The delicious fish and seafood served at Sobrenatural (Rua Almirante Alexandrino 432, Santa Teresa, tel. 21/2224-1003, noon onwards daily, R$25–40) are caught daily and inspire the preparation of simple home-style Brazilian dishes such as fish moqueca (a Bahian stew that uses coconut milk, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime) with shrimp sauce. The generous portions are enough to feed two or three.
Aprazível (Rua Aprazível 62, Santa Teresa, tel. 21/2508-9174, www.aprazivel.com.br, noon–1 a.m. Thurs.–Sat., 1–6 p.m. Sun., R$35–50)—which is Portuguese for “delightful”—is the perfect name for this restaurant occupying a bucolic villa. Rustic jacaranda tables fill the warm honey-colored interior and spill out onto the veranda and lush tropical garden, both of which offer panoramic views of the Baía de Guanabara. The cuisine riffs on the traditional fare of Minas Gerais, yielding dishes such as galinhada caipira (organic chicken seasoned with sausage and garnished with braised kale and banana) and rainha do baião (tilapia bathed in cilantro-scented olive oil served with a mixture of okra and tangy coalho cheese). The wine menu, designed by American expat and indie filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter (who made the excellent wine documentary Mondovino) focuses on unsung local vintages. Since the restaurant gets full on weekends, reservations are recommended.
There’s no need to journey to the Amazon to savor exotic ingredients such as piranha, mozzarella made from the Ilha de Marajó’s buffalo herds, and fruits such as jambu, taperabá, and cupuaçu. Amazonian chef Natacha Fink uses these and many other delicacies at Espírito Santa (Rua Almirante Alexandrino 264, Santa Teresa, tel. 21/2508-7095, www.espiritosanta.com.br, 11:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Wed., 11:30 a.m.–midnight Thurs.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Sun., R$25–35). This innovative restaurant is housed in a coral-colored 1930s villa that is surrounded by a lovely terrace. Start off with crab claws served with jambu vinaigrette and then move on to sole stuffed with shrimp in a taperabá sauce, accompanied by hearts of palm. Save room for desserts such as crisp fritters filled with guava, cashews and cupuaçu. Exotic caipirinhas are made with artisanal cachaças.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition