Himalayan Cuisine

Editor's note: This is the fourth of a series of 4 mini articles written by Yara Elian, a High School Senior, providing an insight into how local Bay Area restaurateurs are coping in these uncertain economic times caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. If you are local to the Bay Area, please support these featured restaurants. If you are not local to Bay Area, please support your local restaurants- they really are in need of our patronage!

Born in the Himalayan Country of Nepal, Surya has loved to cook since childhood. He would learn all of his early cooking techniques from his mother, whenever he had time. He left Nepal in 2008 to study abroad in Denmark. In order to cover his tuition fees, as well as continue practicing his cooking interests, Surya began working at a Japanese restaurant. He started as a dishwasher and slowly worked his way up until he finally became the main chef and manager of that restaurant. In addition to his job at the Japanese restaurant, he also worked as a server at the Radisson BLU Scandinavian Hotel where the Japanese restaurant he worked at was located. This gave him the opportunity to learn additional skills in the hospitality and food service industry.

After receiving his degree in Denmark in 2010, Surya and his wife immigrated to the United States. Though he came with the intention of opening a restaurant business, he waited until 2014, further honing his skills by working at different styles of restaurants, like Mediterranean, Japanese, and Nepalese. Surya finally opened his Himalayan cuisine restaurant in Concord, California. Although it was challenging at first, Surya remarked that he was not afraid of challenges. He overcame all obstacles, one by one, and kept pursuing his dream. “I am blessed to have had the support of my family and my community,” he said, “I love that I can be my own boss and that I can give jobs to other people in my community. I hire the locals, the immigrants, and I love to give jobs to students- I know it is hard for them.”

Before the virus crisis, Himalayan Cuisine was a venue for all sorts of parties: graduation, birthdays, marriage celebrations, as well as catering to local offices and the Nepalese community. Surya’s catering services are well known in his community because of his ability to create authentic Nepali dishes with real Nepali flavors.

Kopila, Surya’s wife, helps out at her husband’s restaurant as well by managing all of the restaurant’s business details. While the crisis has usurped 70% of Surya’s income, none of his employees were let go. The chef makes sure to take care of his employees as if they were a part of his family.

For those who have never tried Himalayan Cuisine, Surya recommends ordering the traditional Nepali Chicken or Veggie Momos. He also recommends the Chicken Choila, and the chicken or lamb Sekuwa, that he prepares as it would be back in Nepal. His customers’ favorites are the butter chicken, garlic naan, goat curry, and Tandoori chicken There are more options for vegetarian and vegan customers as well.

"Yo Ati Mitho Chha" means "It is very delicious" in Nepali, and Surya's cuisine certainly is!

Visit:
Himalayan Cuisine
2118 Willow Pass Rd Ste 400, Concord, CA 94520
(925) 490 3344

La Fritanguera: Covid update

Editor's note: This is the third of a series of 4 mini articles written by Yara Elian, a High School Senior, providing an insight into how local Bay Area restaurateurs are coping in these uncertain economic times caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. If you are local to the Bay Area, please support these featured restaurants. If you are not local to Bay Area, please support your local restaurants- they really are in need of our patronage!

La Fritanguera is a true family business. While Jennifer, the owner, runs the kitchen full-time, her husband does most of the shopping, her mother makes most of  the pastries, and her daughter helps out with everything else on a regular basis.

Jennifer was born in Nicaragua during Nicaragua's Civil War. When she was 5 years old, she took a trip by bus, and later by car, with her mother from Nicaragua to Mexico and then from Mexico to Concord, California. It was only years later that the family was able to reunite after their immigration papers were finally approved.

The La Fritanguera chef has indulged herself in cooking since she was 7 years old. She loved to treat people to what she thought of as “food art”. Before starting her own restaurant, Jennifer worked in retail and administrative jobs, but her heart wasn’t in it. Her life turned around the moment she was given an opportunity to start a career in the catering business. Jennifer willingly quit her current job at the time and went for it.

Opening her first restaurant on Colfax Street in July 2017, Jennifer adored her tiny but cozy location. However, the learning year was very difficult: dealing with food costs, payroll, staffing, and work-life balance. With time, Jennifer found her groove, and became deeply in love with her work. “I'm just happy in the kitchen,” she says. “I love this restaurant, it keeps me connected to my roots. I love Nicaraguan food and my mission is to have the world taste it.”

