The 10 Best Restaurants in São Paulo’s Centro

| © Maní
Brittany Roberts

São Paulo is a multicultural city where cuisines from all over the world can easily be found, but Brazilian food is certainly making a comeback. Top chefs are making it their mission to create mouthwatering recipes, using only local ingredients, and to ensure that Brazilian culinary traditions are not lost. But they are keen to modernise these traditions too, so the result is an abundance of dishes that are simultaneously authentic and original.

1. Attimo

Restaurant, Italian, Brazilian

© Attimo
A moment of Italian culinary bliss The brainchild of renowned restaurateur, Marcelo Fernandes, and Le Cordon Bleu graduate chef Jefferson Rueda, Attimo has a lot to boast about. As the name suggests (attimo is Italian for ‘moment’ ) the menu is inspired by the day-to-day culinary offerings of Rueda’s Italian grandparents. However, not wanting to neglect his own São Paulo roots, the chef substitutes the more traditional ingredients with Brazilian ones. The result is an exciting blend of flavours which has earned numerous awards many a dazzling review. But the restaurant also owes much of its fame to architect Naoki Otake, whose design, a clean blend of marble, glass and hardwood, enables guests to enjoy their food in a modern and sophisticated setting. Price: fine dining Watch out for: Italian recipes with a Brazilian twist

2. Café Girondino

Cafe, Restaurant, Brazilian, Beer, Coffee

Centrally located café and restaurant Located right in the historic centre of the city and very close to the metro, Café Girondino is the perfect watering-hole for tourists. It is home to both a café, serving drinks and delicious desserts (including one of the best rice puddings in São Paulo), and a restaurant, offering a wide range of Brazilian and international dishes. Open all day, every day, this is a great option for those wanting to set themselves up before a long day of sightseeing as well as those just looking to take a mid-afternoon break. It’s also worth a visit just to soak up the antique charm and feel nostalgic. Price: mid-range Watch out for: the nostalgic charm and international dishes

3. D.O.M.

Bar, Restaurant, Contemporary, Fusion, Brazilian, Vegetarian

© Rubens Kato
The best restaurant in Brazil The titles ‘9th Best Restaurant in the World’ and ‘Best restaurant in Brazil’, as decided last year by S. Pellegrino, really do speak for themselves. As well as the stunningly original, quality food, what makes D.O.M. really stand out is the level of pride that owner and head chef Alex Atala takes in his work, and the commitment he puts into developing new creations and improving the experience of his guests. He frequently goes on foraging trips into the Amazon to source new and exciting ingredients that he can transform into contemporary Brazilian dishes, and has even purchased a small portion of land where he can profit from local produce and can carry out research into sustainability and development projects. Price: fine dining Watch out for: the personally-sourced Amazonian ingredients

4. Dalva e Dito

Restaurant, Contemporary, Brazilian, Vegetarian

Dalva e Dito
© Dalva e Dito
Upmarket Brazilian food The sister restaurant to the highly successful D.O.M., and run by the same chef, Alex Atala, Dalva e Dito has a much more laid back atmosphere, but is similarly upmarket in quality and pricing. Although the service is good and the space is attractive – decorated from top to toe with an eclectic mix of wooden sculptures, striking murals and brightly coloured tiles – the food is the main attraction. Dishes are typically Brazilian in essence, but with a twist, so you can find delights such as mouthwatering cashew caipirinhas or chocolate and priprioca mousse on the menu, as well as more conventional variants which are equally recommended. Price: fine dining Watch out for: the Brazilian culinary creations of Alex Atala

5. Kinoshita

Restaurant, Sushi, Japanese

© Kinoshita
Masterful Japanese cooking A winner of countless awards, and under the supervision of masterful connoisseur of Japanese gastronomy, Tsuyoshi Murakami, Kinoshita quite deservedly ranks top in the list of Japanese restaurants in São Paulo. Without any hint of pretension, Murakami succeeds in turning exquisite Kappo cuisine into art on a plate, matching the restaurant’s own elegant design, and he does so whilst interacting with his clients over the counter and ensuring that the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. His menu is daring, yet does not turn its back on traditional practices. In fact, one of the highlights of eating here is tasting the ancient Japanese beverage, sake, which is made from fermented rice – it is flavoursome and aromatic, and each bottle has been selected specifically by Kinosita’s expert sommelier. Price: fine dining Watch out for: the daring menu and the excellent complimentary wine

6. Carlota

Restaurant, Brazilian, Italian

© Carlota
Charming international cuisine in a country home Somehow, whilst juggling a successful foodie blog, a YouTube channel, and numerous book and television deals, accomplished chef Carla Pernambuco manages to delight visitors in her restaurant with an exquisite international menu. The fish dishes and guava soufflé in particular receive consistent high praise; but no meal, be it inspired by Brazilian, Portuguese, Italian or Oriental style cooking, will disappoint. Part of Carlota’s appeal, however, is that nothing about it feels ostentatious or overdone; it exudes charm, in fact – though this is hardly surprising since it is housed in a traditional, white-washed country home. Price: fine dining Watch out for: the mansion setting

7. Tordesilhas

Restaurant, Brazilian

Truly traditional Brazilian foodChef Mara Salles is passionate about all things Brazilian, and is keen to share her passion with the masses at Tordesilhas. Her main mission is to serve good, honest food that respects tradition and hasn’t been adulterated by foreign flavours or awkward attempts at originality and modernism. That said, she is always looking for ways to improve her culinary offerings and frequently conducts research into regional gastronomy, ingredients and technological advances that can be employed in the kitchen. Expect classic dishes, served the old fashioned way, friendly staff, and a warm and welcoming environment.

8. Maní

Restaurant, Brazilian, South American, Contemporary

© Maní
High-end Brazilian cuisine Placed at number four in San Pellegrino’s list of the top 50 restaurants in Latin America, Maní certainly maintains a fantastic reputation as being a standout purveyor of contemporary Brazilian cuisine. Each dish is superbly crafted and beautifully presented, and the combination of flavours is magical. The space is modern and stylish, but homely touches such as bookshelves and comfy pouffes have been added, and these give it a more personal feel. This is in keeping with the general ethos of the restaurant’s owners, which is to provide a sophisticated level of service and top-quality food whilst keeping the vibe sufficiently casual and relaxed. Price: fine dining Watch out for: this is one of the best restaurants in South America

9. Rinconcito Peruano

Restaurant, Contemporary, South American, Peruvian

Rinconcito Peruano
© Rinconcito Peruano
High-quality Peruvian food Although tucked away in a neighbourhood rarely frequented by tourists, Rinconcito Peruano is an undeniable hit with locals and newcomers alike. As a consequence, it is always buzzing. The menu is extensive – although most tend to opt for one of the fabled ceviche dishes without too much deliberation – and authentically Peruvian in essence. It’s certainly no coincidence that the majority of the restaurant’s staff and most loyal clientèle are themselves from Peru. Price: mid-range Watch out for: ceviche that is praised by Peruvians

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