Daslu, São Paulo's poshest and biggest luxury store - a sort of turbo-charged Barneys - is simply surreal. The maids in impeccable black and white uniforms, the chic doormen, the sheer size of the neo-classical behemoth.... all of it exudes an aura of big money.
I am telling you all this just so you can put into context my recent lunch at Forneria San Paolo, one of the store's 3 restaurants. Originally specializing in paninis and other sandwiches, the Forneria chain (the flagship in Itaim plus this outpost and another one in Rio) has expanded its offerings since it changed hands.
The original Forneria was created by Rogerio Fasano, the Keith McNally of São Paulo, the man who turns into gold everything he touches. But after going through rough seas with one of his main financial backers, supermarket heir João Paulo Diniz, Rogerio sold him his part in the business.
So now João Paulo is the one running the Fornerias. First, the good
news: the décor is stunning, all creams and browns, slightly 50s and purely elegant. Hats off to architect Marcio Kogan.
But he can't simply reproduce certain dishes that are hugely successful elsewhere and think they`ll be just as great at his Daslu Forneria. Fasano`s famous breaded veal cutlet with saffron risotto, for example, was pitiful if compared to the original. The risotto was good, actually, creamy and well seasoned, but the meat tasted of nothing other than the oil it was fried in. I could not bring myself to have more than two small bites.
Even before the veal arrived, one starter gave me an idea of what was to come. A lukewarm and limp bruschetta topped with melted brie and an unpleasant version of Mostarda de Cremona, all chopped up.
The classic carpaccio - slices cut by hand, mustard-based creamy dressing - fared much better.
Then came the main course, which the menu described as “the great American contribution to the world of the sandwich”. Lukewarm, the meat very rare. And fries that tasted frozen, as if they were from McDonald's.
Desserts were even worse. A cheesecake missing the graham cracker crust, the filling much lower than the original`s, and a berry sauce that tasted like it had been made from frozen fruit.
Did you know that there could be such a thing as a "diet" chocolate and hazelnut pie? Tasteless, the chopped hazelnuts on the outside turned rancid, not the best.
Forneria San Paolo: Avenida Chedid Jafet , 131 , Villa Daslu , Vila Olímpia , Tel. 3841-9680