Pittsfield: Brazilian Restaurant and Pub
Outstanding Rotisserie and Buffet
By: Charles Giuliano - Dec 09, 2007
Brazilian Restaurant and Pub
75 North Street
Pittsfield, Mass. 01201
413 236 9100
Owner: Bill Singh
Chef: Almemi Braga
Having moved from East Boston to the Berkshires we surely miss the great quality and variety of ethnic restaurants in the old neighborhood. During three weeks in Italy recently, and many pizzas later, I came to the astonishing conclusion that Santarpio's, in Eastie, is not just the best pizza in America, but even tops the Old Country. Man could I use a slice.
While the Berkshires lack the range and variety of big cities, if you scour about, it is possible to find some great dining options. Last night we gathered with friends at the simply fabulous Brazilian Restaurant and Pub in Pittsfield. It was our first visit having tried with no luck on other occasions. Once it was just closed for an "emergency" and another time there was a "private party." On both occasions Astrid and I opted for the terrific brew pub which is just steps away.
Our friends Steve and Jan Nelson recalled when the basement space had housed a great barbecue joint. Then, with no explanation, the owner/chef just split. There were interesting rumors as well as a real sense of loss for die hard barbecue fans. When we e mailed Robert Henriquez and Lisa Avery they were most enthusiastic about our plan. They have become regulars. Particularly Robert, who was born in Haiti, for whom good Caribbean food is less an option, than a matter of survival.
For a Saturday night it seemed a bit slow but chatting with the owner, Bill Singh, he revealed that with more than 50 diners it had actually been a pretty good night. But we didn't get to hear live Brazilian music as anticipated. During the slower winter nights that gets tricky. As well as, a business decision of just how much buffet to put out or meat on the rotisseries. But if people come and there is no meat, then, he fears the loss of a customer and the word spreads. Of course in the warmer months the restaurant flourishes and is an option for those coming to enjoy concerts, theatre, and art in ever more dynamic Pittsfield.
We were curious how a man of Indian heritage came to open a Brazilian restaurant? "I am married to a Brazilian" he replied. The chef is Almemi Braga who brings years of restaurant experience in Rio to this venture. Singh said that he had just returned from visiting Brazil the day before. We also discussed some of the several Indian restaurants in the area and agreed that the Black Swan next to Laurel Lake was by far the most authentic. We dined there with an Indian couple who were impressed by the range of the menu which covered several regions and styles of cuisine. "Too often Indian restaurants get Americanized" Singh commented. "Particularly the spices." Never having visited Brazil, but a veteran of several first class Brazilian restaurants in Boston, I would say that the food served in Pittsfield is first class. We noted that it wasn't particularly spicy.
Of the rotisseries meats I particularly enjoyed the pork ribs. They were absolutely wonderful, very tender and meaty. Unlike "barbecue" style there was no evidence of sauce or dry rub. Just juicy, slow roasted meat. Singh said that the ribs came in second in a competition among 32 restaurants. That sounds about right. And man, I know my ribs. Steve agreed. While Jan and Lisa opted for the chicken wings which were huge and tasty. Astrid passed on the roasted meats and stuck to the buffet which included white and yellow rice, pork with okra, black beans, fried plantain, steamed vegetables, carrots, cauliflower in a white cream sauce, salad with separate salsa, and a grain like dish that compares to a drier and finer version of couscous. Robert said that he puts it on rice and covers that with beans. He was also specific about trying the meats first, roast beef, roast pork, ribs, sausage, and then going to the buffet for the rice and beans. I tried the stewed chicken hearts and they were interesting if a bit chewy.
We talked about how Astrid grew up on innards in Germany. When dining at Chez Pierre in Montreal, with authentic, country style, French cooking, she often orders variations of offal. These are meats that Americans do not commonly eat. I discussed how my Sicilian father often put such delicacies on the table. Including octopus salad which my Irish uncle Jimmy enjoyed until he learned what it was and dramatically spit it out. It was pretty funny but we didn't laugh one night when Dad cooked and there was a split calf's head on our plates. We refused and Dad ended eating all of them with great flourish. Like the time when we ordered bouillabaisse in a little fishing village near Nice. It was so hot and spicy we couldn't eat it. So Dad ate all of our servings loving ever bit. Until the next few days of recovering from a bad case of scorched esophagus. Now that was funny. Or when, on that trip, we tried escargot and reeked of garlic breath.
The Brazilian restaurant offered a nice range of beers on tap. I had a Berkshire Brewery Cabin Fever Ale which was rich and tasty while the others ordered Guinness. There was lively conversation over the brews with Robert holding forth on his many adventures during a career of working for CBS. Steve added commentary on how CBS missed out on the Cable business. Astrid and I talked about our travels in Italy and Lisa offered further reflections on her experiences with Earth Angels.
There was a consensus for desert with the options of smooth and creamy flan or a dense slice of chocolate cake covered with sprinkles. It was a wonderful evening of fine food and lively conversation. Overall, for authentic Brazilian food this was far and away the Best in the Berkshire.