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Mouth of the Border

Next to arrive was the Feijoada Completa ($12.95), known importantly as Brazil's National Dish.

"How tweet zee fezhwada?" a waiter asked our official out-of-towner.
"What?"
"You know how eat zee fezhwada?"

She didn't, but his explanation didn't shed much light. As near as we could figure out, you took bits of sausage, fried banana, collard greens and rice and incorporated them into a bowl of black-bean stew in which already lurked small, extremely hot sausages. On top you sprinkled farofa, which looked and tasted like raw cornmeal. The result was another ideally flavored bowl of exotica--except that somehow, several orange wedges were left over. We never did figure out their official use.

Ultimately, it wasn't my problem, as I was making my way through the massive Churrasco Gaucho ($13.95), a vast platter of marinated, skewered hunks of white-meat chicken, garlicky beef and juicy sausage served with black beans and rice. You would have to be working twelve-hour shifts on the pampas to finish the whole thing, but I tried--and I wasn't sorry.

Which meant I could only pick at the coconut flan ($5). Since I consider flan up there in the dessert firmament with Key lime pie, it was unthinkable to skip it. If I had, I would have missed the little lumps of reconstituted coconut in a wonderful suspension of liquid and solid that I have never been able to cook successfully. Cafe Brazil ought to pack cups of this stuff into one of those two-wheeled refrigerated Mexican ice carts you see all over northwest Denver. Personally, I would buy one at noon every day, Monday through Friday.

By the time we left, the cafe was even more crowded, the music was louder, and flames were visible in the kitchen window whenever another enormous prawn hit the grill. Everyone was casually, tropically happy--except for a couple I heard arguing over who would get custody of an ample bag of leftovers. It couldn't have been less Portuguese.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of full disclosure, I must report that the Cafe Brazil menu features two dishes composed mainly of dried, salted codfish, this time spelled "bacalau." Because of past trauma, I didn't go anywhere near them--but maybe some brave soul should. If any restaurant can make it work, this one can.

Cafe Brazil,
3611 Navajo Street, 480-1877. Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

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