Alex Atala is on the mic

The most famous restaurant in Brazil hides a very humble ex-dj with Palestinian blood in his veins

08-05-2013
Just ranked sixth in the World's 50Best, Alex Atal

Just ranked sixth in the World's 50Best, Alex Atala's restaurant DOM in Sao Paulo has been in the very first positions for years, thanks also to the commitment of his colleague Geovane Carneiro and sommelier Gabriela Monteleone. Born in 1968, Atala speaks very well Italian and has been several times as a speakers at Identità Milano and Identità London

Alex Atala’s intentions and ambitions could be sensed since the beginning of his adventure in Rua Barão de Capanema, considering the chosen name for the restaurant back in 1999 was DOM (Dominus Optimus Maximus). Today, the most suitable word to describe this elegant restaurant in the heart of the Jardins neighbourhood is “perfection” by far, with reference to an attention to detail that begins in the most isolated areas of Brazil and ends up with a super-precise presentation of the dishes and of the flavours, as aware of his choices and doses as an experienced alchemist.

Prawns with chuchu, tamarind and cajuina

Prawns with chuchu, tamarind and cajuina

In the middle of the thousands of kilometres that separate DOM from the many remote places he uncovered in order to find his ingredients, there’s the Alex Atala, the man, that is to say, of the recent years. He’s become an absolute point of reference for the development of a culinary culture, the Latin American one, which pays increasing care to sustainable choices that valorise and preserve territories, people and productions that were unknown until recently. Just think of his work as ambassador and developer of a green philosophy which this year has led him to be included among the 100 most influential men on the planet according to Time magazine.

This would be enough to comprehend the immense work of this chef to whom life is offering the chance to mark the history of this continent, a chance that he seems to have grasped with determination, without missing it, thanks also to his out of the ordinary capacity of being open, accessible, never arrogant and, last but not least, capable of creating and being part of a team. These are qualities that characterise a true star, not only at the stoves, but also as a person. Something only the great have.

Gabriela Monteleone, DOM's sommelier

Gabriela Monteleone, DOM's sommelier

All this said, here we want to speak of today’s DOM restaurant. Geovane Carneiro, 33 years old, is the head of the kitchen. He’s a faithful executor and counsellor to Alex, and before arriving at DOM he had only worked in very spartan and common restaurants. Today he’s the one you’ll find behind the beautiful windows overlooking the open view kitchen when the chef is travelling and conquering the world. In the dining room there’s Brazil’s best sommelier, Gabriela Monteleone, who moves like an elegant elf and, with grace and lightness, manages the cellar and the silently controls the work of the waiters.

In fact, those who will bring your dishes are not some guys wearing an apron and coming from the kitchen, since the service of food is seen in the classic way and doesn’t follow the nouvelle vague of sous-chefs explaining the dishes at the table. The bar is directed by Jean Ponce who mixes drinks out of the ordinary, with five stools where you can sit even late at night, and even if you don’t dine at DOM’s.

Inside the DOM (photo www.pedrokok.com.br)

Inside the DOM (photo www.pedrokok.com.br)

The dishes are the closest thing to elegance, perfection and balance. The beginning is fresh, pungent and full of scents, whether you have the Prawns with chuchu, tamarind and cajuina or the Heart of palm millefoglie with pupunha and scallop with and acid and citric sauce made with the scallop’s corals. The softness and sweetness begins with the Slightly toasted arroz negro com legumes verdes e leite de castanha de Pará, continues with a sea fish, the Olho de cão, paired with mushrooms, heart of palm and honey, and finishes with a confit salted codfish with milk mayonnaise.

The stronger structure in the menu is given by the last two savoury dishes: the now classic Fettuccine with heart of palm carbonara and the boar (javali) with farofa and banana puree (see photo), an exceptional dish where meat almost stays in the background thanks to a perfumer dosing of the pimenta de cheiro (a fresh and aromatic chilly) in the traditional farofa. The end comes with two fresh dishes such as the Cagaita sorbet and the Pumpkin (abobora) with vegetal charcoal and tapioca sorbet and a traditional cake such as the Torta di castanha del Pará with whisky sorbetto and different spices such as curry, chilli pepper and salt to support the dish.


Sections

Dal Mondo

Reviews, recommendations and trends from the four corners of the planet, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose