Café Carmo got its start as a tiny lunch spot in the Warehouse District serving a refreshingly different (and often meatless) tropical cuisine, which is by turns Brazilian, Southeast Asian and altogether novel. More recently, the restaurant has expanded, added dinner and cocktails and has been developing increasingly ambitious and offbeat dishes — all of which is worth keeping in mind now if our traditional holiday foods have you craving something different.
In Carmo’s small, open kitchen the husband-and-wife team of Christine and Dana Honn make dishes like cold-smoked yellowfin tuna, cured with rum, sliced, arrayed like flower petals and covered with chili oil, pea sprouts and quail eggs. The broken noodle salad is loaded with tofu, nuts and a garden of herbs and raw vegetables while an order of acarajé brings a plate of black-eyed pea fritters stuffed with shrimp and a spicy cashew peanut sauce called vatapá.
Honn says they’ll be adding more raw food to their menu, at both lunch and dinner, like a dish called tostadas crudos, which are raw corn tortillas with sprouted lentils, salsa fresca and a “crema” made from raw coconut milk.
While Carmo is not a vegetarian restaurant per se, vegan substitutions are available, and often specifically engineered, for many of the dishes. Dishes at dinner run between $7 and $15.
The restaurant will be closed Friday and Saturday this week for some renovations, but next week, on Nov. 28, it’s hosting a special sugarcane harvest-themed dinner called TropiCana. Cane-smoked marlin, quail adobo and cane syrup cake are among the five courses. Dinner includes drink pairings and costs $52. Alternate vegan and gluten-free options are available for the special dinner as well.
The dining feels healthy here, though that doesn’t preclude a menu of unique cocktails which often draws on the café’s collection of tropical juices. The Cajulia, for instance, mixes cashew fruit juice with lemon and vodka, the “ooo la la” is Old New Orleans Rum with bitters and graviola fruit juice, which has sort of a sour strawberry/melon flavor.
If you cannot face another round of Thanksgiving leftovers, a visit to Carmo might do the trick.
Carmo serves lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.