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Brazilian gastronomy is blooming. Over the last decade, many chefs in the Latin American country have been trying to find what one could call a “unique Brazilian cuisine”: rescuing cooking techniques, searching native ingredients, and embracing national flavours. But now, more than ever, they are doing that with a fine dining approach.
There are now more restaurants than ever in the largest cities in the country – not only São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where the Michelin Guide is present – focusing on Brazilian gastronomy, which would be unheard of five years ago, representing the maturing of an authentically local food scene, so to speak.
Here we highlight restaurants that are renovating Brazilian gastronomy in cities across the country to show that Brazilian cuisine goes far beyond feijoada.
Corrutela, São Paulo
After working in restaurants such as Chez Panisse and Relae, and spending a season foraging in England in the company of famous forager Miles Irving, young chef Cesar Costa is back in Brazil to put all he's learnt to use: his restaurant is focused on local organic produce, and has a sustainable concern increasingly present in the food scene.
The corn that he uses for his polenta, for example, comes from the interior of Bahia and is planted in an organic farm and milled in house. The ingredients come from different farmers from around the country, showing that Brazilian organic produce is increasingly developing.
R. Medeiros de Albuquerque, 256 - Vila Madalena, São Paulo
Esquina Mocotó, São Paulo
Chef Rodrigo Oliveira, from the gastronomic institution Mocotó (the restaurant every chef or foodie visits and falls in love with when in São Paulo), decided to open a more high-end and classy venue for his sertanejas dishes, but without losing his roots – so much so that he chose Mocotó’s neighboring building for the new venture.
At Esquina, he serves modern Brazilian cuisine with ingredients from the Northeast, the region where his father – who started his food empire – came from. Oliveira also runs the recently-opened Balaio, located in the cultural centre Instituto Moreira Salles in the Paulista Avenue, one of the most important streets in town, where he serves casual dishes using ingredients from all over Brazil.
Av. Nossa Sra. do Lorêto, 1108 - Vila Medeiros, São Paulo
Maní, São Paulo
Chef Helena Rizzo was one of the first chefs to highlight the role of women in Latin American cuisine. At Maní, she proposes a contemporary cuisine, influenced by the Spanish avant-garde (she used to work with the Roca Brothers), but with Brazilian native ingredients (from fruits to herbs) and a delicate approach.
After her business partner, chef Daniel Redondo, left last year, Helena took the front line as the only head chef in the restaurant. She serves recipes that are powerful but delicate in flavour and texture – her signature in the kitchen.
Rua Joaquim Antunes, 210 - Jardim Paulistano, São Paulo
Vista, São Paulo
Chef Marcelo Bastos Corrêa had already shown his desire to show-off Brazilian ingredients at his previous restaurant, Jiquitaia. Now, at Vista, recently opened and located on the rooftop of a building designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer, he goes deeper into his Brazilian roots cuisine, gathering elements from various regions in elegant and authorial creations.
There are very authentic Brazilian dishes in his menu, such as the duck in tucupi sauce, the moqueca – a popular fish stew – and the lamb with maniva (the manioc leaves). A great place – with a stunning view – to sample Brazilian tastes.
Av. Pedro Álvares Cabral, 1301, 8th floor – Parque do Ibirapuera, São Paulo
Lasai, Rio de Janeiro
Rafa Costa e Silva is the owner and chef of this restaurant located in Rio's trendy Botafogo neighborhood. He proposes a fresh and seasonal daily menu and, for that, he also maintains a farm a few kilometers away from Lasai, where most of the vegetables he uses in his recipes come from. An alumnus of Mugaritz, where he was Andoni Aduriz' right hand man, he is a very technical cook, but with emotional dishes.
Rua Conde de Irajá, 191 - Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
Olympe, Rio de Janeiro
Originally opened by Claude Troisgros – one of the most famous and beloved chefs in Brazil – Olympe is now run by his son, Thomas, who follows the tradition of France’s renowned Troisgros Family, but with more and more Brazilian influences, since he was born there.
He intends to make a modern and authorial cuisine, empowering native ingredients – his recent tasting menu, called The Creation, embraces Northeastern products, such as aipim (cassava), cocoa and fava beans.
R. Custódio Serrão, 62 - Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro
Oteque, Rio de Janeiro
Alberto Landgraf made his name in São Paulo (at the renowed Epice, now closed), but decided to move to Rio de Janeiro, where he recently opened Oteque, with an even classier proposal. Although he does not focus specifically on Brazilian cuisine, he values national produce, with more attention to fish and seafood – the advantage of being in a coastal city – in dishes using very precise techniques.
Oteque fuses haute cuisine with the more casual atmosphere of Rio, with great service and wine.
Rua Conde de Irajá, 581 - Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
An Alex Atala protégé, Manu Buffara has put her hometown Curitiba on the map of Brazilian gastronomy. At Manu, her eponymous restaurant, she serves two different tasting menus: one for omnivores and the other for vegetarians.
For both, Buffara developed a very close partnership with local farmers, obtaining fruits, mushrooms and more. Her menu, which starts with an exciting sequence of snack food, changes frequently with the freshness and seasonality of produce.
Alameda Dom Pedro II, 317 - Batel, Curitiba
Glouton, Belo Horizonte
The cuisine from the state of Minas Gerais is perhaps one of the most emblematic in Brazil – hearty and abundant dishes, with a deep family connectio. Chef Leonardo Paixão has tried to give a more modern dressing to this traditional cuisine.
At Glouton, he raises everyday ingredients to great creations with lots of technique – this is the case for his signature pork chin, which takes hours to become soft inside and crunchy on the outside. Paixão proposes new interpreations of classic regional recipes that work very well in a high-end space. He has also just opened a gastrobar, Nicolau, in the city, where he serves his creations in a more casual venue.
R. Bárbara Heliodora, 59 - Lourdes, Belo Horizonte
Origem, Salvador de Bahia
This husband-and-wife tasting-menu-only restaurant is one of a kind in Bahia state, where Afro-Brazilian food is more popular.
Fabrício Lemos (graduated at Le Cordon Bleu and worked in the luxury hotel chain The Ritz-Carlton) is the chef who taps the region in search of native ingredients, while his wife, Lisiane Arouca, is in charge of all the pastries served. The couple seek to recreate an original Bahian gastronomy, recovering traditional flavours in innovative dishes.
Alameda das Algarobas, 74 – Salvador de Bahia