Glouton in Belo Horizonte

One of the restaurants that popped up my research about Belo Horizonte was Glouton – a highly recommended restaurant applying French style cooking techniques to Brazilian ingredients and food. One of the recommendations came from the new discovery trail from the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants website. Since I’ve been lucky enough to experience a few on their lists over the past year, I thought it was a good chance to visit this restaurant when I was in town. Before leaving, I reached out via their contact form, using Google Translate to put in a request for a table on the day that I arrived in Belo Horizonte. I figured I’d be a little bit tried after the 13 hour London-São Paulo + 5-hour layover + another flight but I thought having something to look forward to would help me stay awake. I asked for a table at 19:30 on a Thursday, when the restaurant actually opens.

Restaurant Glouton
Restaurant Glouton

After arriving at the hotel, relaxing and trying to get connected with a Brazilian sim (it’s almost quite impossible if you can’t speak Portuguese!) I left for the restaurant by foot to see the sights. I arrived only about two minutes before the restaurant opened but since the front door was open, I went inside. A waiter greeted me, only to realise I couldn’t speak Portuguese and he wasn’t comfortable in English. He fetched the Head Chef (Leo Paixão) who spoke English very well and greeted me, and communicated how everything would work as I made my way to the table.

An English menu arrived alongside the Portuguese one, although I was able to understand enough of the Portuguese to be able to decide on what I wanted to have. When the waiter saw that I was ready, he signed to say he was going to get the chef, but I pointed, nodding, indicating I could order by pointing. One of the recommended dishes as a crispy pork belly, however I was thrown off whilst ordering when I realised there were two pork dishes and I didn’t know which one was which. I pointed to one, and the pointed at my belly – hoping the waiter would understand what I was trying to say. He did, although he responded by pointing to his neck, which helped me choose the right dish after all. A little bit complicated, but happy I could still accomplish what I needed to do.

Sparkling Wine List
Sparkling Wine List

I ended up ordering a few small bites, a main and a dessert and contemplated the wine menu. They had sections for wines by the glass (mostly from South America – yay!), wines in a carafe (mostly European wines) and then a large selection of bottles. I was fascinated to see a significant section of the sparkling wines came from Brazil and I was almost tempted to order a full bottle, but decided it was a bad idea because I wouldn’t be able to finish it. I ended up ordering a glass of a Chilean red, that still arrived in a small carafe! The restaurant is split into two areas, an indoor, air-conditioned one, and an outdoor space which I didn’t get to have a close look at. Relaxing music, what I imagine fits to the more-relaxed Brazilian culture, piped through the restaurant and the tables all around slowly filled up.

I expected the two bite-sized snacks to actually be a little bit smaller than what they ended up as. First up was the Beef Carpaccio and shortly followed up with the more traditional Cheese dumplings served with honey.

Beef Carpaccio
Beef Carpaccio

The Carpaccio was wonderful, with delicate citrus notes from lemon zest freshening the entire dish, contrasted with the peppery rocket and texture contrast provided by the toast bread.

Cheese Parcels
Cheese Parcels

The cheese parcels are quite a typical dish, and this was very well executed. What could have been a sloppy, oily mess with cheese oozing out of one side and an empty bite of fried pastry on the other showcased a perfect bite. The cheese had slightly melted, but each mouthful had the crisp pastry accompanied by its meaty, salty cheese and then with a touch of honey, providing the ideal sweet, salty contrast like a Canadian stack. Both of these “snacks” would have worked fine as a single appetiser, so it took me a while to get to the next course and was glad for the pause in between.

Pork Belly
Pork Belly

The main event was the Pressed pork belly served with crunchy farofa (tapioca flour), pineapple chutney and kale. I was very impressed by the portion size, and just as impressed by all the flavours. The pork was fall-apart soft topped with a perfectly thin but crisp crackling. The farofa was much better than anything I had experienced in Brazil with a multitude of textures and flavours formed from its golden brown toasting and slivers of flaked almonds generously added. The pineapple chutney brought the much needed acidity to the classic pork dish without being overwhelmingly sweet and I was glad to see greens on the plate to make me not feel too guilty about the meal.

Mango Cake

Out of the dessert menu, I was very tempted to try the guava pie. It is something that my colleagues later informed me was very typical of the area but as I sat in the restaurant, the recommendations from reviews were to try the mango pie, which I ended up ordering. Out of all the dishes, this one was my least favourite – namely because I though that a pie would have some flaky, or crunchy element. Instead, this was a bit more like a light sponge decked in a sticky sweet mango puree, mounted on some fruit and finished off with a beautiful scoop of raspberry sorbet. The sorbet did provide a good contrast from the mango’s sweetness, but I found it slightly too sharp against all the flavours. A good dessert, but I should have tried the guava pie.

