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For anybody who has already been on the receiving end of Felipe Bronze's liquid nitrogen-based tricks and treats at his award-collecting Oro restaurant, the thought of the chef taking on Brazil's strong boteco heritage is surely an exciting one. That his new venture, Pipo, also represents a rather more affordable (even parked here on rarified Rua Dias Ferreira) route to the fruits of currently one of the country's most talked-about kitchens is an added bonus.
The style is a strange blend of standard Dias Ferreira white tiled walls, scattered tables and chairs a la boteco, and buckets of the light house beer ready to be wielded within seconds of ordering. From the open kitchen, busy chefs with Oro-branded overalls are the first clue that this is as much restaurant as bar, along with the simple paper menu placemats that reveal the intriguing takes on boteco snack classics.
The essential starting point is the caldo de feijão (R$9), a black-bean stew blended smooth and meaty with half an inch of purely aesthetic luminous green couve (collard greens) foam on top. Then there is the Amazonian take on cod balls, with bacalhau replaced by the richer flesh of the huge pirarucu freshwater fish coming in two potato balls and served with a yellow chilli dipping sauce (R$12). Fans of manioc shouldn't miss the almost too-chunky aipim frito (R$14), either, served as they are with a light and foamy cheese sauce that will sadly never outlast the chips.
The double mini-sandwiches are the star turn, though, and include a nod to the classic Cervantes in Copacabana that pits pork belly with pineapple (R$32). The McPipo burger (R$39) also comes as a diminutive pair, perfectly cooked and robust, set on a corn bun filled with pickles and goiaba mustard for a subtle sweeteness.
And therein lies an obvious Pipo gripe of portion size relative to the price. Two small burgers instead of one whopper makes a nice change, but for R$40, where are the fries? The Wagyu beef is as soft and tender as you might imagine a massaged cow's beef should be, but at R$58 it doesn't feel as substantial as the price would suggest. The trio of sticky ginger pork slices (R$33) served on kos lettuce also couldn't live up to the glistening aesthetic, with a texture that wasn't quite juicy crackling nor tender meat.
Given the meticulous nature of Oro's set up, the indifferent service came as something of a surprise, and upon ordering the house sundae, the undisputed king of post-burger desserts, to be told it wasn't available and hasn't ever been available was a disappointment. Praise be, then, for an excellent burger and an original concept that is, for the most part, well executed.
27 Sep 2013.