Adjusting to the COVID-19 reality has been tough for Jennifer and her restaurant. Her sales dropped 80% and she had to make significant adjustments to optimize the menu. She removed pre-cooked items like shredded beef, beef tongue, and one of customers’ favorites, Chancho Frito, in order to reduce waste. The first week she had to throw away these dishes because she wanted to offer fresh food. Now, La Fritanguera offers steak and chicken that are made to-go. La Fritanguera is open with shorter hours and days to save on payroll and utilities.

For those that have never tried Nicaraguan food, Jennifer suggests trying the family deals: 2 adults and 2 kids for $20.00. The ensemble includes grilled boneless chicken thighs, and beans and rice. Jennifer pairs the dish with her fav Maduros (sweet plantain), and a small side of their tangy cabbage slaw.

Visit:
La Fritaguera
1819 Colfax Street, Concord, California 94520
(925) 446-6141

Yara Elian is a Senior at Northgate High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, who loves languages, cultures, food, and writing.

Chopan Kabob: Covid update

Editor's note: This is the second of a series of 4 mini articles written by Yara Elian, a High School Senior, providing an insight into how local Bay Area restaurateurs are coping in these uncertain economic times caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. If you are local to the Bay Area, please support these featured restaurants. If you are not local to Bay Area, please support your local restaurants- they really are in need of our patronage!

Javed Ahmadi always had a knack for cooking delicious kebabs. After immigrating to the Bay Area from Afghanistan, his friends were always excited to come over to his barbeque cookouts, knowing that they would have a special culinary treat each time. One time while his friends were over at his infamous cookouts, someone commented, “You are doing so well! Why don’t you open a restaurant?” The idea hovered in Ahmadi’s head. Soon, with the support of his family, Javed acquired a local kabob place which was already in business for the past 15 years. For him, adjusting to the new environment the first few years were exceptionally tough as he changed the restaurant to fit his style of cooking. However, Javed's reputation as an amazing cook and manager grew, and the restaurant got a huge following of loyal customers.

In 2019, the restaurant did exceptionally well and they opened a second location, but then the COVID-19 crisis hit. "Sales are down 70%", Javed remarked, "but we are all in this together''. Despite the takeover of the virus, Javed is very thankful for his customers who continue to support him by ordering takeout for pickup and delivery.

For customers who have never tried Afgan cuisine, Javed recommends ordering a family special that includes sizzling lamb kabob, tandoori chicken kabob, beef tikka kabob, beef kabob, and a side of daal. comes with family-sized rice, naan, and salad. It costs $49.95 and is enough for 5 people.

ChopanKabob has 2 locations in Concord and San Ramon. Javed runs the restaurant together with his brothers Abdul W. Ahmadi and Ahmad F. Ahmadi.
While “Sahtein!” means both “Bon Appetit!” and “You are welcome” in Arabic, the literal meaning behind it is “two healths”. When you say this word you are not only wishing double health, but also prosperity to those who are eating with you.

Visit:
Chopan Kabob
2699 Monument Blvd, Concord, CA
(925) 689-5488

Yara Elian is a Senior at Northgate High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, who loves languages, cultures, food, and writing.

Sabores del Sur: Covid update

Editor's note: This is the first of a series of 4 mini articles written by Yara Elian, a High School Senior, providing an insight into how local Bay Area restaurateurs are coping in these uncertain economic times caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. If you are local to the Bay Area, please support these featured restaurants. If you are not local to Bay Area, please support your local restaurants- they really are in need of our patronage!

Chef Guisell Osorio of Sabores del Sur remains optimistic even during the uncertain COVID-19 times. It is hard to keep the business afloat, overall sales are off well over 50%. The take-out business has been active but not enough to even come close to replacing in-store sales.

“We have found a way to keep our staff working while this crisis plays out”, Chef Guisell shares. She partnered with the World Central Kitchen (WCK), a non-profit supporting people who need a nutritious meal. With this program, Sabores Del Sur is providing several hundred low-cost (but delicious) meals per week which are then delivered by WCK to healthcare workers, first responders and school children in the Oakland School Dist. While Chef Guisells says, “It is an honor to be part of such a worthwhile cause,” I keep thinking about how incredibly big and giving her heart is. Very few are able to help others while they are struggling themselves.

After the crisis hit, many ethnic restaurants in the Bay Area closed completely. Sadly, Sabores del Sur is now the ONLY Chilean restaurant in the Bay Area, but it also presents an opportunity for Chef Guisell.

