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A Carnival of Flavor at Sinhá

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 2, 2007 4:00PM

2007_01_sinha.jpgWhen it comes to affordable catering, Chicagoist has long recommended the culinary expertise of Jorgina Pereira and her staff at Sinhá Elegant Cuisine. After all, this is not only the woman who taught us how to make a caipirinha, but a well-rounded businesswoman whose family recipes and passion for the cooking, traditions and customs of her native land spurred her desire to become the first caterer to focus on Brazilian cuisine in the city.

Until a couple weeks ago, it completely slipped our mind that Pereira successfully had her home re-zoned a couple years ago for commercial use. This allowed her to open her ground-level dining room to the public for a buffet-style Sunday brunch that, given the size and quality of the spread, is a bargain in any language. It's a brunch that, like all of the best dining from Spain and Latin America, celebrates the culinary landscape of the region and encourages social interaction. The tables at Sinhá are set up so that one never knows whom he might be sitting next to. It's similar in this context to a bed-and-breakfast, Southern-style hospitality, or Sunday dinners growing up.

2007_01_sinha2.jpgAlthough she's been doing this for years, Pereira is relatively new to the world of catering and hospitality. Her background includes careers in both social work and as a project manager for an IT firm, and that composite experience serves her well in her business dealings. Congenial, soft-spoken and firm, and always armed with a plan for any party or contingency, Pereira decided to open up her home as a restaurant largely because there are few places in the city that deal exclusively in Brazilian food. And those places don't prepare it the way Sinhá does. As Pereira told the assembled guests on our visit, she considers Sinhá her baby, the realization of a lifelong dream that friends and family told her she was crazy for pursuing.

A Sunday brunch at Sinhá will always include feijoada on the menu. This black bean dish, teeming with meats, is the Brazilian national dish. Feijoada is so prevalent that everywhere from ramshackle storefronts to "Club Med"-style tourist traps serve it, usually at noon and with a recommended siesta afterward. Travel to Brazil and you'll often find such delicacies as pig ears, tail, or snout in feijoada. Pereira keeps these out of her version of the dish, so as not to spoil more delicate constitutions. On our visit, Sinhá's feijoada was complemented with a turkey and other Brazilian dishes like orange salad, farofa (a savory side dish made with dried fruits and casava flour), pao de queijo (cheese buns), and braised Brazilian-style short ribs. Sinhá is BYOB, so you can bring that favorite bottle of wine for your brunch. They also have all the complements for you to fashion a perfect caipirinha; all you need is to bring the cachaca.

Located steps away from the United Center, Sinhá also has a beautiful view of the skyline during the summer months from Pereira's backyard, which is a festive eden lined on both sides with Brazilian flags. This also makes Sinhá stand out like an oasis in the west side. If you want a taste of Carnival, but don't have the scratch to travel to Rio, then head to Jorgina Pereira's Sinhá. Located at 2018 W. Adams, Sinhá is open for brunch every Sunday from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. All major credit cards are accepted, and reservations are strongly recommended — call 312-491-8200 to make one.