By the time I left, I guess it was a bit more normal entertaining time for the Brazilians as the restaurant was pretty much full – just as my stomach was after the decadent meal. This is a great place for a particularly special occasion as their prices as significantly more than what you’d pay in your average restaurant.

Name: Glouton
Found at: Rue Bárbara Heliodora, 59 – Lourdes, Belo Horizonte – MG, 30180-130, Brazil

Restaurant Momotaro, Sao Paulo

Out of the handful of times I had a chance to eat at a restaurant in Sao Paulo, one of the most memorable was a great value lunch time was at Restaurant Momotaro. It’s a newer restaurant and they do a tasting menu at lunch which was significantly more food than I was prepared for. Very well executed, tasty and filling.

The restaurant is located in quite a nice neighbourhood. I have a feeling it is one of the more affluent neighbourhoods based on the cars and the types of people. Given there was very little public transportation options, I took a taxi both here and back from the hotel I was staying at.

The interior is done up very nicely. Warm, modern yet touches of Japanese elements still dotted around.

There is quite a gap between this post and when I ate here, so the commentary will be pretty light. Here’s a nice salad with a ginger dressing complete with a light miso soup.

This cocktail was supposed to be a yuzu (e.g citrus) drink but ended up like a Japanese style Bloody Mary, spicy but tasty. They didn’t charge me for this drink strangely enough and when I pointed it out, the waiter sort of shrugged it off. Maybe it was because I was taking a lot of pictures.

Delicious tempura. I remember this was light, crispy and plenty of it. Accompanied by the classic tempura dipping sauce.

Crumbed vegetable cutlet.

The order of food came out rather rapidly and randomly. Maybe because it was so many courses for a lunch menu, the next came out even before I had finished the one before it. Here’s the sushi platter and in the foreground you can still see I had plenty of tempura and the vegetable cutlet yet to finish. Fortunately the sushi was not really going to go cold. The sampling of fish was superb though – a wide variety and even that dish alone would have been sufficient for a light lunch.

I think this yakitori chicken was probably the weakest dish. There was certainly plenty of it in this tiny bowl, but I found the brown sauce was a little dull and there was just simply too much that it almost felt like it was swimming in it.

I thought I was done with the mains but after that came yet another dish complete with some grilled fish, another cutlet dish and a teriyaki chicken was that superb – moisty, salty and just right.

Dessert came with in the form of ice cream and a syrup of some sort. Perfect as a way to finish off the meal although probably not very Japanese.

An amazingly affordable lunch time menu that came to the equivalent of about £20 (which is even more amazing for Brazil which isn’t as cheap as you expect).

Name: Restaurant Momotaro
Address: Av. Lins de Vasconcelos, 2747 São Paulo, 04112-011, Brazil

Le Pre Catalan, Rio De Janeiro

I wanted a really memorable meal in Rio de Janeiro and ended up experiencing the Amazonian-ingredients centric tasting menu at Le Pre Catalan namely because it was really close to my hotel (two blocks) and I could easily get a reservation, although this was really not necessary for the time of year being mostly off-peak. In fact, there was only two other French people that were already seated when I arrived for an 8pm booking. Perhaps there were more people later, as Brazilians are well known for their late dining times. When I made the reservation at the front desk, the conversation sort went like:

Receptionist: What time would like your booking?
Me: What time do you open?
Receptionist: 7pm
Me: Then 7:30 please
Receptionist: (raises eyebrows)
Me: Ok, make it 8pm please
Receptionist: OK (although still appearing rather non-plussed)

You enter the restaurant the easiest by catching the outside elevator just outside the Sofitel’s foyer up one floor where you are greeted and seated. The dining room is luxurious, though I noted it seemed a little bit faded – maybe that was just me. Tall ceilings and tall windows look out onto the esplanade where, at lunch, you probably get a reasonable view of the ocean. Upon seating, I’m immediately brought some garlic, herbed crisp bread as well as a pot of olive oil and butter for the bread to go later.

I’m also offered an impressive selection of bread. Bread with hazelnut. Whole-grained bread. Sultana. French bread. One that, I’m sure lost in translation, apparently liver bread but tasted a bit more light a sourdough. The butter was fantastic – soft, creamy, more importantly tasty and the oils were infused with some sort of herbs. Yum.

