Tustin's Acai Republic Takes You Back to Brazil
Photo by Thao Ta
Acai Republic, a tiny, one-counter Tustin Brazilian juice bar flanked by a small movie theater and an MMA gym, serves the kind of food that Orange County needs during the cruel Southern Californian Winters. How else are people supposed to deal with the bright sun and mid-70s temperatures without chilly bowls of fruit and light sandwiches that don't weigh you down?
Photo by Thao Ta
Açaí bowls were already popular when Brazilian native Adriano Nasal (who also owns neighboring Total MMA) opened Açai Republic in December 2012, but what's set Açai Republic apart isn't the MMA pedigree, it's the care and freshness with which their food is prepared.
Much of their food (and their know-how) is shipped straight from Brazil and prepared when needed. The bowls are all made in house and are promptly blended for every order. Of the five açaí bowls served, the Tahiti, a tart bowl made with Brazilian passion fruit, and the Hawaiian, made with sweet fruit native to the Pacific are the most popular. The rich, creamy puree leaves a cold sensation that blends surprisingly well with the açaí and layers of banana to the point that the bold flavors meld in your mouth and finish with a sweet aftertaste.
If you're looking for something more substantial, Acai Republic offers pretty good sandwiches as well as Brazilian pastries. Their Hot Chicken Sandwich is the most popular and is completely customizable. When you order, you will be prompted several questions, from which bread (dark, wheat, or white) to what kind of cheese and which fillings (tomato, balsamic, mustard, olive oil, avocado, mayonnaise, and garden salad). To finish, each sandwich is served with a side of sliced apples, bananas, or oranges.
There is a bit of a wait time, but that's because everything is served fresh and hot. The sandwiches are towers of finely shredded meat and filling with a gentle hints of condiments, merged into the consistency of soft cream cheese. More importantly, the sandwiches are well-constructed--the essential components remain intact and present during the entire meal. They don't collapse into an unidentifiable mess of food stuff.
But what may be best about Acai Republic is their Brazilian food. They serve Brazilian salgados, usually fried but often baked pastries that are eaten between meals but can easily be filling enough to replace them. The coxinhas are tokoyaki-like teardrops of chicken, bread dough and baked potato. A bite into the coxhina is very hard, yet crispy. At first bite, there is a thick layer of creamy, finely mashed potatoes that really melts in your mouth and a hint of chicken that is so well shredded that it's hard to taste initially.
The pao de queijo cheese bread has a lightly crusted but an amazingly soft and chewy center. These cheese-filled sphere are addicting, especially after the first bite. Filled with a mixture of mozzarella and other cheeses, the fluffy pastries return to close to their original shape after each bite. Be careful though, they're served hot. You can feel a gust of heat from the freshly baked pastries even if they're just next to your face.
Sure, though the portions tend more towards healthy Brazilian fighter than standard American, a meal at Acai Republic won't leave you wanting for much. The bowls are packed with flavor, and the pastries will make you feel like you traveled to Brazil for lunch. What more could you want?
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Orange County dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.