Considering that Brazilians form the largest foreign community in Lisbon, it’s disappointing there aren’t more “green and yellow” restaurants in the city. Outside of a rodízio (all-you-can-eat grilled meat restaurants) boom that came and went in the 80s, there’s not much in the way of interesting Brazilian spots in the city (with a few exceptions, of course).
So we got our hopes up when a new Brazilian place opened in the riverside district of Cais do Sodré. Located on the riverfront, in the warehouse where for many years the traditional restaurant Pescaria served its fish specialties, Boteco da Dri is smack in the middle of a busy nightlife area – its neighbor is B.Leza, Lisbon’s legendary African music club.
This lively location is the perfect spot for a boteco, a simple Brazilian bar with food – a place to share petiscos and drinks with friends before or after a night out.
The owner, Daniel Baz, kept things simple when it came to design: he decided to reuse the old tables and seats of Pescaria. Parts of the wall in the main room were removed, leaving exposed brick; Lisbon-based artist Jacqueline de Montaigne painted her signature birds on the remaining white walls, adding to the informal atmosphere. (Outside, one of Jacqueline’s murals covers the entire building.)
Surprisingly, Daniel is Lebanese, not Brazilian; he met the boteco’s manager, Renato Santos, who hails from Rio de Janeiro and has been living in Lisbon since 2016, through a mutual friend. At the time, Daniel was working in finance in Switzerland and Renato was running a bar in the Chiado neighborhood. Around nine months ago, the duo decided to open a Brazilian spot; Daniel made the move to Lisbon two months later.
Both Daniel and Renato felt that Brazilian life wasn’t well represented in Lisbon. Being a carioca, Renato particularly missed the relaxed atmosphere and food of a boteco, which is what inspired them to open one.
Officially there are over 85,400 Brazilians living in Portugal (alongside others who are here illegally). Statistics show that migration from Brazil increased in 2017, with people from all social classes, as well as many students, making the journey to Portugal. In Lisbon and Porto, Brazilians top the list of foreign property buyers.
And it looks like this community will only grow in number. We visited Boteco da Dri in the lead up to Brazil’s recent presidential election, which the populist and right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro ultimately won. Renato fears hard times ahead in Brazil and expects more of his countrymen will follow in his footsteps. “Still, I’m still surprised how many people support him here,” he says after questioning a waiter on his candidate preferences.
“I’m sure in the future you will see more botecos like this in Lisbon.”
At the moment, the Portuguese consulate in São Paulo has suspended issuing new passports due to the exceptional demand. (Brazilian citizens can apply for Portuguese nationality if they have parents or grandparents from Portugal, if they are married to a Portuguese citizen, or if they can prove that they are descendants of Sephardic Jews.) The consulate said that up to September 2018, the number of requests had increased 34 percent compared to 2017. Between 2010 and 2016 more than 87,000 Brazilians were granted Portuguese citizenship.
“I’m sure in the future you will see more botecos like this in Lisbon, but we’re not aiming at only the Brazilian community – we want everyone to visit us here,” says Daniel, speaking in English, although he’s trying hard to learn Portuguese.
Their hours reflect this desire to cater to a wide range of diners. Not only does Boteco da Dri serve both lunch and dinner (with the added bonus of an executive lunch menu that includes a starter, main, drink and coffee for 12 euros), but they also stay open until 4 a.m. Being close to so many bars and clubs in Cais do Sodré, they do good business serving snacks, cocktails (with the inevitable caipirinha and other cachaça drinks) and more substantial dishes to hungry partygoers.
The list of starters includes many boteco specialties made for sharing: the popular pão de queijo (a cheese puff made with tapioca flour) from the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, mandioca frita (fried cassava) and charuto (stuffed cabbage filled with Paris mushrooms and peanuts). What is really surprising and confusing for the Portuguese – although we speak the same language, there are still many differences – is salpicão de frango: in Portugal salpicão means a type of sausage while in Brazil it’s a salad with shoestring fries, carrots, raisins, corn, chicken and mayo. Make no mistake, though, this is very different from your usual chicken salad – the crispy fries and mayo make it dense, but that’s why it’s a good petisco to share.
The menu also includes a sandwich with pulled pork, cheese and pineapple, revisiting a comfort-food classic from Rio. After a night of drinking, this might be the best thing food-wise since the café with the warm soup (caldo verde) and bread with chouriço opened on the other side of the train tracks.
The chef behind these masterful tropical flavors is Pedro Hazak, originally from Goiás in central Brazil. He earned his chops in such prestigious Lisbon restaurants as Bairro do Avillez, which is owned by José Avillez, one of the most renowned chefs in Portugal. We even got the chance to meet the man himself on our last visit – he hand delivered the pastel mix dri to us in an enamel cup, a trio of delicious crispy pastéis (savory pastries) with three different fillings: cheese, meat and shrimp, all of which were so good that we didn’t want to share.
The mains include Brazilian classics like feijoada, bean stew; picadinho carioca, a stew of diced beef served in a pan with sides of rice and farofa, the toasted cassava flour that is a must for meat dishes in Brazil but is made here with corn flour as is traditional in northeastern Brazil; and picanha, the Brazilian steak specialty, a beef cut called sirloin cap in the U.S. All are served in portions for two.
But there’s also falafel, baked not fried. Daniel admits it’s a favorite of his, which is why it’s on the menu. But then he goes on to explain that there’s a large Lebanese influence in Rio, and in Brazil more generally, that goes back more than a century. This footprint extends to cuisine, he argues, even if people don’t realize it. Renato agrees. “Brazil wouldn’t be the same without the Lebanese community,” he adds.
We imagine one day something similar will be said about Brazilians in Portugal.