The majority of Paraty’s restaurants—as well as the most expensive—occupy charming sobrados in the centro histórico. In recent years, Paraty has attained quite a gastronomic reputation, with many restaurants taking advantage of the abundance of fresh fish and seafood to create innovative fare.
Caiçara is the name given to local specialties that draw on fish, game, fruits, and vegetables traditionally used by the Costa Verde’s indigenous peoples. One of the most popular recipes is a dish called camarão casadinha (“married shrimp”). This aptly named treat consists of two jumbo shrimp, tied together and fried after having being stuffed with a filling of tiny shrimp and farofa.
You can savor this speciality at Hiltinho (Rua Marechal Deodoro 233, tel. 24/3371-1725, 10 a.m.–midnight daily, R$50–60), a traditional eatery famed for its camarões, both “married” and in other delicious arrangements. Aside from its main location in the centro histórico, there is also a Hiltinho (tel. 24/9276-5291, noon–6 p.m. daily in summer) on the Ilha de Algodão (an hour’s boat ride away) in Paraty’s bay.
Banana da Terra (Rua Dr. Samuel Costa 198, tel. 24/3371-1725, noon–midnight Wed.–Sun., R$40–45) serves up Caiçara fare with a touch of refinement, prepared by Ana Bueno, considered one of Brazil’s top chefs. True to the restaurant’s name, various varieties of bananas make frequent appearances on the menu—in guises both savory (banana-and-cheese-stuffed squid gratinéed with shrimp) and sweet (warm banana tart with cinnamon ice cream).
The colorful interior at Brik a Brak (Rua Dr. Samuel Costa 267, tel. 24/3371-1445, noon–midnight daily, R$15–25), with its exposed stone walls displaying vibrant works by local artists, is as creative as the original dishes dreamed up in the kitchen. Abundant salads, sandwiches, quiches, and appetizers make this an ideal spot for a light bite. Other appealing features are the pretty courtyard garden and live music in the evenings.
The location of Sabor da Terra (Av. Roberto Silveira 180, tel. 24/3371-2384, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, R$10–16), just outside the centro histórico, may justify the low-wattage decor and equally low prices. However, this per kilo restaurant earns high marks in terms of the variety, freshness, and tastiness of its buffet offerings, including grilled fish and churrasco as well as salads and seafood dishes.
Another inexpensive option is Le Castellet (Rua Dona Geralda, tel. 24/3371-7461, noon–11 p.m. Wed.–Mon., R$10–20). Chef Yves Lapide has outfitted this cozy little crêperie with attractive decorative touches from his native Provence, but the delicious sweet and savory crèpes are his real forté, along with other French fare such as seafood bouillabaisse and tarte tatin.
Considered one of Brazil’s finest restaurants, Merlin o Mago (Rua do Comércio 376, tel. 24/3371-2157, www.paraty.com.br/merlin, 7 p.m.–1 a.m. Thurs.–Tues., R$65–80) is owned and operated by German Hado Steinbracher, a former photojournalist and restaurant critic turned immensely creative chef. At his refined and romantic candlelit restaurant, Steinbracher turns out dishes based on French cuisine and laden with strong Asian and Brazilian influences. One of his best-loved dishes is filé masqué, in which a filet of robalo fish is “masked” in a delicate crèpe and bathed in a sauce mixing oranges, saffron, almonds and caviar.
If the idea of lunching in style on a deserted tropical island—taking time out for a dip in warm waters in between gourmet courses—appeals to you, Paraty has a handful of idyllic options. Aside from the island outlet of Hiltinho, Kontiki (tel. 24/3371-1666, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily in summer, R$50–60) is a sophisticated restaurant, perched on the tiny Ilha Duas Irmãs (10 minutes from Paraty), that is famous for its copious seafood paellas. The restaurant provides masks, fins, and kayaks as well as a complimentary boat that whisks diners/snorkelers to and from Paraty’s Cais de Porto.
More rustic, yet no less enchanting is El Lahô (tel. 24/3371-2253, noon onwards daily, R$30–40), located on tiny Ilha Catimbau, where the seafood is scrumptious but if you lean back too far in your chair you could end up in the water.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition