"Sampaio's features truly representative Brazilian cuisine, in a very welcoming space, served by an efficient and knowledgeable staff," writes Mick Vann. But there's more!
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Sept. 13, 2002
Sampaio's Restaurant2809 San Jacinto, 469-9988
Monday, 11am-2pm; Tuesday-Thursday, 11am-10pm;
Friday-Saturday, 11am-11pm; Sunday, 9am-2pm
Magna Sampaio (of Brasilia) and Melba Garcia (of Port Isabel) opened Sampaio's in December of 2000. It occupies the space that used to hold the Chinese restaurant in the strip between the Posse East and the Crown and Anchor Pub, where 30th, San Jacinto, Speedway, and Duval all converge. They were reluctant to rely completely on Brazilian cuisine at start-up, so they designed a menu offering select Tex-Mex dishes, as well. The success of the Brazilian side of the menu is now prompting them to soon convert to a totally Brazilian menu, and we can't wait.
The ladies did an incredible turnaround of the previous space, offering us an open and smart, polished interior dripping in warm tones and copper, accompanied by the sensual beats of Brazilian samba. It is a welcoming transformation of what had been a dark and depressing Asian affair. But the shine at Sampaio is on the vibrant food, and we definitely like what goes on here.
An appetizer that shouldn't be missed is the Brazilian Cheese Rolls ($4.95), a basket of cheese and bread balls with a light, elastic texture and an ethereal taste. The Fried Rice Cheese Puffs ($4.50) are a basket of delightful fried spheres of rice and potato, herbs, and cheese, served with a cilantro cream and a Brazilian tomato sauce (better than the ones our Brazilian pal Wagner used to make for us in the Clarksville Cafe kitchen).
Sampaio's does a fine version of the national dish: Feijoada ($9.95). It's a gut-busting combo of rich, smoky black bean stew with sausage, pork, and beef, served with rice, robust collard greens, orange slices, and farofa (toasted manioc meal mixed with pecans and raisins). Sampaio's Bacalhau (salt cod, $ 8.95) is a blend of toothsome cod (that's not the least bit fishy) with olives, tomato, potato, and onions. One bite makes you wonder why fresh (meaning undried) fish is more popular than bacalhau.
Lunch one day had us salivating over a flaky empanada filled with chicken, cheese, and veggies, bathed in a spicy tomato-cumin sauce for $5.95. Their Moqueca Bahiana ($9.25) is a succulent stew of coconut milk, palm oil, herbs, garlic, ginger, chiles, and tomato served with rice. It's an authentic and delicious version of the famous fish dish from Bahia.
The constantly changing daily specials are inexpensive, full-flavored, and fast from the kitchen. The menu at Sampaio also features many sandwiches and an extensive list of excellent sides, and the dessert case contains sinfully rich delights. We almost swooned from a caramel-chocolate truffle called a Brigadiero ($1.65).
Sampaio's features truly representative Brazilian cuisine, in a very welcoming space, served by an efficient and knowledgeable staff. It's the only place in town to get a genuine Capirinha, made with Brazil's rum-like cachaça, lime, and sugar over ice. And be sure to ask for a dish of their dynamite malagueta chile sauce to go with whatever treats you order from the kitchen. We have definitely added Sampaio's to our list for regular dining rotation, and can't wait for the new expanded Brazilian offerings to come.