Friday, March 7, 2008


Please note: Sampaio's is no longer open.

4800 Burnet
Austin, Tx 78756

Mariah: So on Tuesday nights Laura and I usually head someplace for dinner and girl time. It’s become sort of a semi-regular ritual and last night was no exception. We decided to meet up at 8:00 so that we wouldn’t have to deal with the caucus voting yahoos filling the road. We e-mailed back and forth all afternoon trying to figure out which establishment to bless with our hot selves. We threw around Jeffries and Casa de Luz but neither of us felt really strongly about any one location. I looked at my handy dandy event calendar to figure out if there was anything fun going on around town, and being a typical Tuesday night, there wasn’t a whole lot. We eventually decided to get a pizza and watch Moulin Rouge at Rounders. But somewhere between that decision and 8:00, Elena decided to come eat with us. Since she is leaving for Italy on Friday, Laura had just gotten back from her crazy Colorado ski trip, and I’d had a rockin weekend I made an executive decision to nix Rounders movie night in favor of someplace we could more easily converse. But where? I picked up Laura and we headed to the Triangle to get Elena and the whole time we were going back and forth. “Where do you want to eat” “I dunno, where do you want to eat?” “I asked you first” and other childishness ensued. By the time we got Elena, we had decided against sushi, Mexican, or Indian. So where do we go? We had almost decided on Thai food when a bright idea popped into Laura’s head “Why don’t we try that Brazilian place Sampaio’s?” Genius.

Laura: Mariah and I would have been doing our patriotic duty of caucusing too except somehow my registration slipped through the cracks (I smell a conspiracy) and Mariah had just plain forgotten to re-register with her new Austin address. Oh well, Brazilian food it is.

When we arrived, I realized Sampaio was right next to Blue Star Cafeteria, another establishment I’ve been dying to try. We surveyed them both before making our final decision.

Mariah: When we took a peak into the Sampaio window to see if it was worthy of our moola, Elena basically lit up, making the choice obvious. It was very nice and upscale on the inside. Hard wood floors, exposed brick walls, a giant, fluted, blue tiled pillar in the center of the room (something reminiscent of a shape I’d have to find the volume of in calculus 101). And the smell emanating from within was amazing. Smoke, meat, spice, oh my. We quickly took a seat in a corner booth and hunkered down.

Laura: They sat us beneath a severely out of place painting of the Jesus and the Virgin Mary. We became quite confused at what kind of décor they were really going for- trendy colored tile lounge or da Vinci Code-esque goth? Thinking this hard made me want a drink.

Mariah: Our waiter in training showed up quickly enough and Laura ordered some egg drink (ew). I ordered some tasty tasty cheese bread for the table and Elena decided to try something new and got the Mandioca Griddles (yucca cakes). The cheese bread was out lightening fast and the yacca cakes followed a few minutes later. The cheese bread was tasty, but not the soft cheesy, doughy balls I used to get at Texas de Brazil and Fogo de Chao. These cheese balls were a little crustier on the outside but were still good to eat.

Laura: It’s called a Pisco Sour you uncultured woman. ;) The bread tasted just like those Thanksgiving day rolls all us southerners know and love- if they were injected mid-baking with cheese.

Mariah: The yucca cakes were a bit more interesting. They arrived looking like little chicken parmesan hockey pucks. They were golden deep fried yucca cakes covered in a thin tomato sauce and topped with a thick sheet of white cheese. They looked damn tasty so I dug in and took a big bite. Boy, that was a mistake. The intense spice of the dish literally exploded in my mouth. As I drank my whole glass of water in a crazed frenzy (the waiter in training being on hand to pour me another) Elena pointed out that the spicy part was the tomato sauce. We all scraped the sauce off the top of our cakes and dug in again (that sounds kind of dirty). Sans super spicy sauce, the yucca cakes were pretty good. The normally fibrous, thick texture of the yucca was a nice creamy texture in the cakes. But at its heart it was still yucca and was pretty bland. I went back to eating cheese bread.

