Brazilian Fare, Two Ways
Yes, there are tons of glitzy restaurants. But the city’s large immigrant population means there are also izakayas and old-school Italian trattorias aplenty. Here, local food writer Alexandra Forbes picks her favorite spots—both the classics and newest hits.
The Buzzy Chef Showplace
Rua Barão de Capanema 549, Jardins; 3088-0761. “Chef Alex Atala (named one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2013) is nearly as famous as the president of Brazil. Fourteen-year-old D.O.M.’s tasting menu (from $150)—with dishes like heart-of-palm fettuccine with popcorn powder—still showcases his innovative cooking style.”
Rua Haddock Lobo 1002, Jardins 3062-0866.
“Atala mentee Alberto Landgraf works wonders out of his minute kitchen, like pairing pigs’ feet with a foie gras mousse and pickled carrots and lentils.”
Rua Afonso de Freitas 169, Paraíso; 3889-8700.
“Ask any local sushi expert (and they are more numerous here than in most world capitals), and they’ll tell you this is the real deal. The Japan-trained sushi chefs have created a tasting menu (from $90) unyielding to Western tastes that ensures a Japanese-heavy clientele.”
Rua Lisboa 55, Pinheiros; 3088-6019.
“Call to get a seat at the bar (tables are pretty much impossible to come by). The foodie set flocks here for chef-owner Sakamoto’s modern sushi interpretations like tuna tartare with foie gras or uni atop a wedge of tofu. Note: Soy sauce is forbidden.”
Rua Padre João Manuel 1253; 3081-6043.
“Juscelino Pereira, a veteran of the famed Fasano, has become a respected restaurateur at the helm of a growing empire. The seven-year-old Piselli is the jewel in his crown: a bright little spot with a Piedmont-inspired menu. The namesake pea-and-gorgonzola risotto is a must-get.”
Rua da Consolação 2967, Jardins; 3063-4864.
“The narrow wood-paneled restaurant offers newfangled, Italian-tinged dishes, like chicken liver and gizzards with green grapes flambéed in grappa, that you won’t find at more traditional trattorias. The crowd is mostly friends and friends of friends of chef-owner Benny Novak, who’s also a musician.”
Alameda Tietê 489, Cerqueira César; 3107-7444.
“The grand dame of Brazilian gastronomy, Mara Salles, recently relocated her iconic restaurant and is still serving expertly executed versions of classic Brazilian dishes such as bobó de camarão (seafood stew) and barreado (slow-cooked beef).”
Rua Joaquim Antunes 210, Jardim Paulistano; 3085-4148.
“Former model Helena Rizzo and her Spanish husband, Daniel Redondo, turn Brazilian ingredients inside out. Try her cold-served jabuticaba-fruit soup with cachaça-steamed shrimp, pickled cauliflower, and amburana nuts.”
Beyond the Caipirinha
While cachaça—the national spirit distilled from sugarcane juice—is typically used for caipirinhas, it’s quite versatile. Mixologist Aharon Rosa and cachaça sommelier Leandro Batista, of sister restaurants Esquina Mocotó and Mocotó, respectively, highlight the city’s new wave of cachaça bars.
Rua Aspicuelta 271; 3031-0816
“It’s a bar and beer shop with around 700 types of rare cachaças, usually served straight. ”
Avenida Paulista 2584; 3231-3705
“Riviera is a famous Art Deco bar that relaunched recently. They are doing wonderful remakes of Brazilian classics like a rabo de galo (Serra das Almas organic cachaça with Carpano vermouth).”
Rua Aspicuelta 533; 3097-9904
“It’s a small jazz bar with a large range of cachaça. They have about 100 types, including ultrapremiums and those aged in native hardwoods that are made for sipping neat.”