Brazil has long been regarded for its incredible food scene, home to belly-busting but delicious churrascarias, Japanese fusion restaurants, restaurants offering traditional Brazilian cuisine, and creative chefs like Alex Atala of D.O.M who are raising Brazil to culinary stardom.
The amiable, heavily tattooed Brazilian chef Alex Atala has galvanized his country's food scene and is one of the most original and influential chefs in South America. His showplace, D.O.M. — the initials stand for Dominus Optimo Maximo, which might be translated from the Latin approximately as Lord Almighty (in the religious, not the exclamatory, sense) — is a small place with 50 seats, high ceilings, cool beige walls, bare wood tables set with linen placemats, and a Philippe Starck chandelier.
The food Atala cooks is unmistakably Brazilian, though created through the filter of a classical culinary education and wide experience of the world. Chibé is a kind of manioc flour mush eaten by native tribes in the Amazon; Atala reinvents it as a tabbouleh-like salad flavored with a dozen Amazonian herbs and blossoms, each with a different taste. Lightly toasted black rice mixed with bits of broccoli, celery, corn, scallions, and parsnips is moistened with Brazil nut milk. Salt cod — that favored fish of Brazil's Portuguese colonizers — is sauced with a "mayonnaise" made with milk and cabbage. Hearts of palm are turned into fettuccine, flavored Italian-style with butter, Parmigiano, sage, and popcorn powder, or served as "carpaccio" with scallops and basil oil. Skate is combined with peanut foam and smoked mandioquinha, or "little cassava," in fact an ancient Andean root (Arracacia xanthorrhiza) sometimes said to resemble a cross between carrot and celery. Desserts might include a Brazil nut tart with whiskey ice cream, chocolate, salt, and pepper, and a few leaves of a very popular green here: arugula. It is safe to say you won't find food like this anywhere else in the world.