Guisell has been touched that a lot of Chileans have been ordering from “Sabores del Sur”. It warms Guisell’s heart that many are trying to support their favorite restaurants to be sure they don't close for good. She even had customers plead with her "Please don't close. You're the only place I can get a taste of home."

Since Covid-19, the restaurant reduced their operations to take-out and delivery and cut the hours to Mon - Sat 11am -2pm, although they are planning to open for dinner takeout and delivery soon. Chef Guisell is optimistic and plans to make good use of our open-air patio to seat customers with proper social distancing once Shelter-in-Place orders are lifted.

Chef Guisell is thinking ahead about how she can best-serve her customers in a post-covid-19 economy. She is evaluating many creative solutions for keeping customers and staff safe and is gearing up her tech people to be sure her restaurant is on the forefront of the changes that are coming. She is also working on packaging some of the most popular items for online or in-store sales, such as our salad dressing and salsa.

If you would like to make a South American picnic in your backyard, order some of Sabores’ famous sandwiches such as Ave Pimentón (Poached organic chicken breast with roasted peppers, smoked paprika, parsley & aioli) or Churrasco (Grilled steak with tomato, avocado & aioli or Pan con Chicharrón (Peruvian-style fried pork with sweet potato & onion salad). Most sandwiches are made with a traditional bread called Marraqueta, Chile’s version of a French baguette. But there are also other traditional dishes, salads, empanadas, and of course, Chef’s Guisell’s famous Alfajores cookies. You have to get those!

“Mil gracias” to Chef Guisell for her big heart, your care for her workers, and her community.

Visit:
Sabores del Sur
3003 Oak Rd., Ste. 105, Walnut Creek, CA 94597
(925) 954-8300

Yara Elian is a Senior at Northgate High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, who loves languages, cultures, food, and writing.

Porto Do Sul

Editor’s Note: Sadly, this restaurant has closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, as have many other restaurants in the United States. Please patronize your local restaurants for take-out orders (if you cannot currently dine-in) and tip generously. The restaurant industry is hurting and our support can make a difference.

The Pleasures of Brazil

Welcome to Porto Do Sul, located in Overland Park KS, a suburb of Kansas City. Owners, Leonice and Edson Ludwig warmly welcome you to experience their authentic Brazilian steakhouse, Porto Do Sul Churrascaria. It is a Rodízio, an all-you-can-eat style of restaurant.

The Ludwigs are both from small farming communities in Southern Brazil. They grew up helping with the harvest and enjoying fresh, wholesome food.

Edson’s early career was working in the slaughterhouses of southern Brazil where he learned the fine art of meats. When he met Leonice, he was working as a mechanic for the company and she was a company nurse.

In 2003, Edson moved to the states, working for a well-known national Churrascaria chain, Fogo de Chão. Leonice and their two sons followed a year later. After more than a decade working for the chain, the Ludwigs went out on their own.

It was equal parts scary and exciting to create the Churrascaria concept they now own and operate based on all they had learned and the experience they wanted to create and share. Leonice says, “I like it. I love it. I do not see my life not being here.”

Leonice who has formal training from the International Culinary School in Chicago and as creator of numerous recipes for Fogo de Chão, is the creator of the many, many wonderful dishes at Porto Do Sul.

Edson has valuable experience as a general manager and had the opportunity to introduce Fogo de Chão to new patrons in a number of places.

Now, they welcome you to Porto Do Sul for a taste of Brazil.


The Country of Brazil

Brazil, officially Federative Republic of Brazil, Portuguese República Federativa do Brasil, occupies half of South America’s landmass. It is the fifth largest country in the world, exceeded in size only by Russia, Canada, China, and the United States. It is also the fifth most-populous country on Earth and accounts for one-third of Latin America’s population.

Most of the Amazon River basin, which has the world’s largest river system and the world’s most-extensive virgin rainforest is located in Brazil. The country has no desert, high-mountain, or arctic environments.

The South (Sul) Region of Brazil (Portuguese: Região Sul do Brasil) is one of five geographical regions of Brazil and where Edson and Leonice were raised. It includes the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.

Large numbers of European immigrants (Portuguese, Italian, Germany) came to the region during the 19th century. Portuguese, the official language of Brazil, is spoken by the entire population. But in some places, dialects of German or Italian origins are also spoken.

