1 The Riviera

Cocktail Lounge & Restaurant – Av Paulista 2584, Consolação

I’d been having a hankering to try steak tartar for the first time and Kiernan took me out to have some as a surprise one Friday night not long ago. Turns out the surprise was The Riviera, both the place itself and their menu, which had exactly what I was looking for. 🙂 The restaurant sits at the crossroads of two main thoroughfares, so traffic is super busy there and the facade really looks unremarkable, except for the bright, flashing neon signs with gaudy Palm trees and faux French Riviera font. To be honest it looked more like a struggling strip club who’d just picked the wrong street to settle on, but once we stepped inside that image changed totally and immediately! The foyer / cocktail lounge is a cozy room with the wraparound bar taking up most of the space, bars tools all around and a low lighting bathroom tucked in one corner. The atmosphere is a comfortable mix between stylish and cozy that put me at ease right away and of course the packed bookshelf (sincere or not) opposite the entrance was a wonderfully familiar sight. I am not sure how, but the decor, both downstairs in the bar and upstairs in the restaurant, made me feel like I’ve been here before; in fact, it felt like a favourite living room I had spent a lot of time in once upon a time and now it has been converted into a fashionable hangout where the barmen mix cocktails with flair!
We got there at about 22h and enjoyed our first cocktails downstairs while a jazz band fired up the upstairs area 🙂 I did have my tartar craving satisfied and then some!! It was so balanced, with the fat disk of raw meat, rockets leaves and a slice of buttery toast. Kiernan’s chicken burger wasn’t quite so spectacular… it was a tad small and with no accompaniments for what we paid for it. Buuut… the cocktails were delicious!

2 Gopala Hari

Vegetarian Indian Restaurant – Rua Antonio Carlos 429, Consolação

 

Gopala Hari is a small Indian restaurant just off the bustling Augusta street that serves vegetarian set menus for lunch. There is actually a shop where they sell spices and other knick knacks as well as the restaurant a few doors further down. The building is unmistakable – it’s an orange-y pink that catches the eye even in the colorful Augusta area. The restaurant itself looks deceptively tiny when you head up the narrow staircase, but it is a two-story building and they fits tables and chairs into every nook and cranny – when I went there with Kiernan we were out on a little balcony looking out over the tops of the trees. It was really cute! I’ve only tried two set menus so far, but I love both!

So what they do is each day of the week they have a basic set menu (it’s different for each day) and you can choose your main and your dessert, but the appetizer and all the accompaniments are the same for the set menus and they serve their house lemonade. The serving sizes is really fair – I couldn’t finish everything and Kiernan was stuffed as well – and the taste was so well-balanced. 🙂  They do things like fragrant rice and kofta, filled with peanuts instead of meat or a crunchy veggy burger with green Jasmine rice. Besides the food they really take a lot of care with the decor and atmosphere as well. There are wonderful, colorful images on the walls of Ganesha and other gods, as well as Indian figures and statuettes. Rose petals are strewn all along the staircase and even in the bathroom. It was a little peaceful escape at a busy time on a crowded street.

3 Tanger

Moroccan Restaurant – Rua Harmonia 350, Vila Madelena

The cold and drizzle only served to make the interior of Tanger that much more cozy and warm. Kiernan found this really awesome place on Veja – an online directory of restaurants in São Paulo, especially the fancy ones. It was my birthday after all and I would be pressed to remember the last time I had Moroccan food… The waiter was very attentive, yet he never crowded us and our tasty bottle of red Chilean wine. Kiernan had a dish of chicken thigh with orange and ginger (delicious!) with couscous and I opted for beef with couscous accompanied by a baked, honeyed pear. Both of those were amazing! The waiter also brought a bowl of chicken broth to the table that we assumed was to be ladled over the couscous… Even that, by itself, was fragrant and tasty. Even though this restaurant is right in the super hip restaurant-y neighborhood of Vila Madalena (there are loads of craft beer hangouts there as well), it is itself on a more tranquil street, which I loved.

