There’s a Japanese restaurant on every other corner in São Paulo. Chinese and Korean restaurants abound, too, if you know where to look. But for a city with São Paulo’s increasingly cosmopolitan credentials, it’s suprising there aren’t more options when it comes to Thai food. Some no-expenses-spared restaurants serving authentic Thai cuisine have opened up – and closed shortly thereafter.
One restaurant that has weathered the years is Mestiço, and the clue to its success is perhaps in the name – ‘mixed race’, blending Asian and Brazilian flavours, and toning down the spice levels for the local palate.
Mestiço was opened in 1997 by the Thai chef Marina Pipatpan, who went on to spend ten years living abroad before moving back to São Paulo recently to open Tian. Like Mestiço, Tian brings a mix of cuisines to its menu, with nods to Thailand, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The setting for the new venture is sleek and contemporary: pink glass separates the kitchen from the dark, sexy dining space, with a large window overlooking the sidewalk.
Whether you’re there in a group or as a couple, the way to go is by ordering a sequence of dishes to share. We suggest starting with the delectable squid rings fried in a beer-based take on tempura batter, accompanied by a kimchi sauce made from the Korean spiced cabbage dish, let down only by the lack of spiciness you’d expect from the original (R$22).
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|Tian's grilled octopus
Mestiço regulars will love Tian’s Golden Baskets (R$15) – extra-crunchy pastry cups filled with chicken and corn – a miniature, more delicate version of Mestiço’s popular starter, kratong tong.
Tom kha, a classic Thai soup with chicken, Kaffir lime leaves, shimeji mushrooms, coconut milk, galangal and lemon grass is smooth and intoxicating (R$20). For wok dishes, try the rice with Chinese sausage, shrimp, ginger and fried egg (R$25) – a classic combination in Asia.
To taste some lighter fare, order the fresh fillet of grouper, marinated for hours in miso (soybean paste) and then cooked in a champagne-based sauce (R$38). Round off your personalised tasting menu with something sweet, like the koaniew mamuang (R$12) – moti rice with a coconut and mango sauce.
The ultra-modern setting and reasonable prices (reasonable, depending on your appetite) have been an instant hit, and set Tian apart from its pricey Itaim neighbours.