Satyricon: legendary seafood restaurant still keeps the tide high in Rio de Janeiro

Satyrs, according to a Greek myth were represented as goatlike men who drank and danced in the train of Dionysus and chased the nymphs(source: Collins dictionary). As its name suggests, Satyricon is about having fun and enjoying the pleasures of life, like food and wine. In Satyricon’s instance, the joy comes from seafood and well-crafted wine list.

Mixed seafood platter

Imagine a seafood kingdom. A giant lobster king seated next to a leggy crab queen on an ice throne surrounded by tall and trim langoustine advisors and courtly shrimp entourage.
A tail away dwells a mighty fish commando observing the theatrically elaborate royal order with eyes wide open. Staring bemused while their shiny bodies – as if hypnotised by the crushed ice underneath – remain in an absolute deadly stillness. I chose this melodramatic scene because it illustrates the appealing seafood bar at Satyricon.

Linguini pasta with fish

Served fresh in high-flown as well as basic preparations: raw, sliced, chopped, pounded, cooked, seared, baked in salt crust or pan-fried. Supplied with home-made pasta, risotto, crunchy vegetables or presented simply on their own, the seafood is superb and kept the restaurant afloat since 1983. For trendy Rio, over 30 years in business is a remarkable achievement. No wonder that celebrities like Sting and Madonna dined here.

Seafood bar at Satyricon

To try the most, the Mixed seafood platter is the best starter to share with others. It is large so you better have at least one, but better three or four dining partners helping with the generous serving of various fish tartars – salmon, tuna; even avocado; scallops drizzled with savoury lemon sauce; raw fish carpaccio dressed in herbs and citrus fruits and more. Just ask the waiter for daily suggestions and note your preferences. A glass of dry brazilian sparkling wine or crisp mineral white wine (Chablis style) sets the right mood for the feast Dionysus himself would approve of.
The seafood is mostly from South Atlantic, close to Brazilian coast, yet its final serving has an Italian twist. Mediterranean-style, to my opinion, is the most flattering preparation for the sea creatures, since it elevates their pure natural taste with a minimum of intervention and added flavourings. One of the house specialties is the pargo, a white fish crusted in rock salt and baked.
Anyone can choose the main course from the fish market-like ice bar near the entrance. The by-wide-brazilian-smile-braced waiters explain the taste features of each species to make the choice easier so nobody picks the fish for its lovely blue eyes only.
Multiple courses are advised by the composition of the menu. Three or four, including a dessert, will fill you up just enough. My intermezzo before my main plate of exquisite Grilled Scampi was a plate of linguine pasta with fish and tomato sauce. I got truly captivated by the restaurant’s Italian spirit. There are no words worthy of describing this soft, fresh and succulent al-dente cooked dish. “Grazie, perfettivo!” [Thank you, perfect in Italian].

Grilled scampi

For the fancy crowd there are cuts of sashimi, and house-made maki rolls. Popularity of these japanese snacks has not missed even Brazil. Most of the desserts are fruit-based, but ice-cream and tiramisu are options for the sweet tooth with space left for these seat treats.
Satyricon’s convenient location in the heart of trendy Ipanema, not far from the beach, attracts local socialites and very well-dressed crowd living in the area. A cocktail before lunch or dinner at a small bar right at the entrance is a festive and convivial embarkation to a delightful dining cruise inside the stylish, soft-hued extensive dining room. The wine list reflects the nature of the seafood, but also includes some bolder red wines, for these who either decide for a steak or do not bother complicating their lives with wine and food matching.
Opening Hours: Daily 12noon- midnight
Address: Rua Barão da Torre, 192 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Contact: +(55) 21 2521-0627

Roberta Sudbrack: from president's kitchen to a quiet street in Rio

Roberta Sudbrack is one the most established and lauded chefs in Brazil. She authored a number of culinary books, cooked for the former Brazilian head of state, his international guests and diplomats. Her food had to look representative, and it came naturally that her training is influenced predominantly by French cuisine.
Roasted guinea fowl
Whether it was for the national pride or to differentiate herself from the copious high-ranking European chefs or these adding anything sounding japanese to their menu in a grip with the international culinary trends, Sudbrack is not afraid to use local ingredients.
The result is a haughty, but simple as well as creative cuisine highlighting Brazilian ingredients. Her bistro style restaurant has been noted as one of the finest in Rio de Janeiro.
Corn skin, fig seeds and foie gras amouse-bouche
In a daily changing set menu you can stretch to eight courses, some tiny, some in the size of a whole guinea fowl.
Starting with a quartet of amouse-bouches, the chef’s sense for discovery and doing things her way pops out from a casserole, strikes you with snappy and perhaps awkward titles like in “Raws: sea, dirt, orchard” and surprises with unusual brazilian ingredients like in “Crayfish, canjica, caviar“. Canjica is a white Brazilian corn popularly used in a festive sweet milky corn porridge of the same name.
Raws: sea, dirt, orchard
The weirdest sounding and looking though was the “Corn skin, fig seeds and foie gras“. It did not taste bad, just I am not craving it as I am writing this review. These small apetizers were all nice and creative as was the fourth unusual plate of “White asparagus bouillon on red tuna leaf“, yet they did not blew my palate with sensual and addictive taste profiles. I would not dare calling them boring, just not out of this world if you are used to dining in these kind of restaurants as I do.
Red snapper poached in olive oil
Three main  courses follow the suite. A Mediterranean style Red snapper poached in olive oil was elevated by a high quality pea coloured olive oil in which the fish was bathing itself, but since I live in Mediterranean I was not overwhelmed by the fish itself. Using local pirarucu or other fish found along the stretchy brazilian coast would flatter my palate more.
Quinoa and lentils
I was not in a mood for pork ribs (from the Minas Gerais state) and the chef happily substituted it for Roasted guinea fowl. Nested in my plate, the shiny bird looked like a dish from a Medieval feast. An unlucky choice for the chef, since for this bird to be appealing to me I would need it roasted, stuffed and served with rich side dish and not just a juice. Poor bird, I could not fully appreciate its by high temperature sealed fate.
The kitchen was accommodating my whims coming with a vegetarian option of Quinoa, lentils and shaved sweet potatoes. It was fresh, grainy, but very boring, so I dove half way through and expected next dish to excite my taste buds. This two times improvised course just did not work for me.
Roasted sweet onion, bouillon of jamón and sausage
Then came a plate of Roasted sweet onion, bouillon of jamón and sausage. The bouillon was served from a tea pot, poured in a slow pace over a half cut white onion and chopped red brick hued ham. This was a favourite dish of my partner and had more depth than all the other mains.
Macerated Peach, tea, quinoa praline
A small slice of local cheese with toasted bread followed and left us wondering whether the bread would not be better with a slab of butter. The cheese was rather awkward and assumed an acquired taste.
A light desert of “Macerated Peach, tea, quinoa praline” refreshed our tired palates ready to bite into a trio of sweet pleasures of “Small sweets of Rapadura skin, acidified white chocolate, raspberry and licuri“. It sounded more fun than tasted, but my sugar receptors were stimulated enough.
Red portuguese wine from Dao
Drinks: From more humble portuguese wines to the grande dame of Spanish wines – Vega Sicilia Unico – the selection was focused on spanish speaking wine producing countries. Staring with a bottle of red wine from the DAO region in Portugal we were overwhelmed by its boldness and had to switch into something more elegant and refined. The Vega Sicilia Unico 2006 saved our evening. It was exquisite as always. The only drawback is its price, but our trust in the in-house sommelier vanished after the first supposedly elegant and soft debacle that like a gunpowder blew our taste buds, so we went for a secure bet of the best producer on the list.
The beer list is refreshing and pleases all the football fans coming to Rio for the World Cup with its thirst clinching quality. After shouting all day on the stadium, supporting your team, you might need beer instead of mouth drying wine.
Vega Sicilia Unico 2006
Ambience: Modern, austere and rather soulless. Surprisingly there were only two tables upstairs occupied by diners in the middle of the week, which for most highly rated restaurants is rather unusual. The answer might be the location (near the botanic gardens, far from the beach and many hotels) and the lack of character of the interiors as many cariocas (Rio natives) have told me. On the other hand the ground floor of her two-storey gastro house was full. I would rather require siting there if I came in the future.
Roberta Subdrack interior
For such a reputable gastronomic restaurant it feels perhaps too casual and rather uncomfortable as an ugly air conditioning sticks out of the walls and the windows do not offer much of a view. The fact that Sudbrack cooked for the left-wing president might be the answer to her rather humble decor.
Opening Hours: Closed on Mon, Wed and Fri. The rest of the week open for lunch and dinner (Sat & Sun closing at midnight).
Address: Avenida Lineu de Paula Machado, 916 – Jardim Botânico, RJ, Brazil
Contact: +(55) 21 3874-0139

Maní: the most impressive Brazilian sourced dining in Sao Paulo

Maní is named after manioc, the native Indian goddess, that according to a legend was buried in her aboriginal home in Brazil where the first root of this tropical woody plant grew.
Also known as cassava, cassada, yuca, mogo or mandioca (Manihot esculenta), the manioc root became a ubiquitous traditional ingredient of Brazilian diet.
Cultivated for its edible starchy tuberous root, according to Science Daily  manioc is also” the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world“. At home, I love it baked or deep fried as a snack.
Maní entrance lounge
Potatoes are known as a pre-eminent source of crabs as well, but they can seem dull for most picky eaters. Manioc is more fun and versatile than one might assume, and at Maní the chefs know how to turn this ingredient into a desirable treat.
The maestros of manioc in the kitchen are a Brazilian native Helena Rizzo and her Spanish husband Daniel Redondo. They both worked in the kitchen of the world-famous restaurant El Celler de Can Roca (voted The World’s Best Restaurant in 2013), and also both boost with starry apprenticeships. To our tastes Maní is the most impressive Brazilian sourced dining in Sao Paulo, better than D.O.M. and much more welcoming.
Manioca and parmesan snacks with dips
Their first big project together employs contemporary cooking techniques while highlighting Brazilian ingredients. Seasonable, local and organic whenever possible, these are the fanfares inviting modern conscious diners inside the restaurant. Like at DOM, Brazil’s most lauded restaurant that is currently ranked fourth in The World’s Best Restaurants list, at Maní the cuisine is eclectic and highly experimental. The chefs constantly search for palate-luring ingredients in Brazil’s lush nature from the Northern Amazon to more central states and as far as the Rio de Janeiro’s national parks.
Manioca starch can be as airy light as in the fluffy white crisps served in a bag together with various dips, peppered butter and crunchy parmesan lollies. These teasers are just the start of an indulgent Brazilian feast in style at this modern São Paulo institution.
Creatove salad at Maní
At Maní creativity, freshness, and quality seem to enjoy an equal status.
As in the Mata Atlantica Salad consisting of a leafy bundle featuring seasonal greens, shavings of mango, creamy white pupunha heart of palm, the pulp of passion fruit, zingy celery, Brazilian herbs, all drizzled with smoked vegetable oil. If you wonder if a salad can be at the same time light in weight but also abundant with complex flavours, then stop here and dive your fork into this natural wonder on the plate.
One of the staples on the menu is the Jabuticaba cold soup (gazpacho) with cachaca steamed crayfish, pickled cauliflower and amburana nuts. Refreshing and surprising cold appetiser that will introduce you a number of important Brazilian natural delights. Jabuticaba is a grape-like purple fruit of Jabuticaba tree growing around São Paulo. The fruit is a thick-skinned berry with tart skin, but a sweet white or pink flesh. Cachaca is the most popular liquor in Brazil. Amburana nuts are seeds of Amburana cearensis tree used in traditional medicine as antispasmodic, with anti-inflammatory effect and suppressing cough. This soup turns out to be a highly nutritious and healthy restaurant treat. I would have a pot of it and not just a bowl.
The Egg “perfecto” cooked to 63 degrees during two and half hours served with pupunha foam is another pick from the signature starters at Mani.
Palm heart flour-less linguini
Yet it is the incredible Pupunha Heart of Palm thin noodles with parmesan sauce and white truffle olive oil that turned me on the most. Imagine flour-less linguine tasting better than the heavy gluten pasta. The versatility of the popular heart of palm is being intensely explored across Brazil. The chefs shave the flexible inner layers of the palm in long strokes in the shape of long linguine. The air-light fragrant foamy sauce and truffles foul your senses as to believe that you are actually eating the naughty carb and cholesterol-rich plate. But, you are not.
The chefs also make tortellini from the heart of palm.
There are plenty of fish dishes, all vary according to availability, summed up as a daily catch. Lamb, beef and pork, are originally prepared with local cheese or nuts (such as baru of a savannah tree) and of course plenty of South American fruits and vegetables.
Açaí desert Egg Desert
Most of the desserts on the menu contained some form of a frozen sorbet or ice cream when I visited.
The final treat of Açaí ice cream, banana, guarana jelly, oatmeal, brown sugar, marshmallow and strawberry slud sounds more like the popular Brazilian breakfast spreading across its borders as ‘açaí  bowl’ (I saw it in California as well as in New York), yet aside its energy-boosting property it was far more sophisticated. Similar to the açaí  bowl, the purple in antioxidants-rich sorbet was accompanied by banana, sweated with guarana and fibre boosted by crunchy oatmeal. The marshmallow and strawberry frosty layer added the extra zing.
The Egg Dessert of eggnog ice cream with coconut foam and coconut crisps looks quite funny, like another breakfast and not after dinner treat. It just looks like an egg, though. The yolky and glaring centre is a lush eggnog ice cream while the white lining is creamy coconut foam. I like the sense of humour and surprising effect of their dishes that also taste great.
Drinks: The wine list is just right. Not too big, not too limited. We went for a beautiful bottle of Sold de Sol Chardonnay, often regarded as one of the best chardonnays in South America. It was mineral yet firm and rounded nicely with a sweet vanilla and spicy tones. The drinks list does not end with wine as many cocktails, teas, non-alcoholic blends and of course high-quality Brazilian coffee adorn the liquid stable of Mani.
Sol de Sol ChardonnayMani Sao Paulo

Atmosphere: Elegant yet casual, natural yet celebrating modern design. It cannot be more eclectic as there is also an al fresco terrace at the back.
Entering through the long entrance corridor, your sight is entertained with art installations of upcoming artists that welcome those who browse in. The restaurant itself is spread across several rooms, each with a slightly different feel. One is more rustic, other more minimalist and  contemporary. A plenty of natural light sets an eco-friendly tone.
Since 2013 Maní was placed between the 50 best restaurants in the world of the British publication Restaurant Magazine. Personally, I appreciate the delicate and light of Maní’s cooking style over the lofty and heavy DOM by the chef Alex Atala.

Closed on Monday. Lunch Tue-Fri: 12noon-3pm; Sat&Sun: 1pm-4pm; Dinner: Tue-Thurs: 8pm-11:30pm; Fri&Sat: 8:30pm-1:30am
 Rua Joaquim Antunes 210, Jardim Paulistano, São Paulo.
 +55 11 3085 4148

DOM: redefining Brazilian cuisine through the hands of the chef Alex Atala

The tattooed Brazilian chef Alex Atala is a former punk and DJ, but currently also one of the most watched talents in the globe of contemporary gastronomy. His restaurant DOM in São Paulo brought gastronomic Brazilian cuisine into the new highs of respect.
His moto: “Brazilian gastronomy is a feasible dream” is brought to reality at DOM and bestowed his culinary art with laurels from the ‘World´s 50 Best Restaurants’ awarded by the British Restaurant magazine’s jury. His coveted baby – DOM has scored high in the rankings for years. A remarkable achievement for a chef in a country known more for its carnivals and long sandy beaches, but a novice in the high gastronomic society. What Roberta Sudbrack, also a successful Brazilian chef had started, Atala stretched into extreme.
Ants by Chef Atala at DOM in São Paulo