I was offered two menus. The seasonal menu was a playful one from the chef. Closed, you have a menu that reads like a meal backwards starting from coffee, dessert, mains, and appetisers. When opened, the menu expands into an interesting, playful menu. You can also order a la carte, or have the Amazonian menu which is what I was here to have. They reset the cutlery, and I have never seen so many pieces of silverware on the table at one time.

The first dishes were Tucunare fish brandade on coconut milk, Biju roll made of tapioca and stuffed with baby lobster and fresh Palm Cabbage and pepper jelly. The jelly was strangely sweet, and the palm cabbage much sweeter than what I was expecting. The fish was amazingly light, and almost tasted like the fresh ocean.

The next course was the Crab pastry with Bacuri chutney, tapioca Sagu pearls marinated with Caipirinha and açaí vinagrette. The crab had a very strong flavour, and the salad dressing surprisingly tart – maybe that was from the “caipirinha” soaking. The topica was expectedly chewy, much like you might expect in bubble tea.

The next course was a fish course, Pirarucu Fish in Caju crost and Tucupi and Jambu consomé. This was probably one of the best dishes. The fish had a very meaty texture, light, firm but also flavoursome. They poured a broth in and it was very salt and the caju fruit nestled in there. I’m not really sure what the fruit flesh really looks like but it reminded me of spinach in there.

And after they poured the broth in table-side.

They brought out a “Murici” sorbet, where the Amazonian fruit tastes a lot like cheese. Imagine a light sorbet that tastes a bit like parmesan and it was pretty bang on. Refreshing, but strange at the same time. One weird point here was they served the sorbet while I was still nowhere near finishing my fish. The only sore point of service for the entire night.

The next course was Moqueca Blinis and grilled shrimps with Brazillian nut cream. A rather large prawn, beautifully cooked and still super sweet that sat on top of a tart tomato compote that balanced the dish very well. Tapioca powder, some sort of cream and a grilled cake finished off the other textures.

Next, another fish dish Tambaqui Cutlet with smoked baroa potato mousse, with a herb sauce. The fish was meaty, and must have been very large with some of the bones in the fillet being quite massive. The potato mousse, on the other hand, reminded me of a cheese-and-bacon-ball type flavour. Super creamy. Super smoky to the point where it almost, but not quite, overpowered the fish element. This was definitely a flavour sensation and one that I wanted to linger for much of the evening.

And another view.

After the fish dish, they served another palette cleanser, a Caju granité. Sweet, and light, it tasted almost to me like a different lychee.

The next dish, Ox cutlet confit, crumbed with manioc flour, Jabuticaba sauce, banane marmelade with vegetables and bacon was full of strong flavours. The manioc flour, though very Amazonian, didn’t really do much for the croquette since it didn’t seem to be crispy enough. The oxtail, flavoursome and rich wasn’t as soft as I was hoping and I found myself needing to chew this a lot more. Probably a good candidate for some sous vede before the crumbing and frying part. A clever dish, but let down a little in execution. Still amazingly tasty.

From the side angle.

I was pretty much ready for dessert after all this food. In fact, I was probably ready for some sleep at this point. Nevertheless there was more, and what arrived was a Chocolat and coconut cream surprise, Amazonian fruits ice cream: Açaí, Cupuaçu and Taperebá. The “surprise” was actually a giant-sized macaroon filled with a coconut ice cream. The other ice creams proved lush as well, sweet, tart and creamy all very well balanced. Quite a generous serve as well.

You can see just how big that macaroon was (probably double sized).

Finally I had an espresso, and the petite fours (for two!) arrived. I only had a couple as I was seriously full at this stage.

They had two surprises for me at the end of the evening. One was this beautifully wrapped box of macaroons that I could take home, also being asked to give some customer feedback. The other was a physical copy of the Amazonian banquet menu that I just consumed so that I could write up and remember what I had.

Although this isn’t the sort of meal you have every night, it is one that, I think, is worth venturing for a special occasion or at least save up some of your dining budget for a special night out.

Name: Le Pre Catalan
Found at: Sofitel, Ave Atlantica, 4240, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Felice Cafe, Rio de Janeiro

Another rainy day and a late afternoon hunger drove me to visit a place that looked welcoming not very far from where I was staying. They had a covered outdoor patio that made it even more appealing to enter when I really wanted to be on the beach and hoping for greater sunshine. Nevertheless, it was time for a late lunch and sat down to look at the menu.

