Coco Bambu may sound like the perfect moniker for a drag queen, but it’s actually a Brazilian restaurant chain that has developed quite a name for itself in the land of the Carioca. Featuring delicious scratch-made dishes, an extensive wine list, and lively Brazilian atmosphere, Coco Bambu promises to be “different than anything you’ve experienced before.”
Opened in 2017 at the corner of Alton Road and 10th Street in South Beach, Coco Bambu’s first U.S. outpost serves hard-to-find Brazilian delicacies in a relaxed, upscale atmosphere. The restaurant is massive, with outdoor seating, a huge bar in the center of the main-floor dining room, and another dining area upstairs. With room to seat hundreds at a time, reservations are recommended but not required.
My husband Alan and I had the pleasure of dining at Coco Bambu recently to see for ourselves what the place is all about. I got things started with a Honolulu Caipiroska ($16) — think: Caipirinha but made with vodka instead of the traditional Brazilian cachaça. This version was made with macerated strawberries and pineapple with lime, ginger, and Belvedere vodka. The concoction was served in a tall glass over ice and was the perfect antidote to the oppressive heat and humidity we South Floridians put up with this time of year.
The appetizer menu has many highlights, including Sautéed Crab Meat ($21) and Coconut Shrimp ($18), but Alan and I decided to start things off with the Shrimp Pastels ($16) as well as the Crispy Calamari Rings ($16).
Coco Bambu got its start as a pastry shop in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza, so we were super-excited to sink our teeth into the pastels, which resemble little square empanadas. Made with a light and airy dough, the pastels were filled with shrimp and delicious cream cheese. One order has six pastels. If you aren’t a fan of shrimp, you can get them filled with lobster, beef, or just cheese.
The Crispy Calamari Rings were also tasty: no tentacles, all skinny rings, and served with a house tartar sauce, which was quite delicious. I spiced it up with their special creamy hot sauce that they serve on every table.
Diners have so many options for entrees that it was really hard to decide what to have for the main course. Coco Bambu offers individual options — that is, entrees that are portioned to serve just one person — and there are also family-style options that can be prepared to serve two or four. Fresh seafood and fish options abound as well as an impressive array of steaks, including bacon-wrapped Filet with Madeira Sauce for two ($82) or Picanha (sirloin tip) and Fried Rice ($58).
We decided we were going to split the Coco Bambu Shrimp ($41) for two as well as the Miso Sea Bass ($47). However, when we ordered, our waitress, who had made stellar recommendations up to that point, told us we were ordering too much, so we took her word for it and passed on the sea bass.
The description of the dish on the menu says: “creamy rice, peas, ham, mozzarella au gratin and shoestring fries.” It is served as a casserole with the creamy rice, peas, and ham on the bottom, the shrimp on top, and all of it smothered in cheese and topped with thinly cut potato sticks that get crispy and brown when they are baked. The piping hot concoction was more than enough for the two of us, and we both had some left over for lunch the next day.
Before we even ordered, I peeped the dessert menu and made sure we saved room for a sweet treat to finish the meal. It was a tough choice. Their signature dessert is Baked Cocada ($13), which is a cream coconut cake served with vanilla ice cream, and they also feature a homemade Creamy Banana Cake ($13).
But I was sold on the Dulce de Leche Lava Cake ($13) from the get-go, and I was not disappointed (Alan, on the other hand, was because I fought him off using my spoon like a sword). The delicious confection was a blondie-style cake filled to the brim with gooey dulce de leche and served with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. It’s a great twist on the classic chocolate lava cake and was the perfect ending to a delicious meal.
Coco Bambu features weekly specials throughout summer 2018. While the menu might seem pricey, portions are very generous, so a couple could easily get by with ordering an appetizer and an entrée and still leave satisfied. With daily happy hour pricing on drinks, Paella Night on Wednesdays featuring delicious fresh seafood over a bed of saffron rice for $27, and an all you can eat Feijoada ($27) from 1–3pm on Saturdays, you will not be disappointed no matter when you come.
Coco Bambu (955 Alton Rd, Miami Beach). Reservations recommended: 786-348 0770 or CocoBambu.com/USA.