DOM intends to wow, and it does

It is ironic that in today’s culinary marathon of innovators, using domestic ingredients is glorified and considered groundbreaking. After all, aren’t all these chefs just using the same material as our grandmothers once did?
Well, chef Atala is not just bringing the local produce back to the plates at DOM, but he resuscitates the Brazilian cookery in its most exotic form. While serving deep frozen and then defrosted ants in order to preserve the most of their lemongrass-like natural flavour rises the eyebrows of some diners, the food critiques and chefs bow down to his daring attitude. His Amazonian ants sat on a cushion of pineapple cube when I dined there. Their skeletons crunch hardly between the teeth, and then release their herbal lemony taste in your mouth, leaving you either bemused or shocked. They are worth trying and a sustainable act, since there are zillions of ants in the Amazon. Atala’s efforts through his charity aim to resuscitate the food chain and the healthy lifestyles of the Amazonian native tribesmen. He is the herald of the Amazon’s biodiversity deserving our support.
Chef Alex Atala with Amazonian tribesmen
Leave stereotypes aside, accept the challenge, pay for the ants, and enjoy the adventurous feast! The exotic, tribal indulgence can be discreet. In a private room available for hiring, the diners can be shaded from all potentially uncomfortable or curious looks.
The classy cum modern ambiance all made in Brazil of the dimly lit main dining room attracts the business elite of São Paulo. Adventurous foodies flood in and their hungry eyes admire the wild artefacts adorning the restaurant’s interior. The life-size old wooden kayak and quirky sculptures, convey the message that Alex Atala brought the wild Brazil inside the DOM restaurant.
Eggplant ceviche and seaweed at DOM
Watching the flickering hands of the cooks, and the focused gaze of the executive chef arranging each edible fragment into an artful marvel on the plate is entertaining in itself at DOM. The show involves both the actors and the spectators, as the kitchen’s openness allows the staff to connect with the restaurant’s customers. Creating a communal sense and an exchange of creative ideas from their birth to their interpretation by the consumers themselves is what DOM wants to do.
Brazilian Catupiry cheese with fried manioc at DOM
Alex Atala is not a novice, but a well-travelled professional chef with open eyes and a fearless attitude. After a couple of culinary stints in Europe, he returned to São Paulo in 1994, where he was in charge of the restaurants Filomena and 72. In 1999, he gained even more creative freedom as a chef-owner in the acclaimed Namesa, and a couple of months later he also opened DOM, that was to become the ‘Best Restaurant in South America‘ within the coming decade.
His food is mostly about stepping out the developed world’s comfort zone and creating a unique experience with the authentic Brazilian ingredients. The chef’s creativity steps in adding a modern twist on traditional tribal recipes and use of the raw foods.
Warm starter from tasting menu at DOM in Sao Paulo
The chef’s quest to find or rediscover the gems of the Brazilian forests, rivers and land reflects itself in his four or eight-course tasting menus and the vegetarian friendly Vegetable Kingdom menu.
Some of the ingredients featured were: tapioca, acai, canjiqinha (white local corn), baru nuts, beldroega, pupunha (a type of cultivated heart of palm), priprioca‘s fragrant root, jambu or Pará Cress (a local herb from the Amazon region), tucupi root, filhote fish, and many others. For natural novelty seekers like myself this is like a dream birthday party on the plates.
Atala also studies the food traditions of the indigenous groups in the Amazon such as the Baniwas, whose use of ants as an ingredient inspired him for his most talked-about dish.
Palmheart fettuccine with mushrooms at DOM
The Vegetable Kingdom menu is very close to the chef’s heart, who claims that he could easily become a vegetarian himself. The menu that I tried started with an Eggplant ceviche and seaweed, that was beautifully presented on a rectangular plate made of wood. It tasted nice, but as with most very modern dishes it lacked the yumminess of a traditionally prepared plate at a classic restaurant (think Italian eggplant Parmigiana, Japanese eggplant tempura or grandmother’s kitchen).
Faijão manteiguinha (a type of bean from the North-east Brazil) with a blob of green kale cream and cornflour was served in a small Frenchie casserole. Again, aside the intriguing ingredients, the taste was good, but not tantalising on my palate.
A quite large portion of Mini rice with artichoke defied its “mini” adjective. For an eight-course menu there was too much of the ‘mini’ rice. Cooked as a risotto, its creamy texture was refreshed with the artichoke, but you would have to be very hungry to eat it all, for it was again not a mind-blowing dish.
The Vegetables with onion jus and sour cream were marvellously presented in a burgundy painted bowl with a black inner tone that visually highlighted its contents. The veggies were juicy, the edible leafs and flowers exotic, but I did not find the sour cream harmonising the dish in any way. Then, a breakthrough happened.
Vegetables with onion jus and sour cream at DOM
My absolute favourite from the menu were the Heart of Palm Fettuccine with Mushrooms, made from the thinly shaved heart of palm and dusted with nitrogen-icy mushroom powder. One would not guess that there were no pasta in this dish. The soft texture of the heart of palm fettuccine as if these were al-dente cooked pasta deceived my palate and the frozen powder giving off an intense mushroom fragrance was exquisite!
Pulling up the sticky Aligot at D.O.M
Another dish me and my partner enjoyed a lot, and that was served in both – the normal eight-course and the Vegetable kingdom menus was the Aligot. The sticky, gooey and heavy form of the potato mash with cheese was a fun game not only for the waiter serving us a dab of the aligot on our plates, but also for our amused mouths chewing it.
The dessert looked more country-style. The Baroa Potato Glace, chocolate from Combu Island and Brazilian honey been chantilly was very sweet since both the potatoes and the whipped cream were infused with sugary condiments. I enjoyed it much more while sipping on the Cumaru water served with it as a part of my water pairing menu.
Baroa Potato Glace dessert at DOM

Bringing non-alcoholic drinks to the pairing

As is common in gastronomic restaurants, a wine pairing is offered with the tasting menus. The wine list at DOM is very good and broad. Wines from all over the world including some local Brazilian produce. The great value Brazilian sparkling wines were offered only by a bottle. Quite a shame, since I would rather sip a local apéritif than Champagne in Brazil, and more sustainable.
I had to try the unusual ‘Water and fruit essences’ drinks pairing option, and was smacked how pleasant and incredibly balancing to each course these alcohol-free beverages were! The servings were small, so no worries that you will stuff yourself with liquids instead of the food. Guava and vanilla water mellowed the sea dominant flavour of my first course, Fennel water was like spice to the Brazilian beans, Parsley and pennyroyal water gave more flare to the boring rice and artichoke bowl, Infused toasted rice and tea deepened the light nature of the palm heart fettuccine, Jabuticaba granita was like a frozen dressing to the vegetables, and the Cumaru water tamed the sweetness of the glazed potato dessert.
The healthy and revealing marriage of flavours for the new health-centric food trends millennium is impressive, but will not necessarily drive me back to D.O.M. I much more prefer the other local and sustainable feast at Mani. It is more casual and fun.
Lunch Mon-Fri: 12noon-3pm; Dinner Mon-Sat: 7pm-midnight; Closed on Sundays
 Rua Barâo de Capanema, 549 – Jardins, São Paulo, Brazil
 +55 11 3088 0761; +55 11 3081 4599

Brazilian Q chocolate: made by a socially responsible chef from the exotic Bahia cocoa

