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Sabor Tropical: Indulge yourself in Brazilian fare in Astoria

Sabor Tropical is an Astoria eatery where you can experiment with eating like a Brazilian. It is a tastefully appointed white-tablecloth place adorned with paintings of (you guessed it) Brazil. When we arrived, seductive Brazilian jazz was playing on the sound system. Sometime during our meal it morphed into annoying whiny pop punk. What's up with that? Starting your Brazilian meal with a caipirinha is the equivalent of starting your Mexican meal with a margarita. The caipirinha, considered Brazil's national drink, consists of cachaa, fresh lime juice and sugar over ice. Cachaa (sugar-cane liquor, also known as aguardente de cana, pinga and other names), is the national spirit of Brazil. Sabor makes a good one, so say "saude" (sow-ooh-jee) - "cheers" in Portuguese - and enjoy.Sabor serves some terrific appetizers. The three we tried, coxinha de galinha, kibe and bolinho de mandioca are all sold as street or snack food in Brazil. Our favorite was the bolinho de mandioca, a creamy fried puff of yucca filled with ground meat. Almost equally delicious was the coxinha de galinha, another deep-fried temptation of spiced chicken surrounded by yucca and catupiry, a Brazilian cream cheese. The kibe, the third of the trio, was a croquette of spiced meat with a hint of mint. At $1.50 a pop, you might as well sample all three.The "salada mista" (mixed salad) is ample for sharing. The inclusion of hearts of palm and slices of beet along with mixed greens and other more commonplace salad fixings makes it more interesting than the usual mixed salad.We made a point of arriving at Sabor Tropical on a Saturday, the only day when feijoida completa, the Brazilian national dish is served. Feijoada is a stew of black beans that includes a broad range of meats, in this case fresh and dried beef, fresh pork, sausage and ribs. The beans formed a dense, creamy vehicle for unstinting amounts of the various meats. The short chunks of ribs, falling from the bones, were memorably succulent, and the sausages added a particularly piquant touch. The feijoada was served with collard greens and farofa, a uniquely Brazilian food that lies somewhere between a side dish and a condiment and is made of cassava flour toasted with butter. You can eat it by itself, or mix it with the other stuff, or both.Camarao na moranga, for two, was a dazzler in the visual appeal department. This shrimp dish is served in a small pumpkin. It is presented with its scalloped lid is set ajar to expose the peachy colored contents, contrasting dramatically with the pumpkin's blackened exterior. Pretty flashy. The shrimp are cooked with garlic, parsley and scallions in a creamy tomato sauce, and topped heavily with cheese. Scoops of sweet baked pumpkin are eaten along with the shrimp and sauce. The sauce and pumpkin conspire to create a rich and indulgent harmony of flavors. Brazil is also beef country. For a truly unusual combination, there is file a morango, grilled filet mignon topped with sauteed strawberries. What could be bad?Like just about everything else here, the "sobremesas" (desserts) were traditional Brazilian specialties. The "mousse de maracuja" (passion fruit mousse) is light, refreshing, and not overly sweet. The "pudim de leite" (white coconut custard topped with prunes) takes a little getting used to. The "custard," somewhat firm and gelatinous in texture for a custard is rather reminiscent of a Chinese dessert. It has to sort of grow on you.The Bottom LineIf you want to look like the Girl from Ipanema, eat salad. On the other hand, if you want to indulge in rich, hearty and unique cuisine give Sabor Tropical a try. Daily and lunch specials.Sabor Tropical36-18 30th AvenueAstoria718 777-8506www.sabortropicalnyc.comCuisine: Authentic BrazilianSetting: Tasteful sitdown restaurantService: Friendly and attentiveHours: Lunch and dinner dailyReservations: OptionalAlcohol: Full barParking: StreetDress: CasualChildren: WelcomeMusic: RecordedTakeout: YesCredit cards: YesNoise level: AcceptableHandicap accessible: YesRecommended DishesCoxinha de galinhaÉ$1.50KibeÉ$1.50Bolinho de mandiocaÉ$1.50Salada mistaÉ$5.95Feijoida completa (Saturdays only)É$13.95Camar›es na moranga (for two)É$25.95File a morangoÉ$21.95Mousse de maracujaÉ$3.95

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