The region is comprised of bustling cities, quaint European style towns such as Morretes, the ruins of old missions, the oldest public university in Brazil, beautiful beaches of Santa Catarina and the amazing Iguaça Falls or “Big Water”, an incredible natural attraction of 275 waterfalls of various sizes, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The Foods of Brazil

The country is essentially self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs and is a leading exporter of a wide range of crops. About one-third of the world’s oranges are grown in Brazil—more than twice the amount produced in the United States, which is the world’s second major supplier. Brazil is also the world’s main producer of cassava and a leading grower of beans, corn (maize), cacao, bananas, and rice.

Brazil has one of the world’s largest livestock populations (at more than 200 million) and slaughters more cattle annually than does the United States. The most extensive grazing lands are concentrated in the South and Southeast, with a smaller but increasing share in northern states and frontier zones, such as Amazonia. Brazil also produces great quantities of poultry; both poultry and meat are important exports.

Eating in Brazil is an absolute pleasure. Just like the country itself, Brazilian cuisine is vibrant, colorful, diverse, and exciting. The Southern region of Brazil has a distinct European flavor. If the cuisine from the Brazilian Southern region could be defined in one word, this word would be churrascaria (shur-hawz-car-ree-ah), the Portuguese name for barbecue.

While Kansas Citians are used to low-and-slow barbecue, Brazilians do a hot-and-fast style of cooking. Instead of rubs, Brazilians use little to no spices, mainly sal grosso or coarse sea salt to season the meat and then it is cooked on iron skewers directly over the fire to bring out the delicious flavor.

Just as there is fierce competition in the United States over who has the best barbecue, Brazil and Argentina both claim to be South America’s barbecue champion. Each country takes a different approach to its meat, from the cuts to the accompaniments,
In Brazil, premium cuts (the most popular being picanha, or rump cap) are seasoned with no more than a liberal shake of coarse salt, before being grilled to pink perfection over charcoal (or wood, if you’re doing it the old-fashioned Southern way). It is a mouthwatering, superbly tasty experience.

Porto Do Sul offers 15 premium cuts including mouthwatering rib-eye, beef ribs, filet mignon, top sirloin (picanha), lamb chops, finely spiced pork sausage and chicken drums wrapped in bacon, all prepared and grilled to perfection.

The Gaucho Chefs bring each cut, one-by-one, to your table and carefully slices the meat to your preferred doneness.
Service continues until you wish to pause, or you have had your fill!

The full dining experience at Porto do Sul starts with a visit to the Harvest Table where you can find an abundance of cheeses, salads, vegetables, warm dishes, and more.

The Harvest Table includes 55 hot and cold dishes. Hot dishes include feijoada, meatballs, rice with shredded meats, eggplant Parmesan and you mustn’t overlook Leonice’s chicken noodle soup made from her Grandmother’s recipe. Cold dishes include an amazing array of seasonal vegetables, potato salad and small Brazilian peppers that are always in demand. Then, there is the divine cheese bread.

Feijoada, a national dish, is a rich, hearty stew of black beans and different cuts of pork and other meats. It is slow cooked and can take up to 24 hours to perfectly prepare. It is usually served with orange salad, white rice, farofa (ground manioc), and couve (kale), a dark green leafy vegetable that is diced and cooked until slightly crispy.

Pão de Queijo, the Brazilian “cheese bread”, are light, fluffy gluten-free rolls that became popular in the 1950s though the recipe dates back centuries. The dough is made from cassava flour and Queijo Minas, a Brazilian soft cheese. They can be eaten at any time of the day as a snack and they are also popular for breakfast, served with cheese and jam.

If you are looking for something Brazilian to whet your appetite, try the caipirinha (kai-pee-reen-yuh, made from muddled limes, sugar, Brazilian rum, known as Cachaca (kah-shah-shuh), and ice.
Porto Do Sul offers variations on the caipirinha theme, including pineapple, passion fruit and strawberry.
And, if that doesn’t appeal to you, you can enjoy a wide selection of wines including a Kansas wine, Somerset Ridge, that perfectly pairs.
Edson and Leonice thoroughly enjoy bringing you the best of Brazilian food and drink. They also look for ways to engage in the local community. It was on an excursion to local wineries they discovered Somerset Ridge and talked with the owners, Dennis and Cindy Reynolds. There is now a warm friendship.
“They are so kind and work so hard to create an inviting Brazilian experience. It is now one of our favorite places to stop for a sumptuous Harvest Table lunch or host a party”, says Cindy Reynolds.

