and enjoy a quick adventure.
The Grill from Ipanema
1858 Columbia Road, N.W
Washington, DC 20009
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):