Samantha Aquim’s Q chocolate was inspired by her visit to a Brazilian cocoa plantation. As a graduate of École Lenôtre in Paris, she established herself primarily as a chef in Rio de Janeiro and together with her family continues the gastronomic heritage in their event catering and consulting business that was founded over two decades ago by her mother. Impressed by cocoa’s natural complexity, she decided to make “cacao chocolate – chocolate that is as true to the original beans as it is possible, untouched by artificial flavours.”
Aquim chocolate store Rio
The result is a range of chocolate bars made only with three ingredients: cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and sugar. They are sold at her flagship Ipanema boutique, at the upscale Village Mall in Barra, both in Rio, and now also abroad in London, Paris and Austin.
Q chocolate is a socially sustainable product. The chocolate is made from beans grown on a single farm in Bahia state in the north of Brazil. The hand-wrapped bars are illustrated with the animals and plants native to Bahia, promoting Brazil’s natural diversity.
Q chocolates gift packaging
Design is pride of Brazilians and nobody else can embody this country’s modern shapes than Oscar Niemeyer, the renowned Brazilian architect. Niemeyer designed the contemporary curvy form of Q0 chocolate exclusively for the Aquim Family. This chocolate is also produced from a single farm, but also from a single vintage and a single batch, distinct from the rest in the Q chocolate range.
Q chocolate bar tasting range
There are six types of bars with different percentages of cocoa liquor content. Getting a tasting set of small chocolate rectangles is revelatory for any chocolate lover. Each of them tastes very different, while it is all made from one single cocoa plantation, the cocoa percentage changes the gustatory character of each bite.
Aquim Chocolate bar Q Brazilian natural design
Starting with the mild 55% Q chocolate bar, tasting smooth, almost milky creamy with sticky texture and exotic floral warmth, one eases her/himself into the pure cocoa experience. Acidity and bitterness are hidden, making it an ideal initiator for these not used to dark chocolate strength.
The 60% Q chocolate bar is more pronounced, while remaining sweet. Melting softly its delicate touch of tannins and subdued acidity are still user-friendly.
With 65% Q chocolate bar it starts to be serious. Markedly different rougher texture, the floral aromas flourish on the palate showing the beauty of cocoa.
Aquim Chocolate Q 80%
Moving to 80% the mouthfeel gets dry, woody with deep scent of bark and cigar. The tannins show off and hide the acidity allowing the masculine strength to dominate.
The last level of 85% cocoa is only for the chico fanatics like me. The taste gets very close to eating raw cocoa nibs with bitterness, coffee aromas and sharp citrusy acidity all joining the forceful army of flavours.
Rua Garcia D’Ávila 149, Ipanema | Rio de Janeiro
Mon-Sat: 10:00h-18:30h
Avenida das Américas, 3.900 Level 1, Barra da Tijuca | Rio de Janeiro
 Mon-Sat: 11:00h-23:00h; Sunday: 13:00h-21:00h
Outside Brazil:

Fortnum & Mason
181 Piccadilly – London
W1A 1ER – UK
Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche
24, Rue de Sèvres
75007 Paris, France
Central Market
Austin North Lamar 4001 N. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78756 – US


Fasano: legendary Italian restaurant in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and now also in the fashionable Punta del Este in Uruguay

Fasano Sao Paulo
Open since 1982 the Fasano restaurant in Sao Paulo became the cult as a dining establishment for gastronomy hunters. Long before then (Vittorio Fasano immigrated to Brazil from Milano in 1902 and opened the soon-to-be-famous “Brasserie Paulista”in Sao Paulo’s historic part of the city) the Fasano website had been already strongly established in the Brazil’s restaurant business. Recently it has further expanded its entourage of restaurants beyond the Italian food tag and still it keeps a strong position in the restaurants as well as hotels scene in South America. I have dined so far at three locations: the Rio’s Fasano al Mare – offering Mediteranean cuisine with an emphasis on seafood (the current chef came from the three-star Michelin Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence); the Sao Paulo’s original Fasano – traditional regional Italian cuisine (interpreted by the chef Luca Gozzani); and the Fasano las Piedras in Punta del Este – is supposed to serve the same style of food as the previous one, but so far it seems to struggle.
Fasano las Piedras Punta del Este
Atmosphere: Elegant, nostalgic New York-style Italian and quite formal for its business-crowd core in Sao Paulo. In Rio the modern and fresh snow-white design by Philippe Starck created one of the coolest scenes in the Rio’s trendy Ipanema beach area. In Punta del Este (Uruguay) it is very different – located on a rocky hill on the hotel’s property it is romantic, with beautiful rustic countryside and Maldonado river views and also family friendly. The restaurant is located in all three cases in the Fasano hotel. The later in Uruguay is quite new so it needs fine-tuning its service a bit. The bar area in Sao Paulo with live piano music is a great spot to watch the rich and famous relishing a cocktail or two. In Sao Paulo the dress code is much more uptight than in Punta del Este or fashionable and cool Rio. Smart casual attire will do the job in the Sao Paulo location while trendy in Rio and almost anything casual (jeans, etc.) in Uruguay is fine.
Sunset from Fasano las Piedras
Food: Looks authentic, but taste was disappointing on two occasions we dined there (once in Sao Paulo and once in Punta del Este at Fasano hotel). The Italian thin crackers and bread with olive oil were perhaps the best things to eat at the Sao Paulo as well as Punta del Este locations. On the other hand the Fasano al Mare in Rio was very good and tasty.
The Scallops at Fasano in Sao Paulo were dry, not juicy and it seemed that the chef was trying to artificially add some flavour by adding more olive oil and basil. It was not enough to fix this dish. The Tuna carpaccio I ordered later as a hopeful fixer of my taste was flavourless and pink like a nail polish. The seasonal vegetable soup for my main course was too rich and creamy with too much oil and boring taste. In order to compare in Punta del Este I tried the Tuna tartare that was huge for an appetiser portion and similarly to my experience in it Sao Paulo’s sister restaurant it was boring, lacking taste. Similar were the overcooked (disaster for any restaurant that calls itself Italian) ravioli we had later. The only ok dish was the black-ink squids risotto, that looked more like a home-cooked dish rather than a high-end restaurant where you pay a lot for a plate of this sticky and soupy risotto.
Tuna carpaccio
At least the food at the Fasano al Mare in Rio was very good. The seafood was fresh with an accent on quality. The octopus was cooked to be tender and meaty and the fish was delicate and seasoned just right. Not too oily or struggling to please as in the other Fasanos’ locations.
The Fasano group has opened many new dining outlets throughout Brazil so perhaps the focus us now on them and they are worth trying. For the high price tag and excellent dining options in Sao Paulo as well as around Punta del Este I would rather go somewhere else. The Rio’s restaurant is worth trying and also a great hangout for the fashionistas.
Drinks: In the Punta del Este’s restaurant the wine was the best part of the dinner since they had one of my favourite Argentine wines from the Mendel winery in Mendoza. This wine pairs very well with meat but also with lighter dishes such as the Tuna tartare that we had – it actually made the tartare palatable. Mendel Unus is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. It is quite a concentrated wine exhibiting black cherry and plum fruit, elegance and balance. Barrel ageing leaves aromas of leather, toast and vanilla and overall complexity finished with a long aftertaste.
Mendel Unus
In Sao Paulo the wine list consists mostly from Italian and French labels. The selection of half-bottles is quite wide and attractive. The sommelier has not done a great job in terms of advising us the right “elegant and less powerful” wine we requested. The Barbaresco was exactly that kind of strong wine that we did not want, so we ordered another half-bottle of Angelo Gaja’s Sito Moresco that was much more smooth. This legendary producer from Piedmonte creates new style of more elegant Italian wines although usually with a very high price tag.
Italian wine line-up
Cuisine: Italian
Visit: December 2012
Price: Very expensive (Fasano has been for years one of the most popular high-end restaurants in Brazil and still is the No 1 choice for the power-luch gatherings).
Opening hours:
Fasano São Paulo: Dinner: Mon – Sat: 7:30pm to 1am; It was open for Lunch when I was there although the Fasano website doe not include lunch in its opening hours.
Fasano al Mare in Rio
Mon – fri: 6:30 – 10:30am, 12 – 3:30pm, 7pm – 1am
Sat & Sun: 6:30 – 11am, 12:30pm – midnight
Fasano Punta del Este
Opened only on weekends outside the main season. From mid-December till April opened for dinner from 7:30pm.
The modern Brazilian architecture at Fasano in Punta del Este
Hotel Fasano São Paulo
Rua Vittorio Fasano, 88, São Paulo, SP 01414-020, Brazil.
Restaurante Fasano al Mare
Av. Vieira Souto, 80; Ipanema; Rio De Janeiro, RJ 22420-000; Brazil.
Restaurante Fasano Punta del Este
Cno. C. Egusquiza y Paso del Barranco; La Barra; Punta del Este, Maldonado 20400, Uruguay.
Tel: +(55) 11 3062 4000; Email:;
Tel: +(59) 8 42 670 000; Fax: +598 42 670 707; Email:;
Tel: +(55 )21 3202 4000; E:

