Before Gabriel and Gabriela Gebaile opened their Brazilian cafe in Melbourne's Carlton last August, they wondered if they should also offer a few Aussie staples like avocado on toast. When they decided on the name Bossa Nova, they committed to going full Brazilian, and that choice has paid off.
Originally from the countryside near São Paulo, they wanted to share staples from their area, as well as introduce dishes from the nation's other regions. “Brazilian food can be very wide open in terms of regions and ingredients. The south is more about meat like in Argentina and Uruguay. In central Brazil, there are more flavours and more pork. Then, in the north, you’ll eat more fish and veggies and fruits from the Amazon region,” explains Gabriel.
The couple quizzed their Brazilian friends about the dishes they missed the most and started collecting recipes from their families. “We called our mums, aunties and cousins, everyone! The hardest part for us was calling my mum and she didn’t have anything written down,” says Gabriel. “For the cheese bread – one of our bestsellers – we did a workshop at home with our chefs and tried 15-20 recipes until we found the right one.”
A dish that unites most Brazilians, no matter the region, is feijoada, a slow-cooked pork and black bean stew served with rice, kale, salsa and orange pieces. It also comes with farofa, which is toasted and seasoned manioc flour. “People often ask how to eat it – because if you eat it by yourself, it’s horrible and dry, but if you mix a bit of rice, feijoada and farofa, it becomes crunchy and juicy and delicious,” says Gabriela. “Some people mix everything up right away, and some mix things up slowly during the meal. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.”
While Brazilian cuisine is usually meat-heavy, Bossa Nova makes a vegan version of many classics, like the coxinha, a chicken and cream cheese croquette, which can be filled with creamy hearts of palm instead.
“It was very surprising for us to see how many people asked for a vegan version of the dishes. We added them on the menu as a response to what the Brazilian community was asking,” says Gabriela. “Some people are very excited to see a vegan feijoada because it’s very rare, even in Brazil.”
“For the cheese breads – one of our bestsellers – we did a workshop at home with our chefs and tried 15-20 recipes until we found the right one.”
The cafe’s portions are generous so you technically don’t “need” a dessert, but you’d be missing out if you don't try one. Gabriela’s aunt, who owns a cake shop in Brazil, has shared her recipe for the moreish bombocado. The dessert is made with condensed milk, coconut and egg, giving it the most perfectly crisp top and chewy bottom.
You also can’t go wrong with the Brazilian carrot cake, covered in brigadeiro, condensed milk, Brazilian chocolate powder and butter sauce.
“Every Brazilian who comes to the cafe says it’s a very nostalgic cake; it reminds them of their grandma or a birthday. It’s very homey,” says Gabriel.
And whether you’re already a Brazilian cuisine fan or you're a new convert, you can make the pleasure last by raiding the small grocery section, which is filled with Brazilian goodies like mate, farofa, hearts of palm and Brazilian coffee beans.
“Brazilians love to cook so we thought we’d let them buy the ingredients to do it at home. Or they can go on the shelf to show their friends,” says Gabriel.
156 Elgin St, Carlton Vic
Tue – Sun 8 am – 3:30 pm
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