Caipirinha

Wines to Enjoy

Somerset Ridge Wines

Pineapple, Passion Fruit, Strawberry Caipirinha

And, now if you need just a bit of a sweet to end this incredibly delicious dining experience, then try a Brigadeiro Brazilian truffle in an edible chocolate tulip cup, creme brulee, passion fruit mousse, or a flan from grandma’s recipe! Leonice reports that the Flan is one of her best sellers and I know why having had the opportunity to enjoy it.

Plus enjoy a flaming tableside display when you order Cai-Café, a brilliant combination of rum, coffee liqueur and hot Brazilian coffee topped with whipped cream.

From Brazil to Kansas City

Edson and Leonice first moved to Chicago and eventually were transferred to Kansas City. After nine years, they became US citizens. When they decided it was time to strike out on their own and open their own Brazilian steakhouse, Leonice was not convinced she wanted to stay in Kansas City.
Then they found the perfect spot, in a high traffic, growing area and the rest is history!
The moment you see Porto Do Sul from the road, you know that it is going to be more than an everyday sit-down restaurant.

When you walk through the door, you will see an small intimate bar off to your right, you will hear the Brazilian music setting the stage for your visit and you will find the gauchos ready to welcome you, describe the experience you should expect and begin to serve your wishes.
A different restaurant concept had been in the location before. Edson and Leonice re-designed the entire restaurant so guests can enjoy a quick lunch from the Harvest Table, an intimate dining experience or a larger gathering in one of their private rooms.
Porto Do Sul is located to draw people from all over the Kansas City metro area. They may be Americans who have visited Brazil or Brazilians who want a taste of home. There are many loyal customers as well as those who come for a special occasion or those who have a specific diet to follow like gluten free or Keto.

One of those loyal guests has visited 84 times since the doors opened! And, just recently, 100 Brazilians came to a gathering at Porto Do Sul.

Leonice and Edson have learned how they work best together. Leonice is the sous chef and creates new menu dishes. She also manages the finances of the restaurant. Edson manages the gauchos and is there to engage guests as little or as much as they wish. Whether you are young or old, they will make accommodations.
They work hard to provide an authentic Brazilian steakhouse experience. And, they recognize guests may not always be interested in their famous rodizio each time they want a taste of Brazilian food, so they have developed many ways for guests to enjoy Brazilian foods.

You can choose to visit the Harvest table laden with more than 50 Brazilian foods, a full menu experience that includes the Harvest table and 15 premium meat cuts, a “lighter” menu experience that includes the Harvest table and 10 premium meat cuts, a by the pound option where you choose exactly what you want and how much you want, a happy hour and bar food option where you can order mini picanha house sliders, spicy drunken shrimp, feijoada, chicken noodle soup, a charcuterie board or fried polenta, a takeout option that includes picanha house special sandwich, beef tenderloin or shrimp skewer, a sampler platter, a quinoa salad and more and catering for corporate events and entertaining. They also are part of the DoorDash program.

And, Leonice plans for seasonal needs and wishes. As an example, during Lent, you can find a number of additional fish and seafood options on the Harvest Table and as part of the full menu experience such as coconut fish, seafood chowder, salmon, shrimp and lobster tails.

There are always specials during holidays or by season. And, Leonice and Edson invite you to experience Porto Do Sul during Restaurant Week.

So, what is next for Edson and Leonice. They would love to have their children follow in their footsteps. The children appreciate the benefits and the labor of love that has been devoted to the business but are not quite sure they are ready. In the meantime, Leonice is dreaming of a rodízio style breakfast concept.

They invite you to Porto Do Sul to enjoy a little piece of Brazil. Come hungry and have all your senses ready to enjoy the pleasures of Brazilian food. “It is a gift I am giving you”, says Leonice.

Visit:
Porto Do Sul
11900 Metcalf Ave,
Overland Park, KS 66213
(913) 283-9180

Hours:
Monday – Thursday 11am – 9 pm
Friday – Saturday 11am – 9:30 pm

Happy Hour:
5 pm – 8:00 pm

@PortoDoSul

About the Author:
Susan K Spaulding loves to share the stories of others and believes that each of us has a powerful life story to tell. Sharing the stories of immigrants who are now successful restauranteurs is inspiring and mouthwatering. Susan is part of a multicultural family with a Japanese brother-in-law, a Canadian sister-in-law and a Peruvian sister-in-law along with the many multi-cultural family members. She traveled around the world for her business and now does so for pleasure. She enjoys giving diversity a voice and making connections around the globe.

Sources: Norma Palomino;