ORO: Rio's own contemporary Brazilian gastronomy

The award-winning Oro’s chef and local Tv personality Felipe Bronze said : “My work reflects who I am or how I think…“. The brazilian native gathered his culinary experience mainly in the US as a student at the Culinary Institute of America, later he worked at many high-end restaurants in the US and after he returned back to Brazil at Rio’s trendiest outposts such as Sushi Leblon, Zuka, Z Contemporâneo. For his cooking endeavors he won a number of awards including the “Chef Revelação” (The Chef Revelation) in Brazil. He opened his ORO in 2010 and only months after its opening the restaurant has been widely acclaimed by the press.
Lobster creation
The place itself is casual, fresh and fun as people sitting around you wonder over the creative dishes and often burst into laughs or whistle with sighs of admiration. The open kitchen concept lets you peek into the busy world of the chef and his helpers. The service is attentive, friendly and knows the dishes very well so all your peculiar questions will be answered. One would think to dress up, yet this is Brazil, the country far from conservative, so you can wear casual attire from jeans to white linen pants, almost like on holidays (just leave the Havaianas – Brazilian flip-flops, for the beach or a city tour). There is also a nice room upstairs that is suitable for private events and celebrations.
Open kitchen at Oro
Food: Magic, fun and with an artistic presentation. The 16-course chef’s menu has to be reserved in advance. We went for the 5 dishes option where we got one snack at the start and then four different plates. The snack board consisted of cheese profiteroles, cashew nut confit and a stand of fruit and tapioca cones filled with something translated as a “pup” tartare. The menu is all in Portuguese so you have to rely on the waiter who is willing to explain you each dish in detail. Just to memorise it is quite an honourable effort (I had to record it how complex all the food was).
It is like a show in the Circus du Soleil in a gastronomic sense. The Caprese quente/fria, burrata,pesto de baru, tomate e pão de milho – Caprese Salad hot/cold, burrata, pesto of baru, tomato and corn bread is so intriguing to watch as the top coat dissolves under the tomato sauce that is being poured over it. Patience … and you will find out what is hidden inside. The burrata was super-creamy as one would expect from this Italian delicate cheese, the pesto just adds nutty and oily touch, but the corn bread was a bit too “wet” to my taste as it got moist in the batch of tomato sauce.
Plate No 1
Plate No 2
Plate No 3
Another interesting and perhaps even tastier course was the Lagostin com creme de pistaches, alcachofra e pupunha crocantes – Lagustine with cream pistachios, artichoke and crispy pejibaye. The langustine was of a superb tender quality, the cream of pistachios I would sell in a delicatessen store and I bet it would kill the sales of peanut butter how much better it was, and the thinly shredded artichoke added crispiness as it was stir fried like tempura.
My next surprise was the Filhote defumado, feijão Santarém, leite de castanhas – Filhote fish smoked and pan fried served with crusty Santarém beans mash and a dash of milk from chestnuts. Incredible, what one can do with fish!
Desserts come on a large plate with lots of local influence – from nuts you have never heard about to fruits and flours used in some of the sweets. Nevertheless, there is an international core to the chef’s desserts with a number of options. From “Everything with eggs“, “Everything with caramel” or “Everything with chocolate” to a special desserts blend called “The grove“. In our menu we got so much that it could have been a dinner on its own, although entirely sugar-dominated. The pot of  Crème brûlée, baby flan, chocolate mousse, crunchy cocoa nuts in a paper box, a pot of  fried churros, a thick custard sprinkled with caramelised nuts and even his genial frozen millle-feuille – these all have foreign foundations. The mille-feuille has a veil of magic around it as the waiter breaks the crust and adds steaming liquid nitrogen so the frozen ice cream and its crust can be penetrated. Then you can dive your spoon into the crusty cave hiding the sweet chocolate ice cream.
'Magic' desert plate
Drinks: There is an option of wine pairing with each of your dishes and we went for it. It is a surprise as each wine is revealed by the Mendoza-born sommelier Cecilia Aldaz with your next course. The price ranges from R$70 (34 USD) in the smallest menu (3 wines) to R$295 (145 USD) in the chef’s menu. Starting with a glass of sparkly Cava refreshed our palate and got it ready for the tasty dishes to come. My favourite two pics were the crisp and zesty Errazuriz Reserva Sauvignon Blanc from Chile and the apricot flavoured Austrian Grüner Veltliner from Weingut Brundlmayer.
Sauvignon Blanc from ChileAustrian Gruner Veltliner from Weingut Brundlmayer
Cuisine: Gastronomic Brazilian
Visit: December 2012
Price: Very expensive, though it is quite flexible in terms of what you pay as there are five menus ranging from 3 to 16 dishes. While the first is about 60USD, with the last 16-course chef’s menu priced at R$395 – almost 200 USD – it gets very expensive.
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday: 7:30pm to midnight| Fridays& Saturdays: from 7:30 to 12:30 AM.
Address: Rua Frei Leandro, 20 – Jd. Botânico, Rio de Janeiro, RJ Brazil.
Contact: Tel: +(55) 21 7864-9622; email:

Porcão: Rio's legendary Brazilian churascaria

Cuisine: Brazilian Rodizio (=rotating) style – an unlimited quantity of BBQ as well as all-you-can-eat delicacies from a buffet bar can be consumed on one occasion for a fixed price.
Visit: December 2012
Meat tray: brought to your taste buds attention
Price: Medium (R$ 92,00 for how much you can overeat it is a bargain per person, drinks are extra but if you are over 70 years old then you get a 20% discount).
"Sim = Yes" I want a slice of this irresistible meat!
Food: Abundant and honest BBQ meats and typical Brazilian dishes. Everything is fresh, made to be very tasty and appealing for the eye. Porçao is one of the best Rodizios in Rio and it is no wonder that it is so popular as every time I have eaten there it was packed with jolly diners and the food was superb.
From the large appetizer buffet you simply choose anything of your taste that fits on your plate. From vegetable, pasta and seafood salads to marinated fish, meat cuts and even sushi and some warm dishes such as risotto, potatoes, fish or steamed seafood. It is impossible to fit everything on one plate, but you can do a second or even a third round if the meat on skewers, boards, sticks that is about to come straight to your table in frequent intervals will not sate you.
Appetizer buffet
The rule is keep your little round card in front of you on its red side if you do not want the “passadors” (meat servers) to stop by and slice you the animal delicacy on your plate. Turn it to green saying “SIM” meaning YES in portuguese when you want to savor the passador’s ‘catch’. Beware, it all smells so good and when you see the others around you having slice of that or something else you might eat more than you can possibly manage and the following night can turn into an uncomfortable turning and whining in bed.
Appetizer buffet
It is wise to sample small pieces of the meats as the desserts are super-seductive so keep some space for them. A bottle or two of wine can help you with digestion of this Brazilian feast. On the desserts tray do not miss out the opportunity to try the local “Brigadeiros”. The small dulce de leche based sweet balls are very popular and a must-try during your visit in Brazil. The global sweet treat of a chocolate cake or the French macaroons and profiteroles can additionally enhance your over-indulgent dining experience at Porcao.
Brazilian desserts tray
Atmosphere: Lively, casual and welcoming. Wear anything you feel comfortable in as this is a very casual place. Many birthdays, parties, and other merry occasions take place at the restaurant. It is indeed the place anyone can experience the Brazilian welcoming and relaxed hospitability. It is a huge restaurant (although rather a medium size in Chinese sense) so it is not necessary to book a table ahead if you are willing to wait for a bit.
Red blend exclusively made for Porcao
Drinks:  A server comes with a tray of colorful cachacas – the popular local cocktail based on casaca and usually some fruits. Maracuja, pineapple and mango are high on my list. This cocktail is also an excellent aperitif. With the meaty menu I would advice to continue with a big and juicy red wine that complements the boldness of the food. Porcao has its own blend from Portugal so you can go for that. Malbec from Argentina is another great pick as it is made for being consumed together with meat. Our choice of the powerful red wine from San Pedro de Yacochuya near the Argentina’s Cafayate in the province of Salta that was purely made on my unforgettable experience tasting the bold wines with my sister at the winery, but it turned to be a great choice for all the food especially the characterful meat. Its high concentration and higher alcohol content both can catch up with the intense flavors of the meat.
Big and juicy red wines with steak
Opening hours: Tuesday-Thursday: 12noon – 12:00pm; Friday-Sat: 12noon-01:30 am; Sunday & holidays: 12noon-11pm.
Address: Rua Barão da Torre, 218, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Contact: Tel: +(55) 21 3202 9158 and reservations online.

