There are certain restaurants in Los Angeles that you can't help but be happy in - and that's the feeling you'll get as soon as you arrive at Tapizôn Bar and Kitchen. It honestly begins in the parking lot, where a sweeping street mural accompanies your every step on the "jetway" into the restaurant. Located on a charming street in El Segundo, this carefully curated Tropi-Cali Brazilian restaurant will win you over with some tapioca pearls of wisdom and a bossa nova heart.
What you can expect at Tapizôn
Tapizôn is unlike any other Brazilian restaurant you've ever been to. If you're expecting the usual gorgefest of sizzling meats served by gauchos, then you are in for an education. There's much more to the cuisine of Brazil than we Americans have come to know - and restaurant owners Eric Petterson and Almir Araújo want to tell that story. They have created an authentic cuisine with roots in Brazil, California, and El Segundo, which they call Tropi-Cali. The restaurant space feels like an art gallery, with no bad tables in the house. Whether you're in the cozy nook beside the bar enjoying a Caipirinha or at the antique table in the corner nibbling on a plate of Pão de Queijo Sliders below the colorful painting of Christ the Redeemer - you are home.
What to Eat
Pratinhos or small bites are a must, and they exemplify what the restaurant is all about: community. Sharable bites like Cheesy tapioca Dice and Fried Yuca Sticks are served with inventive sauces such as parmesan foam and guava ketchup. They are the perfect size for sneaking in bites between bouts of deep conversation. Dishes that are a little messier - but totally worth it - are the Tropi-Cali Ceviche with mango and coconut milk and the Grilled Sweet Corn with miso butter, sesame salt, and cotija cheese.
The Tapi-Tacos or the Sliders are the way to go if you're looking for a bit more protein. All the proteins in the Tapi-Tacos are smoked to perfection for twelve hours and range from Brisket to Tofu. They're served on your choice of either tapioca flour or corn tortillas. The sliders have similar protein choices sandwiched between two Pão de queijo Buns for a dangerously decadent savory flavor combination.
Missing your traditional Picanha? The restaurant does serve a 16-ounce Picanha Steak with collard greens, chimichurri sauce, and fries, but it's the burger you won't find anywhere else. The Picanha Burger is a hand-crafted picanha patty with tabasco glazed onions and cheddar cheese on a brioche bun, and it's fantastic! Side choices include french fries, salad, or yucca fries - which I urge you to order if you missed them during the pratinhos.
Also among the more original dishes are the Tapi-pot Pies, which feature sweet plantain and a protein filling like sauteed cajun shrimp. They are similar to pot pies, except instead of a pastry shell, you'll find it's been wrapped in chewy tapioca.
The restaurant also serves Brazilian Feijoada - which is the national dish of Brazil. It consists of black beans simmered with smoked beef, pork, and sausage which are served with white rice, corn farofa, orange slices, and grilled pork chops. A vegan-alternative is also in the future.
You'll also find also a section of the menu with P.F. Bowls, which is short for Prato Feito. The bowls begin with a rice base and are served with your choice of smoked protein. They also include many of the components of the Feijoada but without the stew. While speaking with Juliana Araújo, Almir's wife, she noted that this is what you'll find her eating almost daily.
Don't think they've forgotten the crianças! The Children's Menu features a selection of dishes for just $8. They include a Tapioca Pizzette with vegan mozzarella and those delicious Pão de Queijo Sliders.
What to Drink
The drink menu is eclectic, with a wine and beer selection that spans the globe, including a Finnish Long Drink. When in Rio, though, you ought to start with one of their six different Capipirinha combinations. One of the most popular drinks is the 1918 Original Caipirinha, made with Leblon cachaça, which is a liquor distilled from fermented sugar cane juice, and fresh lime and sugar.
Alcohol-free alternatives include a variety of Brazilian teas and sodas and my favorite, the Pink Cloud Mocktail. The mixture of passion fruit juice, blue butterfly tea, and fresh mint makes it hard not to float away.
What's for Dessert?
The desserts are sweet without being too sweet, and that even includes a Dulce de Leche Flan. The Tapioca Brigadeiro is similar to a crepe and features a blend of chocolate, coconut, and strawberry.
When to Visit
The restaurant is open every day except Monday for Dinner and Daily Happy Hour beginning at 4 p.m. Happy hour runs until 6:30 p.m. and can be enjoyed in the bar or the outdoor muraled patio space.
Brunch is served Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., and on Sundays, they have live Bossa Nova music, as well as Wednesday nights from 4 to 7 p.m.
During brunch, you'll enjoy much of the menu that's available during dinner, but with the addition of breakfast-themed items like Tapi-Two Ovos, a tapioca breakfast taco with two eggs, and Eggs Benedict with Pão de Queijo Muffins.
Tapizôn also aims to be your spot for the World Cup when they'll be open as early as 10:30 a.m. for brunch to match the 11 a.m. games. The World Cup Promotion will be a month-long viewing party event from November 20th to December 18th, 2022.
What's their Secret Ingredient?
If you haven't gleaned it already - it's Tapioca! The chef uses flours made from cassava root to create the gluten-free bases in everything from the tapioca Cheesy Dice to the tortillas in the Tapi-Tacos. Tapioca flour has fewer calories than other flours and a higher water content, but that doesn't sacrifice on taste.
The word Bossa Nova means "new wave," and the owners of Tapizôn are betting that the tapioca trend is about to wash over Los Angeles. Don't miss your chance to ride it for yourself.
The circumflexed ô means you have arrived.