In a restaurant specialising in food from Mato Grosso do Sul, you’d be understandably surprised to find a typically Japanese dish heading up the menu: soba noodles. But they are indeed the star of the show at the aptly-named Sobaria – served with strips of cooked egg, grated ginger and spring onions in a bowl of steaming, meaty broth (R$24-$28).
It’s not as incongruous a theme as it might seem at first: soba is in fact standard street food in cities like Campo Grande, introduced to the region’s culinary repertoire by Japanese immigrants who arrived from Okinawa at the turn of the 20th century.
But a simple and friendly restaurant on a quiet residential street, Sobaria isn’t only about the noodles. Other specialities included the comforting sopa paraguaia (Paraguayan soup, R$20) – a paradoxically solid and savoury corn cake made with cheese and onion that, so the legend goes, was carried by Brazilian soldiers heading off to war with neighbouring Paraguay.
Looking for something meatier, we tried the tender though slightly over-salted cupim ao leite – strips of meat from the hump of the zebu cow – served with generous portions of rice and manioc chips. Skip the dessert and stop in at the next door Frutos do Cerrado – an unusual ice-cream parlour where, with the ice cream sold by weight, wise birds squeeze as many of the tropical fruit flavours as possible into their pots.