Despite snags, Viva Brasil shooting for late June opening

CARAG — Sometime before June is through, Viva Brasil will open at 913 W. Lake St.

The specific date, however, has become a bit of a moving target. Co-owner Olmedo Albarando said last minute code compliance issues have repeatedly arisen, pushing Viva’s opening further and further into the future.

The new restaurant’s colorful interior, complete with a wall-size painting of Rio de Janeiro’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue, is pretty much ready to go.

The kitchen, featuring one of the largest, meanest-looking grills in the state — asked about it, chef Eric Austin said “I’ve never seen anything this size, not in Minnesota at least” — could be fired up at any minute.

But as is the case with many new restaurateurs, it’s the little things that have become problematic.

“The inspections, they come at the last minute, and they want us to change things like the back door — little things,” Albarando said, adding that a balky water heater has also become an issue.

Albrarando and co-owner Carlos Zhagui are also still in the process of securing a liquor license, though they expect it to be granted well in time for a late June opening.

In addition to tap and bottled beer, Viva will offer Brazilian-themed cocktails featuring ingredients like passion fruit, mango and pineapple.

Initially, Albarando and Zhagui planned to open their restaurant in the spring without booze, then incorporate liquor during the summer. But chef Austin persuaded them to hold off on opening until a liquor license is in place.

“Uptown, man, it’s short attention span theater,” Austin said. “I’ve been to too many places where it’s ‘coming soon, coming soon, coming soon,’ but people lose interest pretty quick.”

Austin, who has worked in kitchens for over a quarter-century and is perhaps best known around town as the former face of Big E’s Soul Food, crafted a menu featuring a spectrum of surf-and-turf dishes hard to find in the upper Midwest.

Highlights include citrus tamarind glazed pacu ribs (pacu is a common name used to refer to several species of South American freshwater fish related to the piranha), seafood stew, churrasco misto and Brazilian-style chicken and ribs. Entrees are in the $15 range, with many appetizers priced under $10.

Listening to Austin talk about the menu and how his soul food background informs his approach as a Brazilian chef, you can almost taste the Pollo a la Brasa. One can only hope there are no further snags so patrons will be able to actually taste what Viva Brasil has to offer very soon.