Brazilian food evangelist Alex Atala quietly announced his latest project on Instagram last week. The Chef’s Table season two star now exclusively tells Eater that his new restaurant is an “especially innovative project” that will become “exactly what São Paulo wants.” Slated to open in April of this year, the restaurant will be casual, and, as with his two-Michelin-starred D.O.M., wholly dedicated to spreading the gospel of his country’s diverse native ingredients.
According to Atala, the “healthy, organic” restaurant will feature a mix of waiter service, counter service, and take-out. The restaurant will highlight particular staple ingredients of Brazil, including tapioca, Brazilian cheeses, and açai berries, with “stations” — areas of the space “equipped with everything you need to prepare that ingredient in many ways.” Brazilian fruit juices will also be a big draw for the approximately 500 São Paulo patrons Atala expects to serve daily. “It is not a small challenge, but we have a taste for challenges,” he says of the scale of the project.
It’s been a busy few years for Atala. In 2015, he became the only Brazilian chef to earn two Michelin stars with D.O.M. (That fine-dining establishment is also currently ranked number 11 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.) Atala opened Açougue Central, the combination restaurant and butcher shop, in 2016. That same year, he also starred in the Netflix hit Chef’s Table, and his ATÁ Institute, in partnership with the city of São Paulo, brought ingredients from all of Brazil’s ecosystems to the city’s Pinheiros Market, making them available to Brazilian consumers outside of high-end restaurants. Atala’s latest appears to be a continuation of these efforts.
When it opens in São Paulo this spring, the unnamed, unpretentious D.O.M. Group restaurant will be something novel for Atala and for Brazilian customers increasingly interested in eating healthily and sustainably. “I believe it differentiates from the other restaurants in its concept as a whole: quick, casual, sustainable, healthy, organic,” he explains. “Actually, maybe it is safe to say it will be different from any other restaurant in São Paulo.”
While new for Atala, the chef is by no means the only fine-dining star exploring counter-service casual dining right now. David Chang’s fried chicken sensation Fuku, José Andrés's vegetable-centric Beefsteak, as well as the forthcoming Pasta Flyer from former Del Posto chef Mark Ladner and Made Nice from Eleven Madison Park duo Daniel Humm and Will Guidara are just a few of the buzzed-about fast-casual concepts from big-name restaurant operators.
Stay tuned for more details on Atala’s project as the opening approaches. Until then, check out an extremely preliminary glimpse below: