Last night I finally got around to dining at one of Missoula’s new restaurants. As our city has had an onslaught of new businesses take up shop in the last few months my opening sentence is definitely a little vague. But let me narrow it down completely for you: Last night I had a chance to eat Brazilian food for the first time in my life. Yep, dead giveaway. After having it on my to-do list for a couple months now, I finally got to eat at Five on Black.
Nestled right on north Higgins across the street from Plonk and Feruquis, Five on Black definitely takes up residence in prime territory. On Monday night I parked in the alley way to the right of the restaurant and met my co-worker (for a few more days) and owner of Dickey’s BBQ, Jimmy. We arrived right when the dinner rush did which was okay because I needed time to browse over the chalkboard menu and decide what I was going to have.
The set up of the restaurant is much like many of the new, “fast food-yet classy” type of places opening up these days…cafeteria style. You go up to an elongated counter and make several different food choices as you make your way through with the ending destination being the cash register. At Five On Black the ordering process is pretty simple, well at least the way it is organized on the menu makes it so. You follow five steps: You choose a dish and a meat, you choose a base, you choose a side, you choose a sauce, and then you choose a topping.
I will quickly go through my order. You have a choice between a small bowl or a regular bowl. I purchased the regular bowl for $7.95. I decided to go with beef for my meat over chicken, tilapia, roasted veggies, and feijoada (I know, obviously not all meats). For the base you could choose between crisp greens, brown rice, and my choice of white rice. For the side you had the option of roasted coconut sweet potatoes, steamed collared greens, or black beans. I went with the coconut sweet potatoes. For the sauce I chose the mango BBQ over the spicy coconut. Finally you can choose a few toppings from lime wedges, tomato vinaigrette, spicy chimichurri, or farofa. Even though I didn’t know what it was, I went with the farofa…and I still really don’t know what it was.
After I paid all tables were occupied but by the time Jimmy had paid a spot opened up and we sat down. So all of those steps and ingredients that I mentioned that went into my bowl? They were pretty much all mixed together, no compartments or effort by the employees to separate them. But that is exactly how I like it! I love having a big bowl of food to dig into, not worrying about what I should eat first or how to go about properly eating my meal. Also, it usually is a great way for ingredients to act together to create really special tasting flavors.
I went about eating my bowl in a way that I described above…mixing all the various ingredients together and shoving them in my mouth. After several bites using that method, I switched it up and started picking out individual pieces of meat and potato, trying the rice with the sauce, trying the meat with the sauce, trying the potatoes with the sauce, trying the potatoes with the farofa, etc. By the time I had exhausted pretty much every combination I still had a bunch of food left in my bowl so I went back to just eating everything together again.
My meal was hearty and filling. For just under $8 you get a great value. I thought the beef was pretty good and I liked the texture of how the food all came together. I think I was expecting just a little bit more with the overall flavor. I couldn’t distinguish individual flavors as much as I would have hoped. I mean each ingredient definitely had its own specific taste but it wasn’t that abundant kick to your taste buds. Of course this very well could have been the way I chose the makeup of my bowl. Maybe if I added more sauce (or went with the spicy coconut sauce), went with different toppings, or maybe got the brown rice there would have been more of a distinctive flavor.
If not for Jimmy telling me beforehand what the menu was like, I would have had no idea what I would be eating when I walked in. Honestly, what is Brazilian food?! But after Jimmy gave me a little preview and when I finally got to try it out myself, I quickly learned that I could live in Brazil. Who doesn’t like rice, meat, and potatoes all mixed together? Jimmy made a good point, he said the food served at Five On Black would make the perfect filling for a mission style burrito. He is right, when you dine at FOB you are definitely eating a naked burrito so to speak. But there is nothing wrong with that…sometimes I rather eat a goulash of tasty ingredients right from a bowl with a fork instead of going through the messy task of chowing down on a bursting tortilla.
I would eat at Five On Black again because the value is great. I would change the composition of my next bowl and see if I could bring out the flavor a little more. If you want to brag to your friends that you have ate Brazilian food before, definitely give Five On Black a try. Don’t Blink.