Sinha serves up Brazilian lunch

July 27, 2012 (CHICAGO)

We typically think of the all-you-can-eat meat-fests when we think of Brazilian food in Chicago.

But for the last several years, a sliver of a restaurant near the United Center has been open for Sunday brunch only, featuring Brazilian home-cooking.

A few weeks ago, the owner decided to open for lunch every day, cooking the same wonderful food from her cozy kitchen.

This casual lunch in the garden apartment of a quiet home on the Near West Side certainly has its charms. Until recently, the hearty plates of Brazilian home-cooked food were only available on the weekends. But Sinha has expanded to lunch service, bringing with it one of the city's best deals. Guests start with a small buffet, including hearts of palm salad and the national symbols of basmati rice and black beans.

"It's always with pork and some type of beef, usually dry - the smoked type - that's what gives a wonderful taste to the beans," said Jorgina Pereira, owner of Sinha.

There are also vegetarian beans available, plus a bonus for gluten free types: the iconic pao de queijo, or cheese bread.

"So many people have been afraid of gluten, or they are allergic to, so the cassava flower allows us to make the gluten free bread with parmesan cheese," Pereira said.

Accompanying the cheese bread, a richly sweet compote made from calabaza squash and coconut.

There are also a half dozen condiments to choose from, including chilies, peppers and a modified giardiniera. After this mini-buffet, you choose an entree from among three or four options, including pulled pork and shrimp; the latter made even more indulgent with notes of palm oil and coconut milk.

"Bahian food, where this dish comes from, has a lot of ginger, so that gives the base, then you add the palm oil. cilantro, and the coconut milk," she said.

And cashews plus fresh mango and fried plantains, as well as a small knob of shredded collard greens. Have a glass of refreshing hibiscus tea because dessert is on its way: a decadent red velvet flan cake, as moist as the Amazon and as rich as Bill Gates.

Regulars know that, while this lunch buffet is certainly generous, it's still dwarfed by Pereira's weekend brunch, which includes Brazil's national dish of feijoada.

"Feijoada is when you have a complete meal like I have on Sundays - you have the beans, you have the rice, you have the collard greens, which during the week I want to give a tiny little sample in every single dish," said Pereira.

The lunch at Sinha costs $12. Brunch is a bit more: $30. Since the space is so small, reservations are required for both lunch and brunch.

2018 W. Adams Ave.
(312) 491-8200

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