Piranha Stew

September 10, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (0)



The Espirito Santa restaurant in Rio de Janeiro is like none  I have ever experienced.








It sits high on a slope








and commands spectacular views.



It is in the Santa Teresa section of the city, a recently bohemianized neighbourhood, with winding roads





and tram tracks that corkscrew down steep, cobbled streets.





The houses are small and brightly coloured,



and some of them give the impression of having lain long abandoned.





A favela sprawls over a nearby hill



and in years past there was a great deal of violence and crime. But, largely because of the approaching World Cup (2014) and Olympic Games (2016) things are changing again. Galleries, restaurants and bars have mushroomed along the winding streets of Santa Teresa, and at night crowds of visitors flock in from other parts of the city. This has inspired many ambitious young chefs to start new restaurants in the area – the Espiritu Santa is one such.



Here are some of the offerings listed on the restaurant’s  menu:


– Deep-fried coalho cheese ‘poppers’ served with açai chutney

– Terrine of tambaqui fish served with cupuaçu chutney

– Rice made with jambu, tucupi (a sauce made from the manioc root) and shrimp.








Who could resist a dish called ‘Mujica de Piranha’ (Piranha stew thickened with manioc flour)? And, somewhat to my surprise, it was superb, delicate in flavour and redolent of unfamiliar spices.













The fried fish ‘ribs’ provided an excellent counterpoint to the soup: crisp outside and succulent within.












But best of all  was the ‘Namorado de Cabreça’ (filet of tucumare served with a sauce of tucupi and nut flavoured rice): a sublime union of contrasting tastes and textures.










We were taken to the restaurant by Felipe Maciel



who works with Alfaguara, my Brazilian publishers)








The owner of the restaurant, Chef Natasha is a friend of his.



She is from Manaus, the biggest city in the Amazon region: she has made it her mission to introduce the products and cuisine of that area to the rest of Brazil.







In a city of breath-taking vistas




and famous landmarks like the monumental statue of Christ the Redeemer


Christo Redentor


and Sugar Loaf Mountain












Espirito Santa is destined I think to become a destination of another sort.


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