Cafe Mimo Restaurant, New Bedford

Located on Acushnet Ave, in New Bedford, MA, Café Mimo specializes in Azorean style Portuguese cooking. Like most businesses in the neighborhood, Café Mimo’s exterior is rather un-assuming, with only a simple, vintage style sign announcing its presence.  Inside, there are two rooms, one sporting a bar and café seating, and one with a more formal dining room.  The bartender greeted us with a thick Portuguese accent (adding to the feeling of authenticity) and we grabbed a table in the more casual area.  The room has a long wooden bar, and is simply decorated, mostly with pictures of the Azores and fish.

We started with orders of Pasteis De Bacalhau (Codfish fritters) and Camarao a Mocambique (Shrimp Mozambique style).  The fritters were fried balls of salt cod mixed with potato and perhaps some parsley.  They were pretty salty (no surprise there) but not overwhelmingly so, with a very fine texture to the fish and a crispy, golden brown exterior.

Shrimp Mozambique might be the quintessential appetizer at Portuguese restaurants, at least in New England, and Café Mimo’s was by far, the best either of us has tasted.  The dish had medium sized shell-on shrimp swimming in a bright orange-red broth.  The sauce was rich and buttery, with parsley, garlic and a generous dose of heat.  This is not a neat meal, as you need to peel the shrimp and the broth will stain your hands and anything else you might get it on, but that’s all part of the fun.

Next up were dishes of fried Calamari and fresh cheese, both specials of the day.  The calamari was perfectly cooked, still tender without the rubbery texture that happens from over cooking squid.  The breaded exterior was a tad thick, but still crispy. It came with sliced banana peppers and a slightly spicy marinara.

The fresh cheese was similar to Mexican queso fresco but served with a spicy chile pepper based sauce.  The spread was very hot, with an intense earthy flavor that was offset by the fresh, mild taste and slightly watery texture of the cheese.  The cheese was one of those dishes that seem almost too simple at first, but we found ourselves sampling it over and over again as each bite seemed to bring out new flavors.

For our main course, KD had an order of Ameijoas a Espanhola, or Littlenecks Spanish style.  EA opted for another special, the Espetada Mista, which was a mixed grilled kebab served with potatoes.  The clams were tender and briny, like they should be.  They were served with sweet onions and a light tomato-olive oil sauce that complimented the clams without overpowering them.

The Espetada Mista had chunks of beef, chourico, onion and green peppers, skewered and grilled.  The skewer was served on top of a bed of thick potato slices, like giant potato chips, that were only lightly fried.  The inside of these “chips” had a consistency similar to a baked potato, and the exterior was firm but not crispy.  The veggies had a nice char on them and the chourico was flavorful if a bit dry.  The beef was good for the most part, but unevenly cooked, with some pieces being a bit too well done for EA’s taste.  Surprisingly, the potato slices were a perfect accompaniment to the kebab.  They soaked up a large amount of beef juices without becoming soggy, becoming much more savory towards the end of the meal.  EA found these potato slices to be far superior to the boring French fries some Portuguese restaurants serve with their meat dishes. Café Mimo serves up excellent, simply prepared food in an authentic, unpretentious setting.

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