The first time I tasted Helena Rizzo’s food was at Paladar Cozinha do Brasil. She was demonstrating her super sophisticated version of feijoada and I was so intrigued by the droplets of concentrated feijoada she had created by boiling the beans with the meat then sieving them to have a very smooth, very soft purée which she dropped in tiny spoonfuls into a solution to produce ‘jellified’ droplets — a process called spherification I think — that I had to have a taste. So, Danilo who was translating for me and I decided to sneak a taste where they were photographing the chefs’ dishes. The feijoada droplets were sensational, bursting into the mouth to release the most exquisite silky purée that had an unmistakable taste of traditional feijoada. Absolutely fabulous. And as luck would have it, lovely Ilan Kow and Luiz Americo Camargo who were our hosts at Paladar invited me to dinner at Mani to taste more of Helena’s cooking.
Even more lucky was my second invitation to Paladar last June and a second meal at Mani, which was just as sensational as the first one. I was delighted to see the feijoada dish still on the menu and this time I was able to take a better snap, not only because of the daylight — we were there for lunch — but also because I am now the proud owner of the rolls royce of cameras, a Nikon D 800. You can see the feijoada dish in all its glory in the picture above! And the top picture is of a consommé of tomatoes with ‘droplets’ of burrata, foie gras bonbons and a porto jelly (top picture). The clear colour of the cold consommé did not prepare me for the amazingly intense taste of tomato as I drank it.
Another gorgeous dish was the beetroot mille-feuilles, which was a work of art in itself. Beautiful to look at and supremely delicious combining different textures (soft, crunchy and melting) with different temperatures (room and frozen).
Every great chef now has his/her own version of the perfect egg and Helena serves hers with a pupunha mousse.
She also served us a perfect langoustine, garnished with the prettiest arrangement of micro herbs and flower petals. As for the other dishes below, I can’t remember what they were exactly apart from the fact that they were all exquisite, both to look at (as you can see) and to savour. The whole lunch was absolutely delightful and despite the succession of courses, very light. Even the tiny brigadeiro which we were served at the end of our meal was better than any I had had before! If you happen to be in Sao Paulo, you simply have to make time to eat there. The room is also delightful as is Helena!
Mani, Rua Joaquim Antunes, 210, Sao Paulo, Tel: (11) 3085 4148