So, part two of the holiday was 3 nights/4 days in São Paulo, the biggest city in Brazil. Although I had been before for work, this was my first time for a holiday here, and I was looking forward to getting to know the city better.
And, for this trip, the plan was to get to know it gastronimically! We had booked in at Fasano, a 1 Michelin Star Italian, and the main event, D.O.M., a 2 Michelin star and also rated the 7th best restaurant in the world by San Peligrino! And at a slightly less ‘haut cuisine’, via the famous São Paulo pizza, the food of the Mercardo Municipal, and of course a sampling of burgers!
Of course, it wasn’t all food – there was some shopping and culture, checking out the Pinocoteca museum and MASP (Museum of Art São Paulo).
So we arrived on Thursday late afternoon after our flight from Navagantes, and went straight to our hotel, the Maksoud Plaz, located just off Avenida Paulista, one of the most famous streets in the city.
With not much else to do, we had some drinks and headed for dinner to a pizzaria. Chosing a pizzaria was very difficult! We read tens of reviews, before in the end settling of ‘Spereganza’, famous for its award winning Marghariti pizza. Unfortunately, I left slightly disappointed… perhaps I had built my hopes up so high! São Paulo pizzas are famous for excessive toppings, and I was hoping for something more traditional here based on their reviews and awards. Unfortunately the chef was a bit too heavy handed with the mozeralla for me. Nonetheless, if we judge it on SP standards, I’m sure it was a great pizza.
Friday we had lunch at a well known steak restaurant, Rubieyat. And it was a great steak. After, we caught some shopping in the up-market I…. shopping mall, full of top brands.
The evening took us to Fasano, a hotel and restaurant located in the up market Jardins neighbourhood, just a short ride from our hotel. Fasano has restaurants in Rio too, including Gero, also an up scale italian. However, Fasano was the original, and the holder of the Michelin star. Their five course tasting menu was very enjoyable. However, I felt disappointed by them not having a wine pairing option, indeed by them not even seeming to have a sommelier available to help me chose a wine. The food itself though was great, definitely amongst the top experiences I have had in Italian food. However, many options were exactly the same as Gero in Ipanema, and although presented differently, I didn’t notice much difference in quality or service. The key one was that they did have a tasting menu available, and I am glad I chose it. The five courses were a tartare of steak, a ravioli of veal, a risotto with ‘special meats’, pork chops with lentils, and a lemon tarte for desert. Overall good portion sizes, but all meat without that much variety. They also had an all fish tasting menu. The wine we selected, a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, was perfectly nice, but perhaps a little heavy on the alcohol (14.5%). Oddly, they did not offer to decant either, which I had to request. I did notice they were decanting by default on some tables, although it didn’t seem to be by the wine, but more by the waiter.
Day two took us on a journey in to the Centre of town, to the Mercardo Municipal. This is a giant food market, surrounded by streets full of market stores and people on a Saturday. You just get bombarded at every angle by people forcing fruit on you! We did stop to sample some, and went to buy some only to find four fruits were coming in at over R$80! No thanks! But it was true I had never heard or seen any of them before.
We were working around trying to find ‘Hocca’, famous for its giant pastels and mortadela sandwiches. And this is what ended up in front of me for my light lunch were I was expecting a sandwich!! Thankfully it was for two of us to share, and we didn’t order one each!
After the market, we walked to the Pinocotecca, a gallery located nearby. They had an exhibit on of British art from the 1600s till 1960s, with the pieces on loan from the Tate. This was well set out, and very interesting. This ate up several hours of our time, and we didn’t manage to look at much of the permanent exhibits. There was however an exhibit ending that weekend of boat figureheads. Interesting!!
But now we were close to the main event, DOM! And I think over half this post is all about our experience at this incredible restaurant.
Our reservation was at 20:30, but we arrived a bit early at 20:00. There was no problem seating – at this point just two other tables were already there, and no one had started their food yet.
The menu only has various tasting options, with two vegetarion options (the difference being the number of courses), and two ‘classic’ options, the ‘Optimus’, and the ‘Maximus’. The difference being the Maximus has more smaller courses covering a wider variety of ingredients and dishes than the Optimus. All options had a matched wine selection. There is no information on the menu on what the food is, and throughout it is all very much in suspense as to what is next, which is excellently built up by them setting different plates and cutlery in advance of the arrival of the food to make you wander what is next. Of course, we went for the Maximus to experience the full selection of what was on offer.
The courses were incredible, fantastic, wonderful – every word I can think. From plenty of ingredients I have never heard of, to every day ingredients prepared in a completely different way and bought to life by a touch of amazonian spices for instance. For me, a meat lover normally, there was only one meat course, numerous fish and sea food courses, and numerous vegetarian courses. And I loved them all (except perhaps the oyster, not something I am a fan of unfortunately). Prior the to menu starting however, we were asked if there were any issues with particular foods including any sea food, oysters etc. So it wasn’t a surprise to have it, but it could have been swapped out. But I was there to see what the chef Alex At… thought best, so I stuck with it!
So… a cocktail to start (I went for the DOM, a wonderful gin creation with olive oil, honey and black salt!), a couvert of breads, cheese, better and a garlic paste, 1 amuse bouche, and 16 dishes spread over 11 ‘presentations’ and a palate cleanser before desert, with 11 wines and 1 whisky pairing. We had a copy of the dishes given to us, although the copy in English doesn’t do it justice. Some of the rare and unheard of amazonian ingredients just don’t seem quite so exotic when there is no appropriate english translation and they go to the next closest thing! All the ingredients are from Brazil, from the far south to the far north. The wines are from around the world, including some excellent Brazilian wines, and some very rare and unusual french wines.
I’m not going to detail every course, as if you go it may spoil the surprise if any of the dishes are the same! I do know the menu changes often as ingredients come and go. Which is why I would very happily go back.