They had an English menu, so I guess they must have a lot of tourists, or people from out of town. I could hear a couple of French ladies next to me catching up, although everyone else on the patio seemed to be locals, or at least, spoke a good amount of Portugese.

I ordered a mate tea whilst waiting, hoping for something that wasn’t so sweet, although they did bring a selection of sweeteners giving me the option of always adding sweetness to my desire. I find mate’s lack of sweetness, and strange bitterness quite tasty, although I know some people don’t like the taste.

Not having any steak yet, I decided to get the filet mignon that turned up perfectly pink on the inside. The chef had already well seasoned the meat (i.e. quite salty) and I did find the flesh a little bit more sinewy than I expected. Still very full of flavour, and served with a great salad, grilled mixed vegetables and a olive oil dressing with grilled garlic and smell flecks of chilli. Yum.

Also being a gelateria, I figured I should give dessert ago and I’m glad I wasn’t disappointed. They definitely know how to make ice cream here with it being very creamy and rich in flavour.

I also have to give them bonus points for offering free wifi to customers that allowed me to check email, read twitter whilst passing the time.

Name: Felice Cafe
Found at: Rua Gomes Carneiro, 30, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro 22071-110, Brazil (Ipanema)

Sushi Leblon, Rio de Janeiro

Leblon is located at the far end of Ipanema, closer towards Barra and is easily walking distance if you have thirty of forty minutes to spare. It’s also home to one of the most trendy eating streets in the area, and also home to Sushi Leblon, a restaurant locally well known for using unusual combination of ingredients for Japanese style cuisine.

I decided to head out that way on one of the rainy days for lunch, where they open, maybe a little bit after since this is Brazil, at noon for their lunch service. I wasn’t the only one who turned up early, with another couple there obviously waiting for them to open. By the time that I left, maybe at one, it was busy, but not particularly booking-required style (although I did go in Rio’s off-peak season)

The menu is pretty extensive, and when I wanted to order a few of the interesting combinations as well as a sushi platter, my waitress looked rather alarmed and indicated it was going to be too much. We did a lot of gesturing as their English wasn’t great, and my touristic Portugese rather limited. I settled for three sample dishes, as well as a lychee-based caipirinha seeing as I was in an Asian restaurant.

I, and the others in the restaurant, ordered one of the sushi dishes that required little fried quails eggs. I got full vantage point of the preparation area since I was sitting at the sushi counter looking at how they organised it.

Beautifully paired and definitely excessively decadent, the quail egg nigiri came topped with a bit of salt and truffle oil, and then came with a piece of butterfish nigiri. The fish match was perfect since it was rich, and creamy in the mouth, much like the perfectly cooked egg whose yolk still burst when eating it. Umami, creamy, a great combination that I must remember.

I had also ordered the ceviche which had a good selection of different seafood, flavours and was delightful.

My final sushi was based on my love for grilled eel (unagi) and was well prepared, tasty and was definitely plenty for lunch.

Sushi Leblon is definitely one of those finer sushi restaurants you’ll find in this area. You get very high quality, although you pay the equivalent of London fine sushi restaurant prices for it.

Name: Sushi Leblon
Found at: R. Dias Ferreira, 256 – Leblon Rio de Janeiro, 22431-050, Brazil

Brazilian Açaí

I’m glad that Rio de Janeiro was the first stop on my holidaying trip as I have been eating very well and it will no doubt show soon after. I have managed to steer clear of indulging in too many of the bad things. After all, Brazil definitely inherited the sweet-tooth from Portugal as well as their love for many of the fried foods like Brazilian croquettes (Coxihna) or the Pastel

One of the dishes I haven’t been able to avoid though is Açaí which is available in most fruit juice bars or snack places.

In Rio it is quite common to also have the option of putting extra things into it such as protein powder for the perfect post workout snack.

As you can tell from the pictures I tried it in a number of places. It is best treated a lot like you would any sort of shake. I suspect that a lot of these shakes have significantly more sugar than you might think. They typically blend the fruit with the ice (probably sugar) and then I have read, a number of other types of berries.

Of course the price varies between cheap, where it’s more likely to be less real fruit and more sugar and ice to other places but expect to pay anywhere between R$5-12 depending on what you add.

One of the typical toppings is apparently tapioca or granola and maybe with that, they become enough of a meal to tide you for some time. To me, they were good for a snack.

And, of course, highly recommended.