After running the kitchens at Nobu in Mykonos, Greece and St. Moritz, Switzerland, Tadashi Shiraichi returned to Brazil, bringing a very global definition of what he understands as Japanese cuisine. In his recently opened UN, there is space for risottos (with mushrooms and Grana Padano), ceviche (featuring floured tofu instead of cubes of fish), grilled Kobe beef with dashi sauce and even jalapeño chilies in the sashimi — a recipe he learned from Nobu Matsuhisa himself. UN embodies fusion cooking in the right measure.
A merger of a butcher shop and a restaurant in São Paulo’s downtown, Casa do Porco (in English, “the Pork House”) is where chef Jefferson Rueda unveils the pig from nose to tail — literally. For that, Rueda reinterprets recipes from around the world. Pork sushi? Check. A ceviche using the feet and the tail from the animal? Check. A pork tartare (made with raw matured meat)? Check. The kitchen boasts two barbecue grills that Rueda developed to roast two whole-boned animals at the same time. And then there’s porcopoca (that would be something like "porkcorn" in English), and even the coffee comes with a bacon caramel. On the way out, you can also buy homemade sausage and salamis to take home.
In the many ethnic restaurants in São Paulo (after all, the city welcomed immigrants from all over the world), Arab food is a specialty. Vovô Ali is the best example of this: Downtown, spurning fads, the restaurant serves affordable food, seasoned without concession to other tastes. Run by a brother and sister and her husband, the small, friendly restaurant serves shawarma, baba ganoush, hummus, and tabbouleh salad. All excellent.
In the wave of chefs opening their second restaurants with a more casual air, Portuguese chef Vitor Sobral (who has restaurants in Lisbon, and Luanda, Angola) opened his as a homage to the tabernas (specializing in tasty appetizers and wine) found in his home country. Taking advantage of the Portuguese culture installed in Brazil since the colonization of the country, Sobral presents grilled appetizers (from octopus to alheiras, a type of Portuguese sausage), preserves, and excellent fried items, nearly always served in portions generous enough to share.
Opened by the son of the owner of Izakaya Issa (one of the best Japanese restaurants in the city), the new Matsu follows in the family tradition of authentic Japanese cuisine. In the Pinheiros neighborhood, a discreet door with no sign leads to an excellent selection of hot dishes, with generous teishoku (meal sets), takoyaki (fried octopus balls ), tebasaki (crispy chicken wings glazed with sweet pepper sauce), and wafu hambagu (a Japanese-style burger). The list of sakés and sochus is extensive.
Named in honor of Sinatra, Frank is a cocktail bar inside one of the city’s most emblematic hotels, Maksoud Plaza. Timely renovations and an experienced bartender have made this the best place in the city to have a drink. Bartender Spencer Amereno Jr. makes cocktails aged in native Brazilian wood barrels and recreates classics with his own particular signature. Like the namesake Frank himself, he does it his way!
Nino Cucina’s atmosphere is that of the Italian countryside, and the restaurant is a breath of fresh air for Italian food served in São Paulo, skipping tired, old dishes — although Nino Cucina does serve traditional recipes, they all have a certain creative freshness. This is thanks to the hands of young chef Rodolfo De Santis, which lend a delicate touch to the beautifully cooked pasta and meat dishes. He also serves the best tiramisu in the city.
Inside a shopping mall bookstore, the second restaurant opened by chef Helena Rizzo (winner of Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef Award in 2014) and her husband and business partner, Daniel Redondo (formerly from El Celler de Can Roca), Manioca is a more casual, cozier version of the couple’s pioneering restaurant, Maní. The spacious dining room has an al fresco air that suits the snacks and sandwiches perfectly. It’s a café-restaurant, focusing on dishes prepared with a light touch, from salads to meat, for a meal at any time. Don’t miss the roasted beetroot salad with smoked ricotta and the shrimp fideua.
It’s hard to find a restaurant in São Paulo that claims to serve authentic Mexican recipes, rather than the ubiquitous Tex-Mex. La Central is an exception, boasting a bar atmosphere and excellent food. Tacos with pork or vegetarian fillings (made with zucchini, mushrooms, and corn purée), enchiladas, and tamales appear on the menu. The seasoning is evident — and well-tuned to Brazilian palates — but lacks a true spicy punch.
Inside Mirante 9 de Julho, where the most intense cultural programs take place in the city today, this café (the name in English translates to “this is coffee!”) serves Brazilian coffee beans produced on their own farm, in the interior of the state. Choose from several serving styles (from Hario to AeroPress) and blends. There are also food options ranging from homemade yogurt (served with handmade jelly and granola) and Isso's unbeatable Brazilian pão de queijo (cheese bread).
Mario Batali’s Italian emporium Eataly has an outpost in São Paulo, and Brace, on the third floor, focuses on dishes cooked on a charcoal grill — “brace” in Italian roughly translates to "fire." The ovens, under the command of chef Ligia Karazawa, produce char-grilled starters and main dishes such as wild boar sausage, fish, and the famous bisteca alla fiorentina (grilled porterhouse steak for two). But, as in any good Italian restaurant, there’s always room for pasta, capisce?
Offering French brasserie recipes from the 19th century, this restaurant — which has three other branches in the city — is a São Paulo pioneer in demonstrating that beer and haute cuisine were made for each other. Dishes range from croque monsieur to steak tartare and moules et frites (mussels with fries), and the list of beers to accompany the food is vast. The restaurant offers a constant program of beer launches and hosts master-brewers from around the world.