My first meal in São Paulo, I suspect, may well wind up being also my most memorable. We took a taxi to what I was told is an ordinary, working class neighbourhood in this vast and sprawling city, where we found a “Restaurante e Cachaçaria” called Mocotó.
Utterly unassuming from the outside and in, I knew the moment I crossed the threshold of this packed palace of northeastern Brazilian cuisine that I was entering some place special. I was not disappointed.
So popular is Mocotó among the citizens of São Paulo that the sidewalk in front of the restaurant is almost as crowded as in the inside, with people sitting on a rough-hewn bench or even standing around eating and drinking, some evidently having entire meals as you would have a snack at a cocktail party, precariously balancing drink and plate and fork while trying to keep from being jostled into the street. No one complains, though.
Inside the front door, a pair of bartenders work double time muddling caipirinhas from all sorts of fruits, including indigenous Brazilian ingredients I’ve never before seen, as well as in the lime-based original form. More adventurous souls can choose from a selection of roughly 380 different cachaças, ranging from more straight forward “prata” cachaças to golden or even emerald hued spirits aged in all sorts of Brazilian and non-Brazilian woods, from arirbá to French cognac oak to umburana. (And remember that last wood; we’ll come back to it when I discuss Brazilian craft beers later on this week.)
In between my cachaça tasting – very generously orchestrated for me by Mocotó’s cachaça sommelier, Leandro Batista – I dined on a wealth of delicious dishes, from the sun-dried beef dish Carne-de-Sol Assada to small squares of fried tapioca dipped in a spicy sauce that resides somewhere between chutney and pepper sauce, and sipped the Cervejaria Colorado’s Indica IPA. (More on that brewery, too, later on, after I visit on Wednesday.)
Lunch wound up lasting about four hours, every minute of which was relaxing, thoroughly enjoyable and most memorable. There’s a reason that virtually every significant gastro-visitor to this city eventually winds up at Mocotó, and I’m very glad I was able to follow in their footsteps. If fortune brings you to São Paulo, you should, too.