Sao Paulo, Brazil
Dining is a serious pastime for paulistas, and they stay well informed about the best places to savor the countless cuisine in this diverse metropolis. To understand first-hand something of the local bounty, start by visiting the Mercado Municipal, which is set in a 1928 neo-Baroque building. More than 300 stalls overflow with fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and other goods. Sample the caju (cashew apple), maracuja (passion fruit), or pitaya (dragon fruit), then stop at the Hocca Bar, where patrons line up for bolinhos de bacalhau (cod-filled croquetters).
There’s a galaxy of superb restaurants in Sao Paulo, but many gourmands believe that D.O.M. is the best in Brazil. (D.O.M. is an acronym for Domus Optimus Maximus, a Latin phrase asserting that this is the optimum, maximum dining experience.) Here, ground-breaking celebrity chef Alex Atala blends classic French elements with exotic Amazonian ingredients: Foie gras is paired perfectly with crispy wild rice, and breaded oyster are enhanced with tapioca marinade. Atala is also the mastermind behind Dalva e Dito, across the street, a paean to simple Brazilian fare, such as the classic prato feito of rice, beans, and meat.
At Brasil a Gosto, chef Ana Luiza Trajano does a creative take on traditional comfort food from Brazil’s backwater, while at Mocoto, cow’s-foot soup and other time-honoured specialities from north-eastern Brazil are prepared with modern panache under the watchful eye of rising chef Rodrigo Oliveria. Celebrities are frequent guests at Mani, claiming seats in either the garden or dining room to sample the panethnic creations of forward thinking chef Helena Rizzo.
Figueira Rubaiyat is known as much for the gnarled trunk of a magnificent old fig tree that reaches skyward from its front patio as for its cuisine, the highlights of which are meat from the owner’s ranch, as well as a rich, traditional paella and simply prepared fish-of-the-day. The finest choice for Italian cuisine in the city is the elegant, uber-fashionable Fasano, in the hotel of the same name.
Restaurants that serve contemporary cuisine open and close in the blink of an eye in Sao Paulo. But Carlota has thrived since the 1990s thanks to Chef Carla Pernambuco’s talent for reinvention. Set in an old brick pousada, the restaurant features such globe-spanning dishes as crispy shrimp risotto with ham and sweet pepper chutney.