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When you consider its impressive geographic, demographic and cultural heft, not to mention its culinary diversity, Toronto’s Brazilian food options are surprisingly modest. The recent opening of Girl from Ipanema Diner, a Brazilian cafe at 2400 Dufferin Street, is an attempt to improve the situation for Torontonians who don’t know what they’re missing -- and Brazilian expats who do.
One such Brazilian is owner Thais Ferreira, who grew up in Toronto to Brazilian parents, both of whom bring homegrown expertise and recipes to Girl from Ipanema’s kitchen. Ferreira was all set to go to grad school when the pandemic repeatedly thwarted her plans. She quickly pivoted to opening a Brazilian family-style eatery in her neighbourhood of Eglinton and Dufferin, which as she admitted in an interview with CTV News, is somewhat of a culinary desert.
Or at least it was...
Girl from Ipanema serves up an impressively wide assortment of beloved Brazilian snacks, sandwiches, pastries, cakes and drinks (hot and cold), all of which you can easily find at any Rio bakery, juice bar, or delicatessen, but not so easily at all in Toronto.
Among the most appetizing savoury standards are croquetes stuffed with shrimp and creamy Catupiry cheese and giant tear-drop shaped coxinhas filled with shredded chicken. Particularly addictive are pães de queijo, golf-ball sized cheese puffs whose insanely chewy interior is the result of tapioca flour.
Those in search of more sustenance can dig into a basket of pastéis, crisply fried turnovers stuffed with the likes of ground beef, cheese, and hearts of palm, ubiquitous at São Paulo street markets. Robust sandwiches – such as roast pork and sausage – are served on crusty pão de sal rolls that in Brazil are routinely bought (and demolished) by the dozen.
Brazilians are notoriously sweet-toothed and Girl from Ipanema satisfies such cravings with the likes of creamy coconut tarts, passion fruit mousse, guava shortbread, and bright yellow custardy quindins. It also traffics in two particularly rich and sugar-laded favourites – brigadeiros(fudge-like chocolate truffles made with condensed milk) and doce de leite(condensed milk boiled to a creamy caramel). Both appear in multiple guises, including cakes, cookies and sonhos (a pillowy hole-less donut).
Doce de leite even rims a cup of the signature Brazilian Espresso, just one of many coffees, cappuccinos, and frappuccino beverages on the menu. For something more chill and unusual, there’s sugar cane nectar, pineapple and soursop juice and nutrient-packed Amazonian açai.
Billing itself as a diner, perhaps the closest thing to a Brazilian lanchonete, Girl from Ipanema’s décor is a visual ode to Brazil with jungly plants, patterned azulejos tiles and Brazilian flag-inspired green and yellow accents. A vibrant wall-sized mural by São Paulo artist Smoky, depicting icons of Rio de Janeiro ranging from Christ the Redeemer to the namesake bikini-clad girl from Ipanema, contributes to the sensation of being temporarily transported to more tropical climes.
Girl from Ipanema is located at 2400 Dufferin (just north of Eglinton) and is open for dining Tuesday to Friday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday to Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Takeout is available daily from 6 to 9 a.m.