Duo chef bringing new tastes to southwest Brasil
CURITIBA, Brasil – This lively, eclectic city of 2 million in southwest Brasil has much to offer the casual tourist – Lush parks and gardens scattered throughout the city, a pedestrian-friendly walk through the heart of the business/shopping center and world-famous museums, botanic gardens and historic sites dating from the indigenous inhabitants found (and subsequently disrupted) by the earliest invaders.
What this city might have in short supply are above-average dining spots. Not unlike their neighbors to the (way,way) North, Curitibanos have a fondness for unsophisticated eating, whether it’s churrasco at a small park-side restaurant or standing in line at one of the McDonald’s or Subway shops much-too common in any country with an abundance of delicious, intriguing native dishes.
One of the dining oases discovered during a recent trip was DUO Cuisine, an elegant restaurant in the Batel district on the city’s southwest side.
Chef Rodrigo Cavichiolo and business partner Marco Castro opened DUO in 2008 after deciding the city needed something new, a place where above-average food and wine merged with a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
Despite the gracious and welcoming atmosphere, the restaurant still struggles to attract the local clientele.
“It hasn’t been easy to convince the people of Curitiba,” said Rodrigo on a recent night. The restaurant, which takes up the second floor of the two-story building and offers a stunning view of the city, was about one-third full on this Thursday night.
“I have people flying in from Sao Paolo (just over 200 miles) just to eat here, but I can’t get the locals to come in,” Rodrigo lamented. “Maybe I’m a few years early.”
Cavichiolo said he’s largely self-taught but has long been fascinated by food, cooking and the intertwining of flavors.
“I love to bring out the best in my ingredients and to pair those with wines that fit the foods I prepare,” he said.
Our meal included an amusé of a small Brasilian soft-shell crab followed by two kinds of ceviche (one Peruvian, the other a Brasilian specialty) and (there were four of us) delicious entrées, including a smoked haddock, a grilled asparagus-and-brie on ciabatta and a nicely turned filet with a sauce of tomatoes and green olives (I forgot the fourth entrée).
The wine list is quite interesting, with an emphasis on Chile and Argentina to match the Brasilian appetite for beef.
We enjoyed several selections from Ventisquero, a fairly new (founded in 2000) Chilean winery with vineyards in Chile’s most-prestigious wine-growing areas, including the Coastal Maipo, Casablanca and Apalta valleys.
We had the ceviche with a Qeulat 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, followed by the Ventisquero Ramirana 2010 Sauvignon Blanc/Gewurztraminer (citrus, tropical fruits, minerality) with a shrimp risotto, and the 2010 Ventisquero Grey 2009 Merlot, another single-block wine showing spice, red fruits and a hint of pepper, paired well with the various entrées.
“I really like Ventisquero,” said Rodrigo. “Their wines are excellent for quality and value and I feel we share the same desire to prove ourselves by doing something beyond what others are doing.”
The ability to succeed by achieving and not over-reaching is a valuable facet in any endeavor. The more so when you’re a restaurant pushing the high-end envelope in a city rapidly transitioning into its role as one of the co-hosts of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.