The front page of Boteco’s menu is stamped with the sweetest, most aspirationally South American motto we’ve read since your Facebook obituaries for Castro. “A meeting ground for Bohemians to wander / For poets to wonder / For musicians to sing and people to make merry / For revolutionaries to conspire…”
Jorge Amado it’s not, but a Latin American with a big smile and piratical air does run this ship, newly docked on a dark lane in BKC. Guto Souza of Minas Geiras was chef of Goa’s Go With The Flow and opened two outlets of Boteco in Pune before sailing in on the Bombay monsoon late last month.
Forget guitars and Communist flags: on a busy Friday in this colourful Iberian-inflected restaurant, full of football murals and painted tiles, there isn’t even an unkempt beard in sight. The appearance of a relaxed style is everywhere, but over the course of our meal we find smart, disciplined choices hard at work.
The music doesn’t overwhelm, the staff is professional without trying too hard, and the space is the generous sort to which you can bring a date, or your parents. A thrills-and-grills food menu isn’t afraid of words like “beef” and “steak” (rare, as you know, hyuk hyuk). It lists traditional Brazilian dishes with well-chosen infusions of sushi, pork momos and gravlax - multi-cuisine, much like Brazilian food itself - and works up a solid range of flavour and texture, without seeming to pander overmuch to the Indian palate.
Take Carne na Pedra, delivered to our table on a tray with a hot flat stone, thin slices of meat, a bowl of leafy salad and creamy yam wedges. We oil up the stone and toss the meat on; cook it as we like - probably so that the chef doesn’t have to weep over how well-done Indians like their meat - season with thyme butter, fresh tomato, cassava shavings and sea salt to taste, and slide it down the hatch. The meat is beautifully sliced, sweet as buff can be, and the whole drama is heart-warming.
The appearance of a relaxed style is everywhere, but over the course of our meal we find smart, disciplined choices hard at work.
Meat Me In Sao Luis
A highlight of this meal is pao de queijo, little cheese buns you can order with or without pork sausage stuffing. Both ways, this bread is a big hit, nutty and salty, and makes a trip to the dark side of BKC worth it almost all on its own.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by Boteco if you go in without much of an appetite or aren’t a big meat eater. Halfway through a rich, fragrant, Casquniha de Siri, crab meat simmered in coconut milk and tomato, we had to put our own forks down and gulp down a margarita (what a hardship) to feel less gluttonous.
But that’s not a criticism of the food itself, which offers the fun of discovery with a host of familiar tastes: coconut, chilly (via its second cousin paprika), tomato, and the utterly home-like comforts of tubers such as yam and cassava.
‘Escondidinho’ packs tender strips of dried steak over a bed of light, sweet creamed pumpkin, overlaid with strong parmesan. A bowl of curry Baiano, bursting with vegetables and served with a side of rice, tastes like an Indianised Thai curry - we could have done without the paneer cubes, but many vegetarians may feel differently.
In comparison, the drinks are a bit more up and down. A caipirinha is “probably as good as it gets outside Brazil,” says a dinner companion who practically bathed in the stuff in his extensive travels through Brazil. The drink’s big, raw tang probably can’t help but change in a country where lime, sugar, the weather and drinkers themselves, are so different from the Brazilian varieties, but this is “straight up, unusual for India,” we’re told. We also fall big-time for “manjericao,” the day’s special, a beautiful, stinging concoction of tequila and basil that we hope will find its way to the menu soon.
On the downside, a stirred margarita tastes a little too strongly of pre-mix, and a “9’er,” a drink with as many ingredients (cachaca, peach liqueur, vodka, rum and more) is tooth-achingly, plastically sweet, and best used, perhaps, in a drinking game of some sort. A sweet ‘Brazilio slam’ with coconut-infused Cachaca, coconut water and sugar is a bit of an afternoon drink, more colada than pina.
As if to right the balance, dessert is great, both show-offy and deeply satisfying. Our orders come beautifully plated: light, coconutty Brazilian baked custard and a crisp, complicated dish of almond tuiles sandwiching doce de leite, whipped cream and seasonal fruit. Every single thing on both plates, from the sticky almond wafer tuile to the lightness of the bake on the custard, is on point. Their textures are clever and fun, but they still make our heads turn with their old-fashioned sweetness. We’re already thinking of what to try on our next visit. The revolution is far off, but you might as well eat another sausage-stuffed cheese bun on the wait.
Getting there: Boteco, Ground Floor, Parinee Crescenzo, Bandra-Kurla Complex, a meal for three with a round of drinks will cost around Rs 6000.
Accessibility: No ramp access to the front door.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
Sponsored: Don't drink and drive. Remember to take an Uber for your visit to Boteca.
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