Nov 1, 2009
Well, whaddya know... yet another foreign food writer goes gaga for São Paulo restaurants. In this specific case, Anissa Helou of the Financial Times had high praise for Maní, which (not coincidently) is one of my top 3 in São Paulo. Helou says she had the tasting menu and "all but one dish were sensational. Even the gigantic bubbly crackers that seemed to have come straight out of a science-fiction film were totally moreish."
Other than calling açaí berries "asahi", and the complaint about the music which makes it sound like she's some dowdy grumpster, the review gives a good idea of what the talented chef Helena Rizzo is capable of cooking.
I've been a fan since my first time there, when I had a humble "PF", or ready-made plate, a poor man's lunch that is becoming a favourite at hot restaurants:
To a foreigner, the combo above might seem weird, but to us paulistas, it's sheer heaven: black beans, farofa (toasted manioc flour), beef stew, rice, sunny-side-up egg. YUM.
Funny thing is Helena straddles both the humble, mama-inspired and the foam-filled tecnoemotional sides of cooking with great prowess. Here's her feminine take on an old Brazilian classic, the quindim custard (in her version, not a custard at all, clearly):
And although I love her more ambitious creations, such as her famous tuna with berry chutney, ginger foam and quinoa, I'd just as happily have her simple yet delicious lunchtime pastas:
So I'm quite glad that the Financial Times agrees that Helena Rizzo is a chef of great talent. Now if only the paper would hire a spell-checker...
Here, the full review in the Financial Times.
And more about Maní:
Maní, one of my favourite restaurants in São Paulo
Maní and other restaurants specializing in "nouvelle Brazilian" cooking