Finding Farofa at Galeto Brazilian Grill
Getting to the root of the matter leads to a tasting epiphany
Farofa, a South American condiment, adds flavor to meats.
This story from our October issue will be available online Oct. 15. Copies of our print issue are available by calling 510-238-9101.
Sometimes, out of the blue, something enters your mouth that you’ve never tasted before and of which you’ve never heard. When we were very young, this happened constantly.
From that first jar of puréed pears onward, every day was a virtual festival of virgin flavors. Every fork promised yet another wild frontier.
At some point, our palates came to consider themselves omniscient: jaded, having sampled just about every pickled snout, pea leaf, and fried spider that the world—or at least the East Bay—could serve on a skewer or shared plate or under a poached quail egg.
That’s why it’s epiphanic when an outlier sneaks up on us. Inflaming these epiphanies is the element of surprise, and a dazzling jab of nostalgia because it’s been ages since those TV Dinner days of discovery.
That’s what happened at Galeto Brazilian Grill. Owner Eli Nascimento and chef Robson Barreto are veterans of San Francisco’s Espetus Churrascaria; here as there, meats sliced tableside are the main attraction. Inspired by actual henhouses—galeto is Portuguese for “spring chicken”—designer Kibwe Daisy outfitted Le Cheval’s airy Old Oakland ex-home with exposed brickwork and a towering mosaicked fowl.
Standing beside steaming black beans on a bounteous salad bar that’s one of the region’s best-kept secrets is a shimmering vat of what looks like warm sawdust and tastes like light, wild, intrinsically vegetal pilaf. In Brazil, it’s called farofa. Simultaneously a condiment, side dish, snack, and staple, this carb-tastic companion to virtually any savory dish starts as the root of that hardy tropical shrub known variously as cassava, manioc, tapioca, and—in Brazil—yuca. Ground into a sandy powder, it’s then toasted with herbs and a flavorsome fat: bacon, carnelian-colored Bahían palm oil, or—as is done at Galeto—butter.
Tasted-for-the-first-time epiphanies are extra-special when they involve comfort food: an all-embracing, versatile, Mom-loves-you starch. Brazilians eat their ubiquious farofa in myriad ways, just as you can at Galeto: sprinkled over anything, coating whatever’s jabbed into it or rolled in it, or spooned straight up. Goal.
Galeto Brazilian Grill, 1019 Clay St., Oakland, 510-238-9488, www.Galeto.com.