Blame It on the Bossa Nova

Given the large, rich main courses, you might think twice about ordering appetizers, an assortment of little stuffed goodies equivalent to Brazilian dim sum. Their low pricing, though, may turn your eyes bigger than your stomach -- you can try any three for $5 or all six for $9.90. My favorite was the corn kernel turnover (pastel), with its slightly sweet vegetable filling fried in a crumb-rolled, glutinous taro-batter shell. The chicken croquette (coxina) has the same batter surrounding shreds of rather dry, salty herbed chicken, but the seasoning comes to life with a gulp of Corona. The empada is a micro-mini chicken pie in a "sandy" dough, while a simple, pleasant cheese turnover (pastel Samuel) is a sophisticated mini-quesadilla, remade as a flute-edged crescent of flaky pie dough. I didn't much care for the rather grainy salt-cod croquette (bolina de bacalhau) nor the quibe (a version of Lebanese kibbeh), a ball of intensely salty ground beef and mint thickly rolled in bulgur wheat. A lighter starter would be one of the several refreshing salads ($5.75 to $8.25) featuring hearts of palm with mixed greens, spinach, and/or tomatoes in a tangy vinaigrette.

Brazilians generally like their sweets very sweet. Quindin ($2.50, or free with the rodizio) is the Brazilian national dessert and emphatically fits that bill: It's a sugary loose cornmeal pudding abounding in shredded coconut and whole cloves. A creamy, sweet-sour passion-fruit mousse ($3.50) is a cosmopolitan dessert that goes beautifully with a cafezinha, a demi-tasse of mellow Brazilian coffee. Other choices include Brazilian flan ($3.50) made with condensed milk, and several ice cream extravaganzas ($3-5), including two sundaes.

You can eat richly and well at Cafe do Brasil and still have funds left over for Rent. If you've got a curtain to catch, though, better tell your server when you place your order. The service is cordial, but some nights the kitchen runs on Rio time, not the New York minute.

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