When Tempero do Brasil, a homey Brazilian restaurant in Ravenna, closed in October 2017 after 19 years, there was a real risk that the city would never again know its outstanding moqueca (a popular fish stew), vibrant live music, charming hospitality or fiery, flavorful hot sauce.
But thankfully, the space was taken over by new owner and chef Emme Ribeiro Collins, who has kept the heart of the restaurant, even though the restaurant’s menu, name—now Alcove—and paint job have changed. After all, she’s got a personal attachment to Tempero do Brasil: Her parents owned and ran it for all those years.
“I always said I would never open a restaurant,” Ribeiro Collins says, laughing at the irony. “It was very hard for my parents—I saw their struggle.” And yet the Seattle Culinary Academy–trained chef, who has spent recent years in private catering for big-name clients and competing on TV cooking shows, found herself in the position of taking over the family restaurant—and making it her own.
Dining at Alcove is by reservation only; it’s communal dining with dishes served both plated and family style. “People are really interacting with each other—you can’t tell who came with who,” Ribeiro Collins says. “Strangers are really walking out of here friends, as corny as that sounds.” It feels, as she intended, very much like dining in Brazil.
Thursdays through Saturdays at Alcove are now dedicated to tasting menus that marry Ribeiro Collins’ Brazilian upbringing—her family came to Seattle from the Brazilian state of Bahia in 1994—and her current home in the Pacific Northwest. (Throughout the month, she also hosts themed special dinners by reservation only.) Overall, the food is refined without being fussy and utilizes a combination of local ingredients and imports like pequi, a Brazilian fruit that works well in savory dishes. Her influence is largely Bahian fare, which she describes as similar to American Southern food because of the African slave influence there, and it heavily features seafood because of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.
Even though her parents are technically retired, they’re still fixtures at the restaurant. Both are artists, and their paintings cover the walls. Ribeiro Collins’ dad still makes the hot sauce (he’s had a hard time letting go of the recipe). Her mom acts as hostess. But the menu is all Ribeiro Collins’—enough to convince anyone that there’s much more to Brazilian food than the grilled beef and beans that many people associate with the cuisine.
Ravenna, 5628 University Way NE; 206.922.3557