Laura: LOL, actually I ate my tomato sauce and the tomato sauce you scraped off of yours. I thought it was tasty. Yes, a little on the spicy side, but it really complemented the yucca cakes. Without it, I could see how the cakes would taste bland. And remember, I was craving pizza earlier.

Mariah: We chit chatted and girl talked, trying to get each other up to date on our lives (I mean a whole week without talking, so much can happen in a week!). I told them about my awesome, ass kicking weekend: the State Radio show (totally rockin, go see them) on Friday night and drinking at the Gingerman on Saturday night. Elena told us about her boyfriend’s crazy stressful life right now. Poor guy’s been working killer hours and having to deal with a family tragedy too (oh he lives in Italy if you didn’t know). Plus, she’s been totally stressed trying to get all her PhD projects. And Laura told us all about her ski trip to Colorado (I know, she sounds so high-brow).

Laura: Elena and I also ordered a glass of wine each. They were out of Elena’s first choice, but happily recommended something similar to her that she seemed to accept. I thought the wine list was ok. I ended up with a glass of Pinot Noir. They had separate gluten free and vegetarian menus. There were several really satisfying vegetarian choices, including a rice dish with collard green and fried egg. The collard greens sounded appealing, but the fried egg business just reminded me too much of my trip to Switzerland where the vegetarian choice was always Rosti with a fried egg on top. Spend a week eating nothing but potato, egg and cheese and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Just thinking about it made me want a salad. Plus, I already had egg in my drink. So I took a look at the salads and decided to order the Salada de Maca, romaine hearts and baby greens topped with a Burgundy basted apple, stuffed with goat cheese, raisins and pecans and served with a mustard seed dressing. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

Mariah: While we chatted, the food arrived. It smelled amazing. Elena and I had both gotten the Xinxim de Galinha con Camarao. Who could pass that up? White fluffy rice and rich green collard greens covered with chicken and shrimp in a coconut cream sauce. It was quite tasty. It reminded me of a Caribbean dish I make from time to time. But that dish involves the liberal usage of dark rum that is flambed. This sauce didn’t taste like that had done that. And while it was a great sauce, it could have used more dimension. They could have used rum or gone truly Brazilian and added strained dried shrimp broth to the sauce. But overall it was very satisfying and I would definitely eat it again.

Laura: I don’t know what I was expecting out of the mustard seed dressing, but I found it to be a little disappointing. The flavor was really powerful and it made my salad feel kind-of dry. Also, there was an ENTIRE cored apple just sitting in the middle of my plate. I cut it up to make it much more manageable. The rest of the salad was very pleasing- the romaine, baby greens, goat cheese pecans and raisins worked well together. Now, I usually don’t like raisins, but these were the cute plumpy golden kind, not the dried chewy brown bits you used to get in your lunchbox as a kid. And they didn’t overpower the salad. In fact, you would hardly notice them if you weren’t paying attention.

Mariah: We decided that since were eating well we might as well go all the way and order dessert. We opted to split the Guava Bread Pudding between the 3 of us. I’m sure glad we did that, the bread pudding slab they brought us was huge. It had a nice flavor cinnamon and nutmeg, infused with bits of dried guava. But the texture was far too gummy for my tastes. Now I know some people like their bread pudding to be a sticky hunk of fused bread pieces, but I prefer my bread pudding to still resemble the bread that made it and to be a lighter texture (if any bread pudding can be called “lighter”).

Laura: I don’t usually like bread pudding at all, I was actually mildly disgusted when you guys suggested it, but I figured I’d give it a try. It was actually ok. Plus we were talking about touchy subjects (the stress of being a grad student followed by exboyfriends and car vandalism followed by healthcare in America) so we all needed the sugar to calm us down.

Overall, the meal was very tasty and the environment was nice. The staff was friendly and attentive. It’s not my favorite Austin establishment but I would definitely take a friend there or recommend it to an Austin visitor with confidence.

Bottom Line: Great but not extraordinary Brazilian - but what other South American options do you have in Austin (that’s not the Fogo de Chao meat orgy)?

Mariah: 8
Laura: 8.5