Alex Atala, a former disc jockey whose groundbreaking D.O.M. restaurant made him the international face of Brazilian food, became the country's first and only recipient of two Michelin stars on Friday:
It is real !!!!!!! https://t.co/libguWcGoX— Alex Atala (@alexatala) March 20, 2015
The debut edition of the Brazil guide, which focuses on the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, is Michelin's first foray into not just South America, but the Southern hemisphere, as well. "The first edition of this guide reveals the true potential of Brazil's gastronomic scene," Michelin guide director Michael Ellis said in a statement. The operative word there is "potential," as not a single restaurant in the country was awarded three stars, Michelin's highest honor. Sixteen restaurants earned single stars, including Dalva e Dito, Atala's more casual and traditional hangout in Sao Paulo.
D.O.M., like Rene Redzepi's Noma, is famous for championing a local approach to haute gastronomy, eschewing the use of traditional imported luxuries such as caviar, truffles, and foie gras. Instead, Atala seeks to highlight the indigenous bounty of the Amazon and his native Brazil. The restaurant, according to D.O.M.'s website, uses ingredients like canjiquinha, a type of Brazilian white corn, tucupi, which "must be boiled for at least 20 minutes to evaporate the cyanide in the roots," and jambu, "known for its capacity to deliver an electrical sensation through the body when chewed." According to a receptionist at the restaurant, D.O.M. offers a four-course menu plus dessert for 380 reals ($118 USD) and a longer eight-course menu, plus cheese and two desserts, for 527 reals ($163 USD).
Alex Atala's restaurant is ranked seventh on the San Pellegrino list of World's 50 Best Restaurants, a guide whose best-performing members don't always coincide with Michelin's highest ranking. Noma, for example, currently holds the number one spot on the 2014 list, but, like D.O.M., only has two stars. Michelin, incidentally, awards its coveted stars on the basis of reports by anonymous inspectors, while the World's 50 Best Restaurants are voted on by a panel of 900 judges.
Michelin's entry into South America's largest economy and most populous country is important as it comes ahead of the tourist influx guaranteed by the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, hosted by Rio de Janeiro. The entry into South America also represents Michelin's attempt to compete with the San Pellegrino list, which includes another Brazilian restaurant in its rankings (Helene Rizzo's Mani, awarded one star), as well as other restaurants in countries not inspected by Michelin, including Australia and South Africa.
Among Brazil's others starred recipients were Jun Sakamoto, Kinoshita and Kosushi, three Japanese restaurants in Sao Paulo, as well as Olympe in Rio, run by famous French chefs Claude and Thomas Troisgros.
In Michelin parlance, culinary establishments deemed worthy are awarded one star ("a very good restaurant in its category"), two stars ("excellent cuisine, worth a detour"), or three stars ("exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey"). For comparison's sake, France has 26 three-starred restaurants, 80 two-starred venues, and 503 single-starred spots. The U.S., in turn, has 11 three-starred restaurants, while Tokyo alone has 12, and Western Japan, 14.
Here is the full list of starred restaurants:
- Huto, Sao Paulo
- Dalva e Dito, Sao Paulo
- Oro, Rio de Janeiro
- Roberta Sudbrack, Rio de Janeiro
- Kinoshita, Sao Paulo
- Epice, Sao Paulo
- Kosushi, Sao Paulo
- Tuju, Sao Paulo
- Le Pré Catelan, Rio de Janeiro
- Olympe, Rio de Janeiro
- Attimo, Sao Paulo
- Maní, Sao Paulo
- Jun Sakamoto, Sao Paulo
- Mee, Rio de Janeiro
- Lasai, Rio de Janeiro
- Fasano, Sao Paulo