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Culinary and Culture in Ilhéus, Bahia
João Ramos – Bahiatursa

Dec.4, 2012

Echoes of the Cocoa Coast brand of Roaring Twenties persist at Bataclan in Ilhéus, once a cabaret, casino and brothel which was reborn from its crumbling ruins to be turned into a restaurant and cultural center.

The original cabaret was inspired in the Parisian Bataclan and built in 1864, but its atmosphere mostly evokes that of Jorge Amado's book Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, set in the 1920s and in which Bataclan plays a major role.

The main dining area on the ground floor, with a two-story-high ceiling, deep red hues, a large chandelier and silky drapes, evokes the cabaret where wealthy cocoa growers and other powerful men dined and partied until the 1940s. A stage holds live music performances and a show (in Portuguese only) with Maktub, a local drama group, inspired in the old cabaret.

Bataclan also has a curio shop and a collection of old photos on permanent display; one of them is said to be of a madam who was portrayed as Maria Machadão in Jorge Amado's classic. An upstairs room is decorated with period furniture, clothes and other items to represent the madam's boudoir.

Dishes at Bataclan, mostly named after Jorge Amado characters, are generously sized, and a duo of light eaters could share some of them. Maria Machadão (R$42), grilled fish filet in moqueca sauce with coconut rice and nuts, served with banana moqueca, pirão, and vinaigrette, is very rich and filling. Even appetizers are pumped up: queijo de coalho is fried with a coconut crust and served with sugarcane molasses.

A lighter choice for hot Cocoa Coast days and nights - and a nod to the contribution of Middle Eastern immigrants, particularly Syrian and Lebanese, in the make-up of Ilhéus - is the tabouleh, here made with shrimp and served with yogurt sauce and mixed greens. Also lighter: the vegetarian risotto with arugula (R$29).

The wine list at Bataclan is widely acknowledged as one of the best in the region. Besides imports, there are outstanding wines from different Brazil regions, such as Miolo Millesime from the Vineyard Valley in Rio Grande do Sul. Check for Bahia wines (perhaps Miolo labels from the São Francisco River Valley, a region which has received growing attention especially since the 2011 launch of the Vapor do Vinho ("Wine Steamboat") tour.

Among the cachaça labels, a top choice would be handcrafted, locally produced Rio de Engenho.

Bataclan is open for lunch, when it has a kilo buffet (dessert included).

Address & Contact Information:

Avenida 2 de Julho 77
Ilhéus - BA
Phone: 55-73-3634 0088

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