Açai Republic Is a Brazilian Beauty

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The greatest shopping plaza in Orange County is El Camino Plaza in Tustin. Here is us at our multiculti best, where a Japanese bakery, South African deli, bikini bar, Indian market, Korean day spa, Japanese karaoke bar, Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant, Latino shoe cobbler and a dinner theater all happily coexist. And let's not forget a giant mixed martial arts gym, with an Açai Republic right next door.

This small spot is the perfect yin to the gym's grappling yang, all Bob Marley music and rasta vibe, as cute girls prepare your fruit juices, smoothies and açai bowls. The clientele is a mix of Portuguese-speaking Brazilians, jocks, health nuts and surfer types (oh, the business this place would get if the empty hulk of a building next to it still housed Bally's). A painted wall sings the nutritional virtues of açai, the Brazilian berry that OC surfers and MMA-ers transformed into a multibillion-dollar industry. That's fine and all, but what excites me about Açai Republic is that it's one of the maddeningly few Brazilian restaurants in OC, a genre you'd figure would be bigger given all the brasileiros now living in the county.

Really, the Brazilian offerings are limited to a couple of candies and pastries. Pão de queijo is a standard: golf ball-sized breads stuffed with cheese fried to the consistency of Play-Doh—far tastier than it sounds. Pastel de forno is a Brazilian empanada of spinach and chicken; it's superb: creamy, crunchy, delicious. But after that . . . it's inconsistent. It has stopped selling kibe, the Middle Eastern speciality of fried meatballs that makes more than a few cameos across Latin America. And the last time I asked for coxinhas—awesome breaded orbs stuffed with chicken or a Brazilian cream cheese brand called Catupiry—the kind cashier said Açai Republic wasn't selling them at the moment due to a dispute with the provider. Um, okay . . .

What I'm thinking is that there's still not enough demand for a full Brazilian menu at Açai Republic. So go, gentle reader. Gorge on pão de queijo, and ask for as many pastéis as possible. And maybe in three months, demand here will lead to it offering more of these great specialities—puxa!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *