On 22 April 1500, the Portuguese first set foot on Brazilian soil, and it’s a fair bet that they had some salt cod (bacalhão) with them. A full 512 years on, the legacy of traditional Portuguese dishes is still going strong, like the salt cod stew bacalhoada eaten on Good Friday – or on any other day, for that matter; or the glorious egg-yolk desserts – a spot of divine inspiration from Portuguese monasteries, where the egg whites were needed en masse for starching the nuns’ habits, as well as in the clarification of wines and port.
And while Rio was traditionally the Portuguese stronghold in Brazil, right here in São Paulo you’ll find our European cousins and locals alike re-colonising Brazilian palates.
The most recent conquest is Brasil a Gosto. In a departure from the namesake Brazilian menu, chef Ana Luiza Trajano has developed a limited-edition Portuguese menu, with dishes like açorda de camarão – a bready soup with coriander and seafood (R$92) – or a full tasting menu with wine (R$230).
|Slow-cooked pork shoulder on the Portuguese menu at Brasil a Gosto
‘We have a really strong influence from Portugal in dishes that are so workaday here that we don’t even realise the country’s influence on our cuisine,’ says Trajano. In search of inspiration for her menu, Trajano crossed the Atlantic with Portuguese chef Vítor Sobral, who last year opened a São Paulo branch of his hit Lisbon restaurant Tasca da Esquina which, incidentally, our opposite numbers at Time Out Lisboa describe as one of the best restaurants in Lisbon.
Tasca da Esquina, like its Portuguese original, serves modern Lisbon cuisine in a pared-down setting – think rustic wooden touches and exposed brickwork. The thumbs up for its sister eatery from Time Out Lisboa set our hopes high, but the restaurant stumbled slightly on our visit – the dining room was packed, and our baked cod arrived cold. After a complaint and a ‘visit’ from the chef, the dish was re-served – and well worth the wait.
A stalwart of Portuguese cuisine in Brazil, Antiquarius in Rio, with its suited waiters, starched tablecloths and executive clientele, was for years the best place to eat fine Portuguese cuisine on the Rio-São Paulo axis. A SP branch opened way back in 1990, and many of the young talents who cut their teeth in its kitchen have since gone on to open their own Lusitan eateries.
One such place is the elegant A Bela Sintra set up by an ex-manager and ex-chef at Antiquarius. It ticks all the boxes for sophistication and beats the competition – so say those in the know – when it comes to bacalhau à lagareiro (salt cod baked with potatoes and onions).
Another top spot for bacalhau a lagareiro, and seafood in general, is Adega Santiago which combines good food, a great atmosphere and a fine wine list.
|Bacalhoeiro in Tatuapé
For a simpler option, Tasca do Zé e da Maria is another new tasca, with a lean menu and minimalist decor. Salt cod fans should start with the bacalhau à Beneditina – a gratin of flaked cod and mashed potato. For mains, rabbit ravioli with a mushroom ragoût will please those who prefer heartier flavours. And to round things off, go for the siricaia, a soft, delicious milk-and-egg-pudding (R$13).
Taking salt cod to the next level, Bacalhoeiro in Tatuapé is a must try, with dishes like bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (a potato-and-salt-cod bake topped with egg and olives) named after a merchant from Porto who created the dish in the late-19th century. This is a good spot for families with youngsters, thanks to a big twisty slide they can pitch themselves down. But if you’re a smaller group or a couple, try for a table facing the lovely hanging garden, and then sit back and think of Lisbon.
A Bela Sintra is on Rua Bela Cintra 2325, Jardim Paulista, 3891 0740, abelasintra.com.br
Adega Santiago is on Rua Sampaio Vidal 1072, Jardim Paulistano, 3081 5211, adegasantiago.com.br. Read more on Adega Santiago
Antiquarius is on Alameda Lorena 1884, Jardim Paulista, 3064 8686, antiquarius.com.br
Bacalhoeiro is on Rua Azevedo Soares 1580, Tatuapé, 2293 1010, bacalhoeiro.com.br. Read more on Bacalhoeiro
Brasil a Gosto is on Rua Azevedo de Amaral 70, Jardim Paulista, 3086 3565, brasilagosto.com.br. Read more on Brasil a Gosto
Tasca da Esquina is on Alameda Itu 225, Jardim Paulista, 3262 0033, tascadaesquina.com/SP
Tasca do Zé e da Maria is on Rua dos Pinheiros 434, Pinheiros, 3062 5722