September 08, 2007

I got a Brazilian!

SushiSamba Rio
504 N Wells, Chicago

I got a Brazilian dish, French Toast and so much more at SushiSamba Rio, a Japanese/Brazilian/Peruvian fusion restaurant.

SushiSamba is one happening place. They’ve got a little something for everyone- a rooftop lounge for the hipsters, unique “Sushi and Sake” classes for the foodies, and late night dance parties with DJs and musicians pumping out Latin-inspired beats along with samba and capoeira performances for those who like to get their groove on. From the food to the music to the décor, everything about this place is cool. So, um, what were we doing there? This is not a place you might think to bring kids, let alone expect them to be invited along on a little press junket. But they were and, you might want to bring your children there, too.

SushiSamba’s Sunday Brunch provides a nice change from the local pancake house. They offer a menu that will please every member of the family. For $15 per adult and $8 per child under 12, you choose from several tasty items to create your meal.

On our visit, we sampled almost every brunch item while chatting with Joanna, a PR representative from the restaurant who you may have seen on Check, Please!

Even though the brunch menu is filled with continental cuisine ("stuff your kids will eat"), SushiSamba adds a little twist. For example, the rich Eggs Benedict (pictured) is flavored with a Hollandaise sauce made with the mild Peruvian aji panca chile pepper and trades ham for smoked salmon. The smoked salmon was also featured in Sunday Samba Roll along with cream cheese and cucumber. We slap this stuff on a bagel; they artfully tuck it into a seaweed wrapper.

I’m not sure if I’ve lost you or your kids here, but my boys ate these unique items up. Even though they also filled their bellies with scrambled eggs and steak, they managed to find room for the melt-in-your-mouth-delicious Doce de Leite French Toast, and a taste of everything on the Smoked Fish Platter-white fish, salmon, trout and bagel chips.

It’s only as I write this out that I realize how much food we ate in one sitting, because that wasn’t all. The boys, DH and I also sampled the Carmen Miranda, a fresh fruit platter with granola and yogurt flavored with yuzu, a tart Japanese citrus fruit, as well as hot, sugar-coated Brazilian Churros served with Peruvian chocolate and caramel dipping sauces.

Happy and full as we were, we begged our hostess to let us try Feijoada (fesh-wada) ($13), a Brazilian specialty. It’s not part of the continental brunch, but it can be ordered and served family style. She demurred, so we loosened our belts a notch and tasted the traditional stew of black bean, shredded pork, seared beef and carne seca accompanied by white rice, collard greens, and farofa (a toasted flour, somewhat like cornmeal). DH could have made a meal out of this, but though the boys and I liked it, we were glad we got to sample the other foods.

The boys loved the Batidas, frothy Brazilian smoothies made with condensed milk instead of yogurt ($7). And they enjoyed choosing flavor combos for the custom blended drinks, which are large enough for two or thee young children to share. Their favorite was pineapple-orange-banana.

At SushiSamba you can go Brazilian or enjoy fresh sushi and one of the world’s largest selections of sake, Japanese rice wine. In fact, Joanna told us that in Japan sake is now considered an old man’s drink. Sake companies flock to SushiSamba to film commercials featuring hip young Americans drinking it in order to sell the beverage to Japanese young adults.

Sake. Batidas. Brazilian, Japanese. Fusion cuisine. Family brunch. They have something for everyone, except the wee ones in diapers, that is. There are no changing facilities. Which answers that eternal question: can a place be hip and offer diaper-changing facilities? Apparently not. Still, the bathrooms are a thing to behold. Not quite Ally McBeal, not quite a hall of mirrors, definitely something to see for yourself.

SushiSamba provides valet parking for $12, but there’s also a self-park garage a block away. If you’re lucky, you might find street parking.

Above: me taking a picture of Splinter washing his hands in the men's room on the other side of a glass divider.

Your kids will have fun washing up before the meal.

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