When we started outlining our recent trip to Brazil, Rocky and I hadn’t originally planned to spend so much time in São Paulo(proportionately, vs Rio). But it turned out that one of the restaurants I most wanted to visit didn’t reopen from their holiday closure until a week into the new year. So we stretched out our stay, relaxed a little, and had a nice time. After a great lunch with our friend Marc Z, some ice cream and chocolate along Rua Oscar Freire, and a swim on our hotel rooftop, Rocky and I spent our last night in São Paulo checking out what Chefs Helena Rizzo and Daniel Redondo were cooking up at their restaurant Maní.
Walking into the space for a meal at Maní is like accepting an invitation to the dinner party of an ex-surfer turned millionaire who tried his hardest to recreate a beach side taco stand within his downtown loft, except with better food. Settled in at our table we ordered up a bottle of grape juice and the Chef’s tasting menu(naturally) and got the party started.
Pães diversos, lascas de polvilho, coalhada seca, queijo de cabra com pimenta rosa, manteiga, pirulito de parmesão. Bread service. Parmesan lollipop, tapioca starch chips, and a crusty loaf accompanied by butter, goat cheese with pink peppercorn, and sour milk curd with paprika. The tapioca chips were dangerously addicting, light and savory.
Belisquetes: Bombom de guacamole com biscoito de fubá. Bombom de Foie Gras com goiabada e capa de vinho do Porto. Chips de batata com rosbife e mostarda dijon. Guacamole bonbon with cornmeal biscuit and dried tomato. Foie bonbon with port wine and guava. Potato chip with roast beef and dijon. Both of the bonbons were rich and smooth. The guacamole had good acid with contrasting crunch from the cracker. The foie was balanced with sweetness. Rocky said the roast beef and potato chip was reminiscent of her childhood lunches.
Sopa Fria de Jabuticaba – com camarão no vapor de cachaça e picles de couve flor e amburana. Cold soup of Jabuticaba with cachaça steamed crayfish, pickled cauliflower, and amburana nuts. The crayfish was nice. The soup was tart, juicy, and almost effervescent. Overall this was the weakest dish of the night.
Salada Waldorf – gelatina de maçã com sorbet de aipo, nozes caramelizadas e emulsão de gorgonzola. A take on the classic Waldorf Salad. Apple jelly with celery sorbet, walnut praline, and gorgonzola emulsion. When all the tastes on the plate were combined, the dish was successful. The texture of the apple brunoise and nuts were great. More of them and more greens and petals would be nice to accompany the excess of jelly.
Nhoques de mandioquinha e Kuso com “dashi” de tucupi. Mandioquinha(a type of ‘little cassava’) and araruta gnocchi served with tucupi dashi. F*cking nuts. The gnocchi, cheesy and starchy, were of ideal density. The savory hit of the dashi was perfect. The Jambu,one of the herbs atop the gnocchi, was a lot of fun, giving a tingling numbing sensation like a Szechuan button.
Tutano com pupunha, açaí, salada de rucula selvagem. Heart of palm(from pupunha palm tree) stuffed with cow bone marrow, with wild arugula and white truffle oil. Quite a rich few bites. Nicely salty. The palm was very good with a little crispness.
Moqueca de lagostim com terrine de mandioquinha. A modernized moqueca(fish stew) with langoustine and a ‘terrine’ of mandioquinha root in a broth from the crayfish with roasted bell peppers and onion. Beautiful intensity of savory compliments.
Bacalhau com taioba, queijo da serra da canastra e farofa de milho. Cod brandade with taioba leaf, Serra da Canastra cheese emulsion, and manioc farofa(toasted flour). The taioba had a very vegetal kale-like taste. The crunch of the farofa was good against the softness of the rest of the plate.
Feijoada – carpacio de pé de porco, esfera de feijao, laranja e farofa. A modernist feijoada(bean and meat stew) of pork foot carpaccio, bacon, black bean spheres, orange, kale, and manioc farofa. I wasn’t completely sold on the dish, but Rocky maintains that it was solid.
Escondidinho de carne seca com pimenta biquinho. Another take on a Brazilian classic and a very nice plate. Escondidinho, or ‘hidden jerk’. Instead of the dried meat being ‘hidden’ under a mound of mashed cassava, it was encased with manioc puree inside manioc flour and sitting atop a reduction from the jerk. Also on the plate were some candied, cubed, and powdered biquinho peppers.
Canelone de pé de porco, maçã verde e repolho roxo. Pork foot cannelloni(in bread) with red cabbage, green apple emulsion, and crispy pork skin. Good richness to round out the savories.
Panacota de Coco – com sorvete de chocolate branco ao rum, pérolas de abacaxi e consome de abacaxi e capim santo. Coconut panna cotta served with rum and white chocolate ice cream, pineapple pearls, lemongrass and pineapple consommé. The white chocolate added a subtle rich element to the beautiful little light tropical dessert. Rocky exclaimed: Piña Colada!!
Mil folhas “Dominó” com sorvete de framboesa. ‘Mille feuille’ with raspberry sorbet, puff pastry, and vanilla cream. Superb. I loved the light crunch of the pastries with the perfect combo of vanilla and raspberry. A very special little dish.
Some wines we had:
Date of visit: January 7, 2014
Maní. Rua Joaquim Antunes, 210. São Paulo, Brazil +55 11 3085 4148 www.manimanioca.com.br