Courtesy of Ofa Restaurant
You should definitely start your meal at Ofa Restaurant with the pão de queijo ($7). A handful of these hot, doughy cheese balls arrives on a wooden board in a small brown bag beside a jar of requeijão, a creamy dairy spread that's sweet like cream cheese yet far more spreadable. It's a satisfyingly simple start to any traditional Brazilian meal, but even if tradition isn't your thing, you'll be happy here. The best part about Ofa is the ambiance. This isn't the been-there-done-that Brazilian steakhouse touting massive skewers of meat that bop from table to table. And it's not a nostalgic mom-and-pop that focuses on hearty, homestyle dishes served family-style. Instead, Ofa specializes in contemporary takes on South American dishes via progressive menu items, many of which are gluten-free and vegan. Try the farofa, a nutty-flavored, toasted, buttered cassava-flour dish. It's often served with meats, beans, and stews, but here it's a shareable bowl in a rainbow of flavors, from garlic to bacon to lemon-ginger to banana ($5). Or try bobo de vegetais, a dish that often contains shrimp in a purée of cassava meal with coconut milk but here is made vegetarian with peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and plantains ($22). Brazilian sweets include brigadeiros — traditional chocolate truffles made with dark or milk chocolate and condensed milk. The drink menu, created by Brazilian bartender Jean Ponce, lists the usual caipirinhas, but try his riffs on South American classics such as the Abacaxi, a tropical libation that fuses fresh pineapple purée with artisanal white cachaça ($12).