A bucket of cold beers and a bowl of salty peanuts simply won’t cut the mustard these days when it comes to a good watering hole. Serving up ever more gourmet eats – from oysters to steak tartare and upscale salads – a bar is no longer a busy bar if its kitchen isn’t also tickling our tastebuds.
Eating out in bars is certainly no novelty in São Paulo. Botecos have long been the go-to places for hearty Saturday lunches of feijoada (pork-and-bean stew). And some of our favourites places for dinner – Bar da Dona Onça and Bottagallo, to name just two – call themselves bars, despite pasta-laden platters topping tables at both. With ever more bars sliding towards restaurant territory, we’re keeping tabs on the latest ones to open with gourmet appeal.
Rua dos Pinheiros 220, Pinheiros (2619 2880)
Taking an upscale approach to traditional boteco food, the bright and cheery Barteco opened its double doors in July 2013, on the gourmet strip, Rua dos Pinheiros. With a chef who has worked in top São Paulo restaurants including Kaá, this is restaurant-quality food at bar prices.
Start off with a round of Tuscan sausage croquettes or slow-roasted pork chops, served with a spicy, sweet and sour sauce. With the menu conveniently grouped into price blocks – petiscos (snacks) are either R$14 or R$19, while all main dishes are R$39 – punters can let their whim rather than their budget guide them. Even the wine list is conveniently priced this way, with bottles at either R$69 or R$99.
Caipirinhas get a contemporary makeover here, shaken up with herbs and spices – go for the lychee caipirinha with basil (R$16). Cocktails raise the bar further – the Campeche blends cashew, lychee, lima da persia, chilli and mint (R$38). On warm evenings, a table outside on the pavement makes for good people watching.
Rua dos Pinheiros 1308, Pinheiros (3814 8065/ Facebook.com/minatoizakaya)
At the opposite end of Rua dos Pinheiros, Minato Izakaya is the latest of a growing cadre of São Paulo izakayas – a very Japanese take on the gastropub theme, and traditional stomping ground for post-work crowds, alternating between rounds of saké and hot dishes. Here at the minuscule, low-lit Minota, arrive early to find a perch on the row of stools that flanks each side of the bar.
‘I tried to create a little piece of Japan in São Paulo,’ explains one of the owners, Fabio Koyama. ‘After five years working in izakayas in Japan, I’ve tried to incorporate as many authentic elements as possible – there are no tables, the counter is at the heart of the place, each dish serves just one.’
When it comes to ordering, follow the lead of your neighbours, or be guided by the chef as to what’s best on the menu that day. The food here – unlike at most izakayas – also includes sushi and sashimi. To drink, keep it strictly saké – Minato serves around ten sakés imported from Japan – a measure costs from R$17 to R$43, or a small 300ml bottle between R$36 and R$71.
Rua Vupabussu 347, Pinheiros (2371 7981)
From one gourmet strip to another one in the making, Forquilha (Rua Vupabussu 347, Pinheiros, 2371 7981) joins a burgeoning brigade of bars and restaurants – including Bráz, Ella and Ruella – on the west side of Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima. Coupling an informal bar vibe with an Italian menu, Forquilha’s central feature (and a handy heating device for wintry evenings) is a wood-fired oven, from which thin-crust pizzas emerge steaming alongside pasta dishes like the Mamadi lasagne (R$36) – with ham, mozzarella, provolone, parmesan and tomato sauce.
The lasagne is circulated on a trolley and doled out in generous portions at the table. Desserts even get the wood-fired finish, like the frutas de lenha (R$18) – fruits baked with a touch of honey and served with mascarpone. To drink, wine is a good bet, with sixty bottles on the menu and six available by the glass from the self-service Enomatic wine dispensing machines.
Rua Girassol 354, Vila Madalena (3097 9353)
In nearby Vila Madalena, the four Altman brothers – owners of three of the neighbourhood’s most enduring upmarket botecos, namely Genésio, Filial e Genial are adding a fourth string to their bow – Mundial, which opened in September 2013. Diverging from their winning classic Rio botequim formula, tipified by bow-tied waiters and tiled floors, Mundial is more bar than boteco, all wood, concrete and glass inside, leading out to a large terrace.
One thing Mundial does share with its siblings, however, is its focus on good food, and in line with the bar’s name (‘worldwide’), you can expect to satisfy a craving for curry and hamburgers, and nurture a new one for hot, savoury pastries from far-flung corners of the globe: classic Brazilian deep-fried pastéis, Japanese guioza, Indian samosas (see photo above), Argentinian empanadas and Jewish varenikes.
Rua Joaquim Antunes 248, Jardim Paulistano (3061 3810/ barbar.com.br).
Over in Jardins, bar. is setting itself conspicuously apart from its restaurant neighbours (think Maní and Mercearia do Conde), and not just in name. Going big on cocktails, there are over forty libations on the menu, with the barman game for shaking up any classic that’s not listed. Upstairs becomes a dancefloor, as the live jazz on Wednesdays and groove on Thursdays get the glitzy crowd going (read our day-by-day guide to live jazz in São Paulo).
On the menu, expect unusual combinations like pork ribs with a raspberry sauce (R$43), and ‘lychee surprise’ (R$23) – a surprise indeed, and we’re not convinced it’ll be an altogether pleasant one, in the form of lychees stuffed with cream cheese and wasabi.
Prices are correct as of August 2013