Monday, October 01, 2018

São Paulo – 8 Must-Eats in The Concrete Jungle

Sampa has 12 million faces – the whole country and half the world are somehow crammed into one sprawling, seething mess. It can be daunting, but if you know where to look, you can find the culinary capital of Brazil or even South America here.

Açaí bowls
The fruit itself is born in the Amazon rainforest 3000 kilometres to the North, but the Brazilian Southeast has made açaí na tigela (açaí bowls) its own. With heaped-on sweet milk powder, honey, banana, granola, strawberries, mango, or basically anything else you want, açaí is a pervasive classic in summer. Try Frutaria Paulista, at the Western end of Av. Paulista for a true Sampa experience on a hot evening. You won’t need to look far: acaí options are on every street-corner boteco in the city.
Head Chef Alex Atala’s fame grew after his stand-out episode on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series. DOM, Atala’s main restaurant, offers adventures into novel Amazonian flavours, juxtaposed with unpretentious Brazilian classic dishes from all regions, in a Michelin-starred setting. Its price tag is medium-high for Brazil, but may not hurt too much in foreign currencies. DOM is great for a special occasion, like a first night of a trip or a date night.

Pinheiros and Vila Madalena are young, happening parts of town. Moderately priced dishes from the
Brazilian Northeast – moquecas, acarajé, sun-dried meat and seafood – are prepared to a high standard here.

A popular spot for the famous cuisine of Minas Gerais State located on the market square Praça Benedito Calixto. Mineira cuisine is basically comfort food: from the omnipresent pão de queijo to tutu beans, torresmo pork crackling, meat dishes like costelinha spare ribs, and lombo pork loin.

Arrepas and Patacones are done in an informal setting, also just off Praça Benedito Calixto. Sabores specializes in the cuisines of Northern South-America, focussing on Columbia. The waiters are imported and the food is satisfying, offering a refreshing change from day-to-day Brazilian cuisine.

Brazil has the biggest Japanese population outside of Japan, with the greatest numbers of nikkeis living in São Paulo, and especially in the Liberdade neighbourhood. The initial wave of immigration happened during the coffee boom years of the early 20th Century. Aska doesn’t take reservations and the queue on some nights can last an hour. You can’t sit down unless all members of your party have arrived, and service can be challenging, but this all becomes part of the charm when you are rewarded though with a bowl of authentic Japanese lamen.

Perfectly seasoned ceviches and hearty chicharrónes served in unpretentious surroundings, Rinconcito is going from strength to strength, especially among São Paulo’s Peruvian population – always a good sign. Edgar Villar, the Peruvian chef, and his team provide great service and value for money in São Paulo’s old centre, and now five other locations around the city.

You might not think of hamburgers and fries when you think of Brazilian food,  but Brazil is the world’s second biggest beef producer after the USA, and Paulistanos love hamburgers. Z Deli is currently ranked second on Guia do Hambúrguer’s best of 2017, so expect company. Book ahead, or get behind a long line of hipsters, bikers and couples.


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