New Portuguese Grill ‘Raizes’ the Bar on Nassau
The yellow Wasco car on a McGuiness rooftop has long been a Greenpoint landmark. But during the last two years the space below, previously used as an auto supply and motor works, has undergone an incredible transformation. Just before Christmas it was unveiled as Raizes Churrascaria (139 Nassau Ave), a Portuguese grill run by Lucia Corba.
Raizes translates as ‘roots’, and roots are firmly at the foundation of the restaurant. Lucia comes from a Portuguese family with a long tradition of great home-cooking and the food is based upon her mother’s own well-loved recipes. Having spent part of her life growing up in Maine, Lucia’s menu also shows a strong New England influence, resulting in a big emphasis on seafood.
Starters include char-grilled sardines, littleneck clams, and a daily selection of oysters from the raw bar. Mains introduce ‘Bacalhau Com Natas': shredded salt cod in a potato, onion and cream gratin, and ‘Marsicos Na Cataplana': clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp and monkfish in a spicy tomato or garlic sauce. The Maine background brings dishes such as lobster, stuffed Newport jumbo shrimp, and a selection of New England-style fried seafood served with handcut fries (exceptional) and house-made coleslaw.
We shared a seafood combo of grilled plaice, scallops, shrimp and stuffed clams which, at $25, includes two sides (we had fries and sautéed kale) and is a perfect light lunch for two. It paired particularly well with a couple of glasses of vinho verde, with the light effervescence appropriate for the mini-celebration that marks managing to leave the house on a drab Sunday afternoon.
Aside from the abundant seafood, the main event for meat-lovers is the epic-sounding house speciality: Rodizio. This is a whopping selection of beef, chicken, pork, lamb, linguiça and turkey, barbecued on skewers over a char-flamed churrasco and served with rice, beans, kale and a choice of fries or mashed potato. The people sitting behind us were having this and looked very happy as the multiple sizzling dishes were ferried to their table by the charming wait staff.
The interior has been lovingly designed by the owner’s husband and features great steel beams spanning across the ceiling. The industrial metal work is softened with beautiful wooden tables made from trees felled during Sandy and, whilst the space itself is pretty cavernous, they have managed to create a restaurant that feels cozy and inviting. The front part includes a long bar and bench seating, whilst the rear holds much larger tables, perfect for big group dinners and for trying a pitcher of sangria or one of their house cocktails…Facetious Flamingo anyone?
Lucia says she wanted to create a restaurant where everyone would feel at home: not too hip, not too fancy, just great food and good times for everyone. Judging by the neighborhood response so far, she seems to be right on track.