Jun Sakamoto: the most exclusive Japanese dining in São Paulo

Asparagus salad
Atmosphere: The entrance to the restaurant is very discreet and guarded by security men. One would never think that there is a restaurant behind the simply looking wall along the Rua Lisboa. As the security opens the door and you walk through a tiny garden into the first room, you know that Jun Sakamoto is not just a traditionally simple Japanese restaurant (the interior was designed by the chef after whom the restaurant was named). It is full of classy people some conservatively dressed in ties and business suites others – especially the supermodel looking youthful women – in chic evening mini-dresses or anything that is currently fashionable. If you want even more privacy then dine in the back room. Both rooms together including a sushi bar accommodate not more than 30-40 people, so it is quite small. You still will be seen by the top players on the São Paulo rich and powerful league so better dress up for that as good as you can.
Food: For how much exclusive this restaurant tries to be, the food is not even slightly comparable to any of my favorite japanese places in LA, New York, Seattle or Paris. Rumors circulate in and out of the city that there is not much of excellent japanese food in Brazil yet. I take it as an explanation of my recent disappointment at Jun Sakamoto. For the restaurant being very expensive, I will not give it likely a second chance when there are so many other great restaurants to dine at in São Paulo.
Seared mushrooms
We got a number of starters to share and none of them had particularly impressed our taste buds. The Salmon tartare (Tuna tartare with foie gras is more popular here, but we were in the mood for salmon) was tiny, the fish was good but excellent as you would expect for the price and the sporadic portion of fish eggs on the top of it was not enough to bring more complex flavors to the dish. Continuing with a plate of fatty tuna sashimi, which was contrary to the previous too large portion of just a raw and not very tasty fish we started to worry a bit about the restaurant’s flattering reputation. The savior came in the form of the next order – the Asparagus salad, which was better and perhaps the only plate we quite enjoyed. The vegetables were fresh and crisp and the sauce was tasty.
From the warm dishes the Seared mushrooms lacked everything that was savor-appealing. I dare to claim that they were boring. Right the opposite of the vibrant and sizzling Mushroom Tobanyaki they do at Nobu restaurants elsewhere.
Black cod with miso
The staple of many Japanese restaurants globally is the Black cod with miso. After the previous unsuccessful courses we ordered exactly this dish as we thought it might be more reliable. The fish was of a good quality, the sauce though was not intense enough and much more plain than we are used to.
My partner tried the omakase sushi (ingredients selected by the chef who serves you to the point of your fullness, it shows the chef’s skills the best). They do it differently here though. You have to select how many courses you want and that is what you get. Omakase is supposed to display the chef’s innovativeness, creativity and the quality of his ingredients. The sushi we got did not look and taste exceptionally – it was rather normal, but with a high price tag.
Sushi bar
Drinks: Sake and wine lists are good, although not particularly wide. You can find some less usual treats on the wine list though. We went for the Chilean Amayna Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Seeing a barrel fermented version of Sauvignon Blanc is quite rare. This refreshing grape varietal made famous by the Loire Valley in France as well as New Zealand is often let to express its freshness and zest. It was one of these quirks that one tries just for the sake of its differentiating quality. Wine Spectator gave it 91 points (out of 100) to this Leyda Valley warrior. I would not go as high since the barrel overwhelmed the fruit and its acidity in a greater proportion then it should have. The new oak left some nutty and vanilla aromas in the wine while the fruit turned into something like a fig marmelade than a refreshing white peach or grass that you can typically taste in wines made from this grape varietal. The depth though complement the raw fish quite well. With japanese food I would rather go for an oaky Chardonnay or a Gewurtztraminer from Alsace.
Cuisine: Japanese
Visit: December 2012
Price: Very expensive (Top CEOs, fashion models and Tv stars come to dine here in a secure and an almost invisible location).
Opening hours: Only for dinner: Mon-Thu: 7pm-12.30am; Fri & Sat: 7pm-1am; Closed on Sunday.
Address: Rua Lisboa 55, Jardim Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil.
Contact: Tel: +(55) 11 3088 6019

Figueira Rubaiyat: Brazilian steak from the São Paulo restaurant’s own farm

Atmosphere: Casual, outdoors and humming. The restaurant’s covered garden under the giant, hundred-year-old Bengal fig tree is vast. There is also an indoor seating but most guests want to sit under the spreading fig tree, after all it’s the namesake of Figueira Rubaiyat. The chairs are comfortable, service is friendly and the energy vibrant. Figueira Rubaiyat is not a tourist trap since the restaurant enjoys good reputation between the local Paulistas. Wear anything comfortable, just not shorts with flip flops like on the beach.Giant fig tree at Figueira RubaiyatFood: BBQ and typical Brazilian dishes from Amazon fish to tropical forest fruits. The quality of the ingredients and unpretentious cooking are the major strengths of Figueira Rubaiyat. Getting meat from their own farm, also called Rubaiyat, means that the restaurant keeps high quality control over its star ingredients. Many diners come here mainly for the steak. I must say that the rest is also very tasty.

Figueira's appetizer platterCrumbled palm heart

The Figueira’s appetizer platter is an opportunity to try – like tapas – a couple of things at once. It is an ideal plate to share. Ham, fish, grilled and marinated vegetables as well as cheese usually feature on this great-value-for-money starter.

Brazil has plenty of palm trees and the palm heart is a popular “vegetable” for the locals. Usually, it is sold preserved in a salted water, but it can also be cooked in endless recipes. I enjoyed the warm Crumbled palm heart salad of the oven baked palm hearts (twice as thick as white asparagus), sprinkled with bread crumbs and served with green rucola, lemon and mayonnaise. A very tasty vegetarian starter.

For my main course, as I am an adventurer, so when I spotted a fish from Amazon that looked (at least in writing) similar to piranha on the menu I had to try it. Its name was Amazon Pirarucu. To my slight disappointment I have not received a plate full of these killing little fishies with teeth sharp as a guillotine, but two huge fish steaks. My sadness was relieved by the later pleasure from eating it. Not as tender as sea bass, rather closer to turbot firmness but since it was grilled it had a rich and almost chicken-like taste. Try it if you visit Brazil.
Fish from Amazon
As I mentioned many people come here just for the meat from the restaurant’s own Rubaiyat farm. The steaks here are exquisite. Tender, juicy and tasting so good that some turn in bed for a couple of nights after eating it dreaming about its sumptuous flavours. You can choose a side of American style potatoes or potato wedges that go well with it.
Steak from Rubaiyat farm
The dessert buffet is irresistible. If you go for local fruits from guava, pineapple, maracuja to mango, you can cut out some calories. But, the chocolate desserts, cakes, pies, custards, dulce de leche and many other delicacies look too interesting that you might end up like me (picture below) with a plate full of lots of mixed sweets tasting so great, that one does not need to regret any indulgent behaviour on this occasion. Just go inside and peak at the sweet-feast-table of seduction.
Plate of desserts from the buffetFigueira Rubaiyat
Drinks: The wine list is good and has many local options starting with the increasingly popular Brazilian sparkling wines and finishing with dry international varietals such as Chardonnay with a local take. We went for a bottle of the latter – Chardonnay from Villa Francioni. This dry white wine bursts with exotic aromas of pineapple.
Cuisine: Brazilian ingredients cooked or grilled simply
Last visit: December 2012
Value: Medium (generous portions, service super fast so the price is justified considering the restaurant’s upscale location).
Open from lunch through dinner: Mon-Sat 12noon-00:30am (01:00am on Saturday). Sunday only dinner until midnight.
Rua Haddock Lobo, 1.738, Jd.Paulista, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
+( 55) 11 30 87 13 99

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