Seafood in São Paulo is mostly the domain of sushimen, plus a handful of few-and-far-between North-Eastern eateries. Until now, that is. Fishbar & Gastronomia opened in early 2012 and joined a select set of new seafood restaurants that also includes the super-sized Camarão na Moranga and Coco Bambu, as well as the fishmonger-cum-restaurant, Peixaria.
From the outside, the plain glass box that comprises the front of the restaurant does little in terms of visual seduction. Which is a shame, because once inside, the place is full of nautical charm.
That glass box, with its retractable roof, is an ideal spot for a sunny weekend lunch – and watch the sun start to set over a second bottle, if you stay long enough. Further inside, an indulgently large bar leads into the main dining area where nautical paraphenalia and dark, varnished wood decking might make you forget for a second that you’re docked in São Paulo, and not somewhere on the Mediterranean.
The menu continues that Mediterranean feeling. Created by Catalan chef Oscar Bosch, who cut his teeth in his family’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Can Bosch, on the coast near Barcelona, the tapas-style dishes here include lulinhas frescas na chapa (grilled baby squid) (R$36) with garlic mayo and parsley – full of flavour though just a tad too chewy. The grilled scallops (R$34) were sublime, served in a warm pea sauce with an almond emulsion and crispy bacon on top.
The oysters – like most of the seafood at Fishbar – are sourced in Brazil, from Santa Catarina or from the mangroves in São Paulo’s own Cananéia – a colonial-era, seaside municipality down on the border with neighbouring state Paraná. We ordered six of each for a taste test (R$40), and the plump, saltier Santa Catarina oysters won on both size and flavour. A solid selection of fish mains – try the seared tuna with houmous (R$48) – and a couple of meat dishes, will appease those who don’t do sharing.
The service swung between inattentive and fussy: we weren’t offered the couvert, and neither were we offered one of the free jugs of filter water, filled with lemon wedges and mint, lined up ready on the bar. Yet when our food came, the ensuing jigsaw puzzle of fitting the succession of oversized plates on the table required two waiters and a good deal of debate.
Round off an afternoon spent grazing on seafood with a turn below decks, where a small cupboard has been transformed into an olive oil shop.