Ponder for a moment what the word tapas means to you. Now bin it, and sit down to São Paulo’s most exciting dining experience of the moment, in which the only resemblance to traditional tapas is the portion size.
Opened in January 2011, the Spanish-Brazilian-helmed kitchen at Clos de Tapas carries some serious weight: Spanish chef Raul Jimenez from three-star Michelin restaurant El Celler de Can Roca (Girona); and Brazilian chef Ligia Karazawa, who honed her skills at El Bulli, widely regarded as the best restaurant in the world despite its impending closure.
The way to go here is the eight-course tasting menu that rivals anything to which Michelin attaches its stars. It’s priced at R$185, so this is very much about giving yourself up to the experience. Doing so might net you a tastebud- tickling journey through queijo coalho, in which the cheese is paired with a palette of tastes: spicy (with grac de bode hot peppers), bitter (with jiló, a bitter gourd similar to aubergine), sweet (sugarcane ‘fish’ eggs) and sour (lime foam); or carvão de bacalhau (salt cod with an almond and squid ink coating).
A salad of fresh greens and mushrooms buried under a dehydrated manioc cracker is a stunner as well – all giving the idea of traditional tapas a much- welcomed culinary wedgie. Along the way, other senses are massaged – like the arrival of a small bowl of moss, brought to life with dry ice to fill the table with the aroma of a wet forest. A gimmick? Yes. But a thoroughly pleasant one.
Time will tell if Clos de Tapas will should be cause for concern for D.O.M., the doyenne of contemporary cuisine that hogs the city’s accolades; but if first impressions are anything to go by, it just might be.