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Malagueta: New restaurant in Astoria captures the taste of the home of the Amazon

MALAGUETA

25-35 36th Ave., Astoria

937-4821 (voice/fax)

It is stark-white with one wall vermilion — the precise shade of the lipstick in the Andy Warhol/Carmen Miranda painting hanging there.

You’ll find this stylish setting in Astoria’s new Brazilian restaurant, Malagueta. A two-inch glass vase with fresh blossoms is on each linen-clad table for two or four. Huge windows give a glimpse of the passing scene and trees with leaves starting to turn.

The cuisine, northeastern Brazilian, is complex. Saturday night, the tables are filled with a young crowd. The music plays softly in the background as the service staff smartly attired in black slacks, black top and an ultra-short black apron about the waist briskly move about. Herbert (the chef) and Aldo (the hostess) Gomez are the proprietors.

Amazon salad (everything green, like the Amazon tropical rain forests) with hearts of palm is a starter that intrigued us. Or, try the warm lentil salad with pepper-crusted goat cheese in Balsamic vinegar. It’s delightful, but the grilled Brazilian sausage (slightly sweet, sliced on the angle and grilled accompanied by yucca sticks perfectly deep-fried and spiced mayonnaise for dipping) must not be missed. It’s a great introduction to yucca, a french fries look-a-like but with a more intriguing taste.

As for entrees, one chap in our threesome, who had traveled to Brazil twice before, went for the sauteed chicken breast with prosciutto and fontina cheese in Marsala sage sauce. It is served with fluffy mashed potatoes and spinach. Another chose the shrimp stew with palm oil, onions and peppers, coconut milk and cilantro which proved more exciting visually. It’s served surrounding a ramekin of rice with a feathered scallion plume at dead center. The taste was very Brazilian.

My favorite was the beef stew with sliced zucchini, slivered, and carrots similarly slivered. It’s served with the rice and black beans. (Our two-time visitor to Brazil stirred the rice and beans together with a fork, the way they do down there.) Nearby we noted a sauteed red snapper with shrimp sauce being served. Also, grilled, sliced top sirloin was served with the traditional white rice and black beans, faralo and vinaigrette. It looked like a winner to us.

The Brazilian national dish, feijoada completa, is served only on Fridays. Too bad. We missed our chance to try it. It’s a black bean stew with dried meat, pork, sausage and bacon served with rice, beans, farofa and collard greens. (Farofa, I’ve been told, is cassava meal sauteed in butter with eggs and onions until it looks like toasted bread crumbs. It complements the rice and beans nicely.)

Desserts are three. Of course there’s flan. And there’s a chunky coconut custard with buried treasure, a prune and a bit of juice for added flavor. The passion fruit mousse tastes exotic and looks very glamorous. (At the table next to us they were sharing, and that certainly is an option considering the serving size.) The coffee is Bustelo and it is heady.

Lunch is served from Tuesday to Friday. There are Brazilian appetizers and entrees as well as sandwiches — a tuna with carrot and fresh dill; a melted mozzarella and prosciutto with pesto on a French baguette (that’s for me); a grilled chicken breast with tomatoes and peppers.

So, if you want a taste of Brazil, well-presented in a nice, bright setting, you too, will want to venture into Astoria.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Small, attractive white table restaurant. Fine northeastern Brazilian cuisine. Smartly-clad servers.

CHEF’S CHOICE

Calamari (fried calamari with Malagueta sauce)...$6.95

Linguica Grelhada, corn Mandioca (grilled Brazilian sausages w/yucca & spiced mayonnaise)...$6.95

Salada de Lentilha com Queieijo (warm lentil salad, pepper crusted goat cheese in balsamic vinegar)...$5.95

Salad de Camarao com Chuchu (grilled shrimp, marinade with herbs, garlic, chayotes h watercress)...$6.95

Frango corn Prosciutto (sauteed chicken breast with prosciutto, fontina cheese in Marsala sage sauce served with

mashed potatoes)...$10.95

Moqueca de Camarao (shrimp stew, palm oil, onions, peppers, coconut milk, cilantro. Served with rice)..$10.95

Salmon com Molho de al Capers (grilled salmon w/mashed potatoes, asparagus, caper sauce )...$11.95

Carre de Porco (grilled pork chop, served w/rice, beans, veggies)...$9.95

Pudim de Leite/Flan...$3.00

Mousse de Maracuja (passion fruit mousse)...$3.00

Cuisine: Northeastern Brazilian

Setting: Distinctive

Service: Smartly clad

Hours: D 6 days. L Tues. to Fri. Closed Mon.

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Street

Location:

Dress: Casual

Credit cards: Yes

private parties: To 32

Takeout: Yes

Children: Accommodate

Noise Low

Smoking: None

Handicap access: Yes

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