Cuisine in Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, is typified by local produce and traditional recipes. Seafood-based fare abounds in the bay-side metropolis as does churrasco, a traditional Brazilian method of barbecuing meat. Those looking for something different will not be disappointed either, with fine dining establishments offering cuisines such as Japanese and Italian as an alternative to local Bahian fare. These are ten of our favorite cultural restaurants in Salvador.
Donana is a family restaurant founded in 1988 that has become a fixture among Salvador’s restaurants, known for serving fine Bahian cuisine with unique flavors and touches. Situated in a peaceful location on the Campinas de Brotas, one of the highest points in Salvador, Donana is a picturesque, breezy retreat from the bustle of the city and offers a range of authentic local dishes. Relax in rustic surroundings with a starter of oxtail soup, succulent shrimp dumplings or sarapatel (a Brazilian pork based stew), followed by a filling entrée of salmon in passion fruit sauce, filet of whiting in a bisque sauce or shrimp in tapioca.
Seafood restaurant Mistura is the brainchild of husband and wife and entrepreneurs Paolo Alfonsi, who is Italian, and Brazilian Andrea Ribeiro. Mistura originally started out life as a beach shack haunt in Itapuã. Often referred to as the best seafood in Salvador, Mistura’s cuisine is an exciting fusion of its owners’ Mediterranean and Bahian roots and has since become a mainstay on Salvador’s dining scene. The rustic yet contemporary space serves fare that will make any pescatarian’s mouth water. Start with a red octopus ceviche with coconut and Sicilian lemon or fried calamari, followed by a hearty main of fillet of whiting served with Moroccan couscous, lobster and shrimp. Finish your meal with a delicious dessert like the chocolate terrine with apricots and crunchy almonds or pannacotta served with fresh cream, syrup and orange berries.
For casual, laid back beachside dining look no further than the Beach Stop Restaurante and Bar at Pituba. The cozy restaurant is located right on the beach surrounded by palm trees and golden sands with fantastic views out over the Atlantic Ocean. Beach Stop Restaurante and Bar specializes in steak and seafood, perfect after a day spent relaxing on the beach. For a filling dish, opt for the restaurant’s shrimp risotto, sirloin steak or shrimp lasagne. Beach Stop Restaurante and Bar also has a thriving nightlife with regular live bands and a range of beers on tap.
Soho Restaurante is a successful chain of Brazilian restaurants offering Japanese cuisine with branches across Salvador and in Fortaleza and Brasília. The original restaurant was established in 1998 under the ownership of Bahian entrepreneurs Jel and Karine Quieroz, and moved to its current location at Bahia Marina in 2003. The restaurant, which is often hailed as having the best Japanese food in Salvador, has quickly become popular with locals and features outdoor seating with stunning views over Baía de Todos os Santos. All the usual suspects are featured on the menu, including sushi, sashimi, teppanyaki and ceviche, as well as a number of locally influenced dishes like the polvo com batatas (octopus with potato).
Al Mare is located within Salvador Shopping, a modern and upmarket shopping mall, and opened in 2011 with the aim of setting a new standard of gastronomic excellence among the city’s restaurants with its contemporary seafood cuisine. Chef Fabrico Lemos, who was educated at Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute and has 13 years experience working in restaurants in the USA, enjoys bringing his modern flair to classic Mediterranean-inspired seafood dishes. His specialties include king crab sourced from the waters off Patagonia, and grilled octopus served on a bed of squid ink risotto. The spacious, airy restaurant was designed by renowned Salvador-based architect Sidney Quintela and takes its design inspiration from the surrounding coastlines and sea.
Casa de Tereza resides in a beautifully and faithfully restored colonial building in Rio Vermelho, a beach community located in the south of the city. The charmingly decorated restaurant interior complements the building’s history with exposed brick, whitewashed wooden stairs and rustic furniture, and even features its own gallery, Galeria Lemanja, which showcases the work of local artists including graffiti artist Eder Munizand painter Waldo Robatto. Casa de Tereza prides itself on environmental sustainability and uses organic produce and fish caught locally in Rio Vermelho wherever possible. Try the bobó de camarão, a creamy shrimp stew, followed by mulata assanhada, a dessert of ice cream, fruits, tapioca syrup and chocolate tuille.
Fogo de Chão started out as a small restaurant in Porto Alegre in 1979 and has since grown to a successful multinational business with nine branches in Brazil and over 20 restaurants in the US, promoting churrascocuisine. The churrasco has its origins in the Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost region of Brazil, among gauchos, a term used to refer to South American cattle herdsmen. Fogo de Chão is a carnivore’s dream with barbecued meats including rump steak, lamb, chicken, pork and sausage complemented by a range of other authentic local dishes, like arroz carreteiro, a rice and vegetable recipe, feijão (Brazilian black bean stew) and pão de queijo, or cheese bread.
Another popular churrasco-style barbecue restaurant is the Boi Preto Grill, located on Avenida Otávio Mangabeira in a scenic position overlooking the beach and ocean. The restaurant, which has been in operation for over 20 years, aims to provide guests with a sense of perfection and refinement while dining and its spacious saloon-style premises. Many meat delicacies are available, such as Cordeiro lamb, piconha nobre (a prime sirloin cut), and bife ancho, which is similar to a rib eye steak, alongside dishes like camarão empanado (breaded shrimp), mushroom risotto and nhoque frito (fried gnocchi). The buffet restaurant also offers a selection of international fare like olives, cheeses and seafood and dessert classics including fruit salads and mini gateaux.
Located in the Hotel Atlantic Towers, Alfredo di Roma is an Italian restaurant that was established in 1993 and quickly became successful, winning over a loyal clientele who rave about the restaurant’s elegant ambiance, carefully selected ingredients and delicious pasta. Today the restaurant is considered the best Italian establishment in Salvador, and Alfredo di Roma boasts the most famous fettuccine in all of Brazil. The beautifully decorated restaurant features varying shades of varnished wood flooring, neutral walls and upholstery, and ensures the dishes it creates adhere to the traditional techniques and recipes of Italian cuisine. Menu highlights include fettuccine with shrimp and tomatoes and the steak with black pepper and gorgonzola ravioli. For a more South American-influenced dish, try the Peruvian gnocchi with herb butter, shrimp and asparagus in a tomato sauce.
South American and Bahian cuisine abounds at Paraiso Tropical, a charming restaurant that operates out of a rustic cottage in the pretty, affluent neighborhood of Cabula. Since its opening, the restaurant, which has its very own organic vegetable garden and orchard, has become a local icon of Bahian food. Specialties here include arroz de nabucetê, a rice dish made with clams, green coconut, mango and broccoli, and talharim com frutos de mar, or noodles with shrimp, lobster and octopus. Vegetarians will love the moqueca vegetarian – a vegetable stew with green coconut, fruit and aromatic spices.