Manu Buffara

Manu Buffara is all about Brazil: specifically, her hometown of Curitiba, the capital of the Southern Brazilian state of Paraná. She champions Brazilian produce and producers at her eponymous restaurant Manu – named the One To Watch in the 2018 Latin America’s Best Restaurants awards – and is a vocal advocate for sustainable urban food development. She also wants visitors to Curitiba to enjoy themselves: here’s her pick of where to eat and drink when you’re in town.

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Curitiba: A Brazilian City That’s Changing

Curitiba is a really busy city. We have really nice restaurants, new restaurants opening and restaurants that are old. I think the city is changing. Brazil is changing: not only cities like Rio and Sao Paulo, but smaller cities, too. Ten years ago, people thought that you had more opportunities in a big city like Rio or Sao Paulo, but I think that’s changed. People who left their home cities to go to cooking school or university have returned home. They’re opening restaurants and different types of bars like gastro bars and snack bars. It’s pretty cool. This is happening in Curitiba and it’s really exciting.

A Restaurant That Feels Like Home

A restaurant that I really like is K.sa. It’s really cosy and it looks and feels like you’re in a home. Claudia Krauspenhar is the sole owner and chef and cooks with a mix of Brazilian and Japanese ingredients which is pretty cool. She serves a lot of seafood like grilled octopus and shrimp, but there are also meat dishes like steak tartare and filet mignon with red wine sauce. There’s a great oyster bar, too. It’s modern cuisine, but when we go, we like to get plates for sharing. Everything Claudia uses is organic and sustainable where it can be. Once a month she puts a barbecue on the balcony and cooks a lot of seafood. Everything is super fresh and from small producers and farmers around the state. It’s really nice.

Elevated Italian Cooking

For beautiful Italian food, I love Restaurant Igor which was opened a couple of years ago by husband-and-wife team, Igor and Aline Marquesini: Igor worked for me at Manu for four years and is very talented. The restaurant serves modern Italian cuisine, cooked using great technique. You can choose between a la carte ordering or a tasting menu. The carbonara – with Brazilian cheese and house-cured duck – is really famous. The salad of burrata with both fresh and dried tomato is one dish on the menu that I really, really love.

Pasta Like You’d Find In Italy

Spaghetto is a really, really old Italian restaurant. The chef has been cooking there for 35 years and she’s like the pasta lady. It’s really good pasta: just like when you’re in Rome or Tuscany and you go to a trattoria and get really well-made pasta, good sauce and great Parmesan cheese. This is that kind of restaurant. You can also have a steak, but I love the spaghetti. There’s a spinach spaghetti with a sauce of parsley, cilantro, basil, butter and olive oil. And of course, it’s finished with Parmigiano. It’s incredible. This is the dish to get. I love it. The other dish I love is the roasted filet mignon with tagliatelle. It has a Brazilian pepper sauce with olive oil, cilantro, spring onions, and is served with arugula and parmesan. It’s really classic, but it’s really good. It’s grandma-style, like the kind of food you cook at home. Dishes are served in pots and pans. Everything is really big. You could really order one dish and feed two or three people.

Nature In The City

There are a lot of female chefs here in Curitiba, which is pretty cool. Quintana is another restaurant run by a girl, chef Gabriela Carvalho. The restaurant is in the middle of the city, but you don’t feel like you’re in the city at all. It looks and feels like you’re in a garden. It’s a really big space with big trees, vegetable gardens and big bee boxes. Everything is organic, everything is fresh. It’s really incredible food. Gabriela grows a lot of the produce there at the restaurant. And you can see that they take a lot of care in waste management. Everything is open so you can see how they do the compost, how they recycle wine bottles to make small vases for flowers. It’s really nice. They also show customers how they can make compost and best manage waste at home. It’s only open for lunch, but it’s open every day.

