Sushimania is no new thing here. With such a strong Japanese heritage – the city is home to the largest Japanese community outside Japan – it’s not surprising that sushi, sashimi, temaki and the like are almost as commonplace in the paulistano diet as rice and beans. But at the top end of the scale, São Paulo is also home to a handful of top-class Japanese chefs who are rolling out stellar sushi, from fusion to traditional, and winning a host of awards and accolades in the process.
Alameda Fernão Cardim 39, Jardim Paulista, 3251 5157, aizome.com.br
Koike, whose father ran a sushi bar in Tokyo, is best known for rolling out ‘East meets West’ fusion sushi, adapted with Brazilian ingredients. The sushi may not match the reputation of chefs like Jun Sakamoto, but the all-round Japanese food experience is one of the best in São Paulo. Go for the tasting menu – a sequence of hot and cold dishes that changes each day.
Avenida Pedroso de Moraes 393, Pinheiros, 3813 1586, hamatyo.com.br
Known universally as ‘that little place on Pedroso’, it takes only 20 bottoms to fill all the seats at this cosy, informal Pinheiros spot. There are no pratos quentes (hot dishes) here – chef Ryoichi Yoshida serves only sushi and sashimi, and has earned a solid reputation for his careful selection of ingredients, as well as the personal attention he gives to each customer. Watch in awe as the Japanese veteran plys his trade with precision behind the counter, all while keeping up a good-humoured banter. Read more about Hamatyo
Rua Lisboa 55, Jardim Paulista, 3088 6019
Chef-in-fashion Jun Sakamoto has been manning the sushi counter at his eponymous Jardins eatery since 2000. The small, stylish yet under-stated restaurant is well established as a favourite among the paulistano elite. Which means you’d be wise to book ahead, especially if you want to worship at the temple of Sakamoto with a seat at the counter, where the master himself prepares sushi. Read more on Jun Sakamoto
Rua Jacques Félix 405, Vila Nova Conceição, 3849 6940, restaurantekinoshita.com.br
Chef Tsuyoshi Murakami is the star of the show at Kinoshita, in more ways than one. Sushi skills aside, he’s a larger-than-life character and, in between preparing slices of the meltingly-delicious fatty cut of bluefin tuna – otoro (R$30 per pair) – the flamboyant Murakami regales customers with jokes in his thick carioca accent. He’s very much a presence in the restaurant thanks to his cooking style – kappo cuisine – contemporary Japanese cuisine that brings sushiman and diner face-to-face, with dishes prepared on the spot. Read more on Kinoshita
Rua Afonso de Freitas 169, Paraíso (3889 8799)
With a reputation for being one of the most traditional Japanese restaurants in São Paulo, Shin-Zushi might be set on an isolated corner of Paraíso, but that doesn’t stop pleasure-seekers beating a path to its door. The atmosphere and decor – simple, with light wood fittings – are akin to that of a traditional Tokyo restaurant. Signs on the wall – all in Japanese – signal to those who can understand, the catches of the day. Read more about Shin-Zushi