Did you have a chance to drop into the Botequim pop-up during the World Cup? Chef-owner Marco Moreira, a native of Brazil, turned the bottom floor of his space at the Hyatt in Union Square into a restaurant that channels his home country’s botequims, casual neighborhood restaurants where people meet for drinks and snacks. They’re not unlike bistros or bodegas, co-owner Jo-Ann Makovitzky says, and during the World Cup, the place drew Brazilians from all over the city, who watched the matches while feasting on Brazilian snacks.
The pop-up has closed for the summer, but come September, Botequim (132 Fourth Avenue, 212-432-1324) will rise again, becoming a permanent restaurant.
The restaurant will inhabit what used to be the lower level of The Fourth, a restaurant the partners originally envisioned as an all day gathering place that would serve pastries and coffee in the morning and American meals with bottles of wine for dinner. But the physical space was too large: “One thing we did learn from our small restaurants is that it’s great to start small, grow slowly, and be hands on,” says Makovitsky, which prompted the team to partition the address and install another concept.
And despite Moreira’s roots, it was Makovitsky who pushed for a Brazilian restaurant. “This is very different from other Brazilian restaurants,” she says. “Most are churrascurias or local little restaurants.”
Don’t expect Botequim to feel like it’s been transplanted from Rio, though. Makovitsky says that she and Moreira open New York restaurants that happen to channel the spirit of other cultures: French at Tocqueville, Japanese at 15 East. At Botequim, they’ll apply the same approach, channeling the spirit of the Brazilian eateries while making the restaurant feel like it’s part of the fabric of this city. “What we’re using is the idea of gathering in a friendly, informal type of way and translating that to the way that we live in New York, which is very different than how people live in small towns in Brazil,” says Makovitsky. “The concept of going out is different there. Our Botequim has the spirit of Brazil, but it’s very much from New York.”
They’ll expand a bit on the pop-up menu, growing it by about 30 percent. The cuisine, says Makovitzky, is traditional to Brazil, but “elevated to New York standards.” Look for fish seared a la plancha and flavored like moqueca, a traditional fish stew; crudo prepared as it would be in Buzios, a beachy area of the country; algondinhos, traditional Brazilian snacks; and picanha steaks, a popular cut of beef in Brazil.
The wine list will skew South American, and the cocktail list will put emphasis on caipirinhas.
Botequim will also build on the group’s desire to merge the communities of the East Village and Union Square and be part of both, and it will continue to celebrate local artists. The bed-like piece that hangs above the space came from a “young sculptor who came from three generations of furniture makers.” You’ll also see photographs of waitresses from around the world, furniture handmade in upstate New York, and work from a local graffiti artist.
Botequim is slated to open the first week of September.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 22, 2014