4 Rong He

Chinese Restaurant – Rua da Glória 622-A, Liberdade

Japanese and Chinese food in São Paulo seem to have morphed together and then become something almost completely different from either – from sushi rolls with cream cheese and then deep-fried in a batter, to noodles and vegetables in a vague brown soy-ish sauce. So we’d been a bit starved of super authentic Chinese style food for a while when a student of mine recommended this place. The place seems to be managed and owned by Chinese folks (from where exactly I know not) and if the guys working in the kitchen aren’t Chinese, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the menu was set up by one. The menu includes typical dim sum (longbao and rice gelatin rolls) as well as super traditional rice noodle dishes, table soups and hoysin pancakes (with veggies instead of duck, but hey, you can’t have everything). We went there twice with different groups of friends and did the Chinese style family orders and everyone loved every single dish every time. We practically licked the serving dishes and bowls clean! It’s not super expensive if you order a couple of plates for the whole table and the serving sizes themselves are pretty much designed for “party orders”, because they’re huge!

 

5 Seu Chalita O Árabe

Arabic Restaurant – Rua Tabapuã 592, Itaim Bibi

Top notch Arabic spot, possibly one of the best in São Paulo. Both times we’ve been here we tried different plates and they were all mouth-wateringly delicious.  From the front and inside it’s got a simple little look and it’s not very crowded during the week.  The spreads are excellent with the usual labneh, hummus and baba ghanoush, but this is the first time I’ve ever had Muhamarra – a Syrian spread made from roasted red peppers, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses, and it was mind-blowing.  They’ve got the standard kebabs and know their way around lamb, and a pretty kickass Falafel style burger which Marelise had trouble finishing.

6 Aska Lamen

Japanese Ramen Restaurant – Rua Galvão Bueno 466, Liberdade

For two former Taiwan residents it had been honestly pretty depressing having gone so long without a decent bowl of noodles, I mean like….. wow, now instant noodles suck hard.  Enter Aska Lamen, the best Lamen joint in SP, and let’s just assume the whole country since this is where 75% of the original Japanese immigrants came. For those willing to brave the 30-60 minute wait once inside it’s really simple.  there’s about 10 tables, and 10 seats at the bar.  The menu is limited, and you guessed it, mostly focusing around Lamen.  So grab a beer, skip the frozen dumplings, and get a big bowl with all the accoutrements.  Feel your eyes glaze over as you noisily suck down the fresh noodles made right in front of you by the 10 chefs in the open kitchen, go ahead and unbuckle that top pants button and don’t forget to finish the broth because the whole bowl is a semi-religious experience.

800px-Tsukimi_soba,_tea_and_sake_by_My_Visita_Iglesia_in_Kyoto
Sobá noodles like we had at Aska Image by big berto licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-2.0

7 Jeti’s Burger & Grill

Burger & Grill Restaurant – Rua Verbo Divino 1194, Chácara Santo Antônio
The restaurant formerly known as Jedi’s, was forced by Lucasfilms to change its name a few months back including its whole menu which was named after a plethora of characters.. Nevertheless it remains a spectacular homage to Star Wars. It’s a little south of town but easy to find.  Mostly crowded at lunch, it’s a great place for fans to see a whole restaurant decorated by the Force.  On the flip side – it’s honestly just an average burger.  Cool look, and a decent bite, but you’re really there for the atmosphere. You came to enjoy the life-size Darth Vader watch you pee in men’s room, the continuously screened episodes IV-VII (because those are the only films that exist), colored burger buns, and to find out what might have been if Lucas had started buying diners.

8 Al Janiah

Arabic Restaurant – Rua Alvaro de Carvalho 190, Centro

This is a relatively new Syrian/Palestinian restaurant in the center of town that some friends recommended to us. The place is also known as a cool cultural centre, and has music on the weekends. The place feels kind of like you enter through a cave entrance and it just opens up in front of you into an intimate interior with scattered tables and chairs around the kitchen in the poking into the side of the room. So when we say it’s in the center, it’s really very much in the center and the restaurant itself barely has any signs up. I didn’t take any photos unfortunately but the grub was stupendous.  We took some friends the second time so we could sample more items of course, and had some great appetizers with the usual Labneh, Baba Ganoush, Tabbouleh, a nice fattoush salad and some grade-A excellente hummus. Hands down best in South America we’ve had so far. We also decided to share a few chicken kebabs around.  It was a blasty-blast

 

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