For the first time in my life I’ve had a meal that was so good that everything after it is simply okay.
My dear friend took us to the restaurant of Hotel Villa Bahia on the Pelourinho in Salvador. The chef, Osmar Augusto Lago, is a friend of hers. She loves having family friends come visit her so she can take them for lunch at this gem. It is in a small hotel right by the Sao Francisco Church. The executive lunch menu is only R$34 per person and includes a main dish, dessert and coffee. That’s the equivalent of $14.75 per person. I don’t know anywhere else in the world where you can get gourmet food for such a low price.
There were 3 dishes on the menu that day: Fish, beef and chicken. We ordered one of each so we could try them all. You can also order from the more extensive menu, but the price is more what you’d expect to pay.
The chef also gave us the best appetizer I’ve ever had in my life. It was smoked pork on a mandioquinha cake (Brazilian root) on top of a cheese sauce. The best part of his food is that he uses Brazilian ingredients to make French food. Or is it the other way around? Brazilian food with French influence?
I had the Filet Mignon with mustard sauce, mandioquinha chips and spinach rice. I absolutely loved it. It was cooked to perfection and mixture of flavors, influences and textures was amazing.
My husband had the chicken. It was so big he couldn’t finish the meal. Even though he’s not a fan of beets he really liked the beet sauce with the chicken. He even ate all his chuchu (chayote). The different flavors really played off each other very well.
My friend had the grilled fish with mashed mandioquinha and a mango sauce. Once again the flavors really mixed well together. The fish was cooked to perfection and really made you feel you were in Salvador.
The chef was so gracious with my picky children too. He made them steak with fries without complaining. He wanted to be sure they were well fed. It is hard to find chefs that will cater so graciously to children.
But no one complained about the dessert. Once again the combination of Brazilian ingredients was excellent. Cake with Doce de Leite and prune sauce. Yes, the sauce added a bit of bitterness to this otherwise very sweet dish.
I love the ambiance of this small hotel. It is in a beautifully restored 17th century mansion. All the decorations were period appropriate. Even the tableware made you think you were in the colonial times. My favorite was the bathroom. The sink was so beautiful I had to take a picture of it. The sign for the male and female bathrooms were old saints. My kids enjoyed sitting down on the parlor and playing chess in a beautifully furnished room but with all the modern comforts. It made history come alive.