There is something to be said for having a neighborhood hangout, somewhere you can go and they give you a friendly look and don’t really even need to take your order. I have been on the lookout for one here since we arrived. Immediately, I was intrigued by a bustling little corner restaurant, O Caranguejo (The Crab), a few blocks from the house near the metro. It isn’t a very fancy place, but isn’t as dirty as some of the other little corner establishments near us. We could call it rustic. The demographic isn’t quite ours either, but it seems to have regulars and I took that as a good sign.
I looked into reviews. A few years back it won a prize for its shrimp empanadas, but more recent reviews were mediocre rather than glowing. Guide books said its prices were reasonable, but in passing by with our friends that were visiting a few weeks ago I took one glance and thought they were way too high. What I didn’t realize at that time was that one plate, or rather a half a plate, easily feeds two to four people.
Friday was a long day. L and I spent a good part of our afternoon hanging out a McDonald’s play area in the burbs waiting for our car to be fixed. We got home late and both S and I were in need of a date night. Given that it was cool out and late, we didn’t want to venture far since we had to be back in time for L’s bedtime so we decided to give O Caranguejo a go.
We got there around 6:30 and outside seating was taken so we sat inside. We ordered a bottle of wine, the shrimp empanadas and the HALF seafood paella. The empanadas were small and okay. We have had better. L prefers her empanandas deconstructed (or rather she picks out the shrimp). The paella did not quite fit what I consider a traditional paella but I lived with an amazing Spanish roommate in Egypt who could cook a killer paella, so perhaps I am a harsh judge. Had this been called a seafood shrimp casserole or some other name, it would have been great.
But really, I am not about to complain about semantics here. What really rocked the night was that S and I actually got a pretty kid-less date. Only in Brazil would this happen and it all be okay. Early when we got there, S took L to the bathroom. On the way out our waiter caught them and told Lara to come with him. The restaurant is very small and the indoor area only has about ten tables. The waiter guided L over to a table a few tables from us and pulled out the chair, introducing her to an older couple. He looked at us, winked, and told us that the woman is crazy about kids. Before we knew it, L was drawing and making napkin balls, and talking their ears off, and S and I were drinking wine and discussing adultish kind of stuff.
Fifteen minutes into our dinner, S winked at me and told me that he even could get them to feed L. I knew they were an easy target and within seconds they waiter was taking L’s plate to the other table. A couple bites later, L sent her plate back and came to sit with us, but as soon as her dinner was finished she was off to play with her new friends.
As we paid the bill, S nonchalantly asked the waiter if the couple comes often. He laughed and said every day. The couple turned around and said they can’t wait to see L again am pretty sure that S and I both decided at that moment that our search for a neighborhood hangout had come to an end, especially if sitters are provided!