Think of Brazil and you probably conjure images of silky-skilled footballers, scantily-clad carnival queens or perhaps a shiny-new Embraer –nothing wrong with that. However, the more cultured palates among you may immediately think of chef Alex Atala and his groundbreaking restaurant D.O.M.
The upscale eaterie changed the face of modern Brazilian cuisine when it opened in 1999. Up until then São Paolo’s foodies had been fed a diet of French or Italian dishes or a clumsily presented selection of classic Brazilian home cooking deemed too undignified for modern tastes.
Atala changed all of that and set out on a mission to showcase the best of Brazilian food but with the flair he had experienced while training in Europe at the École Hôtelière de Namur in Belgium, and in some of the finest Michelin restaurants in Italy and France.
Atala believed that some of the signature ingredients in his nation’s cuisine – such as açaí, pupunha and cupuaçu – deserved to be treated and served with respect to gain much wider appreciation.
“We needed a pride in our cuisine,” said Atala. “The way the composer Villa-Lobos was proud of our music.”
Atala used European techniques on those Brazilian ingredients to create stunning tasting menus of up to 20 courses each Dishes included Palm Heart Fettuccine, Pirarucu with Tucupi, and Banana Ravioli with Passion Fruit Sauce and Tangerine Sorbet. D.O.M. was a hit and became Brazil’s dining destination of choice, winning Atala numerous accolades in the process.
Not content to rest on his laurels, Atala took the innovative step of striving to find new ingredients from deep in the Amazon rainforest. Sensitive to the environment and the people that lived in the ancient Amazon, Atala worked with the Social Environment Institute to tread lightly in his quest for the Best Brazilian ingredients.
As well as discovering a new variety of palm heart (which can be harvested more efficiently without killing the tree) and the priprioca root (compared to vanilla), Atala bought an area of rainforest. Home to around 40 families, Atala often visits to forage for food for his research. This dedication has seen D.O.M. listed in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for nine consecutive years, and featuring in the Top 10. “D.O.M. is still daring in its creations, practicing a conceptual cuisine in flavours, colours, textures and scents,” says Atala. With his eco credentials and truly beautiful presentation, he has single handedly changed the face of Brazilian food.
Rue Barão de Capanema
São Paulo, Brazil
Tel: +55 11 3088 0761