When we arrived in Brazil we couldn't shake the image of Chef Alex Atala of D.O.M. Restaurante. He appeared on television, magazine covers, even the TAM airlines in flight video which we saw (a mind numbing) 8 times. It's all with good reason though; his restaurant is number 7 on the World's 50 Best Restaurant list and holds the title of The Acqua Panna Best Restaurant in South America. Chef Atala is well known for not using foie gras or truffle in his plates but instead uses traditional ingredients like manioc, heart of palm and pirarucu (a large freshwater fish) and European technique to create complex contemporary plates.
Our reservation at D.O.M. was a few days before we were to fly back to Canada. Although I didn't plan it this way, the meal acted as a way for us to relive our cross country journey - from the fresher than fresh seafood to the 101 ways of preparing manioc and huge chunks of fresh (! not canned !) heart of palm. Highlights were the tender salt cured filet in Brazil nut milk; the crunchy texture of the heart of palm carbonara and the side of fried manioc strips in the pork rib dish that were so crispy and savoury it reminded me of Hickory Sticks.
With such passion for Brazilian ingredients Chef Atala continues to create and has opened a second restaurant called Dalva e Dito that focuses on traditional preparation of Brazilian dishes. I highly suggest trying both if you have the time and money to experience the old and new of Brazilian cuisine.