Finding Mexican food in Utah County is relatively easy, ranging from authentic to inauthentic. But when it comes to the Latin American country of Brazil, it’s a little more difficult.
My first experiences with Brazilian food came from the kitchens of Brazilian mothers, which basically sets the standard for every Brazilian food experience afterward. And while Tucano’s is delicious, it’s more about the experience than it is about traditional foods like Coxhina or Feijoada.
My husband and I were a bit disappointed by a Brazilian restaurant we tried last year, but when a friend on Instagram raved about a new Brazilian bakery and cafe in Provo, we decided to give it a chance. And boy are we glad we did.
Samba Breeze opened up in Brigham’s Landing along University Parkway in Provo earlier this year. The owners are a husband and wife team, made up of an American man and a Brazilian woman. Between the two of them, Samba Breeze offers a wide array of traditional savory and sweet dishes.
In the name of journalism and food reviews, my husband and I ordered as much food as we thought we could eat, and then some. Spoiler alert: We did not finish everything, but enjoyed the leftovers the next day!
We started with drinks. Lots of people are familiar with Brazilian lemonade, which is actually made with limes. We ordered a Brazilian lemonade and a “Samba Breeze,” the restaurant’s signature drink, but there were a lot of other things listed that sounded exciting to try.
The lemonade was a lot more tart than I’m used to, but it was still creamy and refreshing. As an accompaniment to our meal, it did a great job of cutting through the richness. My husband and I agreed though that the Samba Breeze, made with passion fruit and coconut milk, was by far our favorite.
Appetizer-wise we ordered Fried Yucca and a Chicken Coxhina. Coxhina (pronounced co-sheen-uh) is a traditional pastry where the dough is wrapped around a filling in a sort of rounded triangle shape and then deep fried. The Coxhina was enormous and when we cut into it, a creamy white sauce oozed out. It was incredibly delicious and my husband has already talked about going back just to get another Coxhina.
The Fried Yucca was covered in grated Parmesan. It was good, but we couldn’t really discern a difference in the taste compared to thick-cut potato fries. The last small dish we ordered was an Empadao, which is basically a small savory tart. We got the Empadao with chicken, cheese and green olives.
Aside from the Coxhina, the Empadao was my favorite dish of the night. I love a good pie crust! As fans of the “Great British Bake Off,” we jokingly checked the bake on the bottom of the pastry and looked for lamination. It might not have met up with Paul Hollywood’s standards, but it certainly held up to my mouth standards. The salty olives were the perfect complement to the luscious chicken and cheese filling.
For main dishes, my husband couldn’t wait to dive into Feijoada, which is a stew of beans made with beef and pork, served with rice and farofa, which is a toasted cassava or corn flour mixture that’s reminiscent of tiny bread crumbs. The Feijoada was an extremely hearty dish, feeding both of us for lunch the next day. Although the meat was tender, the flavor wasn’t anything extraordinary — it was really good rice and beans, but it was just rice and beans.
I ordered the Gaucho shredded beef sandwich after the owner offered me a sample of the meat. It’s definitely something I could eat every day. The meat was tender and flavorful, and it came on thick, soft bread that is made in the restaurant’s own bakery.
In addition to the roasted and seasoned meat, the sandwich comes with “special sauce.” My mouth is actually watering as I write this. Maybe the sandwich was my favorite dish, and not the Empadao? Honestly, it was all something I would eat again, but I probably won’t for a while just because there are so many other dishes to try!
Although we felt extremely full, we were determined to try dessert. After all, Samba Breeze is also a bakery with tons of delicious-looking sweets on display. Despite the many choices, we ended up getting churros filled with dulce de leche and nutella — and here’s where I want to talk about service.
On a Saturday night, Samba Breeze, despite its delicious food for low prices, was pretty empty. Besides the owner, who is wearing many hats keeping things running, there were just a couple of young adults working. A couple of things we ordered were forgotten, and when we went and asked about them, they were delivered right away. To make up for it, the owner insisted on making us churros for free.
The churros were, quite frankly, perfect. Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. And the fillings! Dulce de leche should always be a churro filling. The nutella was delicious as well, although perhaps a bit overpowering, unless you’re a chocolate fan.
What I loved most about our experience besides the incredible food was interacting with the owner. He was wonderfully kind to us and clearly dedicated to ensuring we had the best experience possible.
I sincerely hope more people learn about Samba Breeze and give it the business it deserves. I know I’ll certainly be back for more.