Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lebanese food in Niterói

We have the most wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant hiding under a bushel in Centro Niterói.  Lima Restaurante on the first block of Rua da Conceção.  Unfortunately they do not have a website.

My grandmother was born in Lebanon.  My mother learned to cook particular dishes at her mother’s side, when vovó would let her clutter the kitchen.  The meals of high holidays or birthdays or big celebrations in our house often included the food from Lebanon.

Finding an authentic Lebanese restaurant in Niterói is like finding gold.  There is a very large Lebanese population in Brazil, some put the number at 6 million people.  But given that, finding good food in our area beyond take-out has been a challenge.

This place rocks: stuffed grape leaves, stuffed zucchini, stuffed eggplant, stuffed cabbage, cooked kibe (kibbeh) raw kibe, esfiha, kebabs, real tabouli salad, babaganoush like it’s supposed to be, hummas with rich flavor, cheese and olives… OMG.  And it’s a comida à kilo restaurant!!

Well, only on Wednesdays do they put out Middle Eastern foods.  But that makes it the singular day we go to that place for lunch.  Fantastic.  I always work the buffet.

It tastes like home.  Really.


Anita said...

Is it one ina very old building with pillars ? I have performed a belly dance show there, many years ago, with an amateur group of teens and young 20's and the teacher.

Fiona said...

Amazing. A question-- is Brazilian Lebanese food different at all from the original? I had never heard of kibbes till moving here.

Jim said...

Anita - I think it is a different building, unless there has been a significant remodel. You are teasing me with a hint about another Lebanese restaurant...

Fiona - the food tastes exactly like my grandmother used to make (except she did not serve the red wine with ice). It does not seem to have been altered for the Brazilian palate

However, in our household the kibbeh was either baked in a sheet pan, layered: meat mixture, pine nuts and onions, meat mixture, then sliced into diamond shapped servings; or it was served raw (just the meat mixture).

The individual, hand-held kibbes sold here may be a hybrid made to suit the boteco scene.

There is also a sweet-ish eggplant pate made here that resembles baba ganoush, but includes raisins and red peppers (it is quite tasty). But I think this is just a similar paste and not a local variation of baba ganoush.

Anita said...

The address is the same. It went through renovations then. Btw... My family prepares kibe: fried like croquetes or in the oven, sliced in losangles. The Lebanese food is the most refined from the Middle East cuisines. Dutch hubby likes it a lot too ! Especially when in rodizios.

Danielle said...

Oh man.... good food like that in "por kilo" form is dangerous!

We have a fantastic little Lebanese restaurant in town. It's less of a restaurant and more of a front yard. If you don't mind a place that isn't exactly clean, you can enjoy some great and cheap family food! (A huge plate of coalhada-- for 3 people-- 9 reais!)

Haven't gotten sick so far!

Gil and Ray said...


This sounds awesome, I know for a fact that there are more Lebanese people in the state of Sao Paulo alone than in the entire country of Lebanon, both the Governor ( Alckmin ) and the mayor ( Kassab ) of Sao Paulo are of Lebanese origin.
If you ever check out a Sao Paulo phone book you will have an idea from the Lebanese last names.
Sao Paulo has traditionally had great Lebanese food options, from a corner "buteco" type of place to an upscale choice of restaurant, my favorite and easy to find if you ever go to Sao Paulo is "Almanara" found in most Malls and around downtown and the Paulista Avenue area.


We have had Lebanese food in Washington DC near the Key Bridge area and at Edgware Road in London and they taste pretty similar to Sao Paulo with small variations.
In London for example the Tabbouleh had just a dust of bulgar wheat and almost no parsley, Tabbouleh in Sao Paulo and every other place I have ever tried had lots of bulgar wheat and lots of parsley, perhaps those Lebanese in London are from a different part of Lebanon or according to Gil, parsley and bulgar wheat are very expensive in London ; )


Sara and Nate said...

That second photo makes my mouth water... that dish looks amazing and might be worth the drive to Niteroi!

Jim said...

Ray - in our family, regarding tabboulah (good for you on the spelling) - the wheat was always considered the "cheap" ingredient. It was like adding more water to the soup.

A fancier tabboulah was more parsley, tomatoes, green onions, etc. The more pedestrian version was mostly bulgur wheat. Also, our family tastes tended toward the more citrus flavor in the salad.

--- All this talk of Lebanese food -- I may just have to plan a meal!

Jim said...

Forgive me if I get too pedantic. But all this speaking in English, talking about Lebanese foods presented on a menu in Brazil – the spelling is driving me crazy.

I’m looking at my Lebanese food cooking bible: The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos. (Yes, not Lebanese-specific, but I love her recipes.)


Baba Ghannouj

Oh my – Now I HAVE to plan a full meal!

Fiona said...

I think Lebanese food has got to be some of my favourite all time cuisine! My cousin's wife's family is Lebanese and they make stuffed grape leaves for all special occassions and it's given me the impression that there really is nothing like home made Lebanese! Especially when you add lots of love.