Aside from beach barracas, there are lots of casual restaurants where you can gorge on fresh fish and seafood. The local specialty is a dish called azul-marinho (“marine blue”). This evocatively named fish stew mixes fresh fish with bananas-nanicas (dwarf bananas), which when cooked in a cast iron pot—together with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro—take on an unusual bluish tinge that is due to oxidization. Served in a clay casserole, the dish is accompanied by pirão (a mush of manioc flour mixed with the stew’s juices) and pureed banana.
In Ubatuba, a good place to sample this and other regional seafood dishes is Peixe com Banana (Rua Guarani 255, Praia do Cruzeiro, tel. 12/3832-1712, noon–11 p.m. Wed.–Mon., noon–11 p.m. daily in Jan. and July, R$40–50), a casual eatery where generous portions serve two or three.
Terra Papagalli (Rua Xavantes 537, Itaguá, tel. 12/3832-1488, 6–11 p.m. Mon. and Wed.–Thurs., noon–midnight Fri.–Sun., R$50–60) also specializes in seafood. The menu changes based on the catch of the day and the chef’s mood. The simple but inventive dishes such as pescada fish cooked in mint-flavored olive oil and served with grilled tomato and mango are big enough to share.
South of town, one of the region’s best restaurants is in the charming Solar das Águas Cantantes hotel (Estrada do Saco da Ribeira 253, Praia do Lázaro, tel. 12/3842-0288, www.solardasaguascantantes.com.br, 12:30–4 p.m. and 6–10 p.m. Wed.–Mon., 12:30–10:30 p.m. daily Dec.–Feb., R$40–50). The house specialties are the fabulous moquecas—variations of the famous Bahian stew of fish and/or seafood cooked in dendê (palm oil) and coconut milk.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition