This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).
1. Duck hearts, Cora
Skewers of salty, charcoal-grilled chicken hearts are found everywhere in the city, from all-you-can-eat steakhouses to street barbecues and stalls at football matches. Modish small-plates-and-wine venue Cora modernises the classic with a beautiful dish of rare duck hearts on a bed of cauliflower cream and grilled leeks, topped with vibrant salsa verde and accompanied by house-baked sourdough bread and Brazilian natural wine. The sixth-floor city-centre spot offers views over Minhocão (‘the big worm’), an elevated highway that’s car-free on weekends.
2. Slow-roast pork, A Casa do Porco
Ranked 12th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants — and fourth on the Latin American list — A Casa do Porco serves a menu revolving around pork. The pigs are reared on the founders’ own farm, with the meat used in innovative dishes inspired by traditional Brazilian food, such as ear and trotter ceviche. The stars, however, are the eight-hour slow-roasted San Zé pork and the pork sushi, a nigiri-like bite of rice and nori, topped with cooked pork jowl in black tucupi — a sticky glaze made from fermented cassava.
3. Cuscuz, Cuscuz Da Irina
This new spot in the hip Vila Madalena district champions traditionally underappreciated regional food. Cuscuz Da Irina takes its name from the couscous-like dish popular in northeastern Brazilian states including Rio Grande do Norte, where owner Irina Cordeiro — a former MasterChef Profissionais contestant — is from. There are several possible accompaniments to the cuscuz, which is made with cornmeal, but the standout is a stew of sun-dried beef with cream, alongside a black-eyed pea salad, coalho cheese and a beetroot-dyed boiled egg. Chilli sauce on the side is a must.
4. Pernil, Pernil do Moises
São Paulo doesn’t lack tasty sandwiches. Options range from the Levantine-inspired beirute (roast beef, lettuce, tomato, melted cheese, spices and za’atar in a flatbread), sold at landmark luncheonette Frevo, to the Anthony Bourdain-endorsed mortadella rolls at Bar do Mané. But don’t miss the chance to try a pernil sandwich at Pernil do Moises in Ceagesp market. These little baguettes come stuffed with juicy pork leg or shoulder and all manner of toppings (pineapple and raw onion are standouts).
5. Takoyaki, Izakaya Issa
Home to one of the largest Japanese communities outside of Japan, São Paulo is renowned for its izakaya bars, which serve some of the city’s best food. For example, takoyaki are balls of wheat batter, typically filled with diced octopus and pickled ginger and topped with a Worcestershire-like sauce, mayonnaise and katsuobushi (dried, smoked, fermented fish shavings). São Paulo’s finest are found at Izakaya Issa, an always-busy bar in the largely Japanese neighbourhood of Liberdade. Order a few takoyaki alongside an ice-cold beer.
Published in issue 21 (autumn 2023) of Food by National Geographic Traveller (UK).
To subscribe to National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine click here. (Available in select countries only).