São Paulo has one of the highest numbers of restaurants per square kilometer of any city in South America. From simple and cheap eats to fusion to ethnic restaurants, the city has it all. South America’s financial hub is also known for its innovative and creative fine dining. The city has the only two-star Michelin guide review on the continent, and over 80 one-star restaurants. Here are six of São Paulo’s best restaurants for fine dining.
Restaurant, Bar, Contemporary, Fusion, Brazilian, Vegetarian, $$$
D.O.M, of renowned chef Alex Atala, was the only restaurant to receive two stars in the 2016 Michelin guide. Atala, known for his creative entrées, favors national ingredients and has catapulted delicacies such as the pirarucu fish and tapioca to stardom. He estimates he has created at least 500 recipes since he opened D.O.M 16 years ago. His often minute portions take customers’ taste buds for a roller coaster ride, mixing ingredients as varied as oysters and cupuaçu (fruit from the cocoa family). The restaurant offers degustation menus that may include palm heart in the form of an envelope stuffed with vatapá, or pirarucu with açaí purée. For dessert, favorites include the basil with lemon sorbet with candied pepper and bacuri chutney, or the cinnamon zabaione with cheese ice cream and strawberry syrup.
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Hotel Restaurant, Restaurant, Brazilian, European, Vegan, Vegetarian
Although devoted to traditional cuisine, restaurateur and entrepreneur Rogério Fasano has included avant-garde cuisine options in his fixed menu and à la carte choices. In addition to the classics, such as linguini with crawfish, tomatoes and a touch of pepper, chef Luca Gozzani prepares pumpkin ravioli and foie gras. But unlike the other restaurants on this list, the Fasano is not a chef’s restaurant like the D.O.M or the Maní, but a restaurateur’s restaurant. The ambience is impeccable, with marbled floors, wooded walls, high ceilings, and live piano, not to mention the impressive wine selection. It certainly deserves to be on every ‘best restaurant in São Paulo’ list around.
Instead of one great chef, the Maní has two: Helena Rizzo and Daniel Redondo. The pair have created several unique combinations which will have your tastebuds dancing, like their famous cold soup of Jabuticaba with cachaça-steamed crayfish, pickled cauliflower, and amburana nuts appetitizer, or the Spanish chorizo rice with chickpeas and fish. To finalize a great night, go for the ‘from mud to chaos’ dessert: smoked eggplant candy, organic goat’s milk curd, caramel pistachios, orange blossom jelly, Persian lime skin, Philo batter and black sesame ice cream.
One of the few one-star Japanese restaurants outside Japan, the Huto has been captivating its customers for almost 10 years with extremely fresh ingredients and entrées that are almost a work of art. Customers may choose between à la carte options or three fixed-priced menus, called Omakases. Those who opt for the Omakases will have the chance to enjoy egg tempura truffled and with ikura (salmon roe), tuna sushi with foie gras, or the scallops with mashed cara and mujol roe. In the hot entrée portion of the à la carte menu, pork ribs cooked with shoyu and sake accompanied by mashed yam and Japanese mustard is an excellent choice.
Following the same culinary lines as the D.O.M, Dalva e Dito – another of Alex Atala’s restaurants – favors Brazilian ingredients. At this restaurant the day-to-day cooking is done by chef Elton Junior. The vatapá and shrimp pastry appetizers are a delicious start to the meal. The menu is divided into three sections: air, land and water. All come in generous portions and the combinations are very interesting: sun-dried meat with rustic cassava gratin or one of the oldest dishes on the menu, ‘pork in a can’ with mashed potatoes, flavored with pequi. For dessert, one of the most popular dishes is the chocolate pie with cumaru and red fruits sorbet.
A very good restaurant like Tuju pays attention to the smallest detail. The degustation menus explore different textures and flavors of the ingredients. The most extensive one – with 12 courses – also has a vegetarian version and may be requested with or without wine harmonization. Good examples of the high quality and creativity of the menu are the steamed English hake with mini corn, mashed taioba and milky leaves with moqueca broth and corn farofa. Or the fruit skewer with scallop in the shape of a flower and citrus seasoning, served with corn and tubers on a cabbage leaf. Or even lamb with soft red pepper sauce, yogurt seasoned with cilantro and corn couscous.