We were pretty excited when we learned earlier this month that Alfama was going to start selling bread. News of any new bakery is exciting enough, but news of a Portuguese restaurant selling its native breads is cause for celebration. New York certainly isn’t lacking in baguettes and croissants, but creations like broa (a cornmeal-based bread) and pasteis de nata (wee custard tarts) are rare birds. And so we’re grateful that they’ve come home to roost at Alfama. And even more grateful for pão de Deus, the sweet coconut bun pictured above.
Pão de Deus translates to “heavenly bread,” and rarely has a food product been advertised with more accurate nomenclature. “Heaven” is a perfect way of describing the reservoir of shredded coconut meat at the bun’s center — it functions like the nucleus of a cell, or the sun around which the rest of the bun orbits.
To access it, you tear away chunk after chunk of the faintly sweet, brioche-like crumb, working in concentric circles until you strike gold. The coconut has been shredded into meaty strips and barely sweetened; its only embellishment is the toasting it received while baking in the oven. I’d say that eating it is like eating the world’s best Passover macaroon, but it’s clearly better. Why? Because it comes buried inside a piece of leavened bread.
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