Contemporary Asian Dining

The chef at Lagundri is a really good guy. He cooks contemporary Asian food and is super passionate. He lived in Bangkok, Thailand for a bunch of years and then in Bali. He brings the culture from the ocean together with his Asian food knowledge and it’s amazing. I love his vegetarian and vegan dishes, like this amazing fried cassava. The vegetarian menu is incredible. There’s a new Asian restaurant that I like a lot called Kitsune. It’s like an Asian bar: a small space that fits maybe 15 people. It serves really good ramen, soba and bao. The noodles are really good here. Hai Yo is another really good Asian restaurant. It’s at the Grand Hotel Rayon. This sushi bar here is great and the drinks are good, too.

Brazil’s Japanese Connection

We have a lot of Japanese culture here in the south, so we have a lot of Japanese bars and food. Fuji is an incredible small Japanese restaurant inside a food market. It’s really one of the best Japanese restaurants that we have in South Brazil and it’s really simple and really fresh. The chef is amazing. He’s a young Japanese chef who moved to Curitiba with his family around 10 years ago. He’s teaching people how to use the best fish from our coasts to do Japanese cuisine. I love his tuna belly tataki. It’s so good. He has a lot of great dishes on the menu. I love the wontons and the cold soba noodles. Another really nice guy in the food scene is chef Lênin Palhano at restaurant Nomade. He’s cooking with a lot of local products from Curitiba. His cooking is classic but contemporary at the same time. It’s European cuisine with Brazilian and Japanese influences. It’s like a fusion, only it’s done really, really well. It’s a la carte, but there’s also a tasting menu and brunch menu.

The Best Meat In Town (And a Brazilian Steak Tartare)

Bull Prime has the best meat in town. You can get really good dry-aged steak with sweet potatoes or salad. I love the pork sausage made from porco Moura, a native pork. The meat is incredible and really sweet. Carne de onça is a typical dish from Curitiba. It’s like a Brazilian steak tartare. Raw beef is mixed with olive oil and a lot of Brazilian spices. We serve it on a slice of bread with spring onions and chopped white onions on top. Usually we eat it with mustard or pepper. It’s really good and traditionally eaten with beer. You can find it in all of the bars in Curitiba, but the best place to try it is at Mercearia Fantinato.

Beers And Burgers

In Brazil, Curitiba is the city famous for producing beer. A great place to try good, local craft beer is at God Save The Beer. It has maybe 15 or 20 beers on tap and the best burger in town. The burgers are really, really good. The buns are incredible. It’s like a natural ferment with a little bit of citrus from lemon zest. The hotdogs here are really good, too. In Curitiba we eat hotdogs with chopped meat and a sausage inside the bread, it’s kind of crazy. We Are Bastards is an amazing place and really beautiful inside. It makes its own beer, and there’s also a huge bar inside where you can find beer from all over Brazil and the world. It even serves cocktails made with beer. There’s also a good bar menu with food like pork ribs, fried cassava, fried polenta.

Two Side Of Curitiba’s Bar Scene

Zezitos is a traditional bar. It’s like 50 years old. It belonged to the owner’s grandfather and then became his father’s and now he’s taking care of it. It has food that you don’t find anymore. Small, tasty snacks like liver cooked in sauce or chicken hearts on a skewer. Of course, you can also find the typical Curitiba dish, carne de onça. We have a really small river fish in Brazil, about the size of your finger. It’s really good when your fry them whole and serve with fresh mayonnaise. You can eat this at Zezitos and a Brazilian fried-rice dish that I really love: rice balls. We mix rice with a lot of spices and rice flour, shape the mixture into small balls and then fry them and serve them with red pepper. It’s the perfect way to use up leftover rice. Speakeasy Ponto Gin Bar is exciting. The bartender is really young and using different techniques. The drinks are really good. It’s a new scene and people are really into it.

Curitiba’s Best Place To Drink Coffee

Curitiba is famous for its coffee. We have really good coffee shops and really good coffee makers. In Brazil, we drink just coffee: no milk, no cream, no sugar, nothing. The best place to drink coffee is definitely Distinto Café. The barista, Claudia, is amazing. It’s quite famous in the city and is also one of the best coffee roasters. She roasts the coffee perfectly. There’s also no food: the shop just serves coffee and is full all the time. Claudia also offers great classes and workshops to teach people about coffee. She wants people to know how to make good coffee at home and that you shouldn’t drink this shitty industrial coffee from the supermarket. She’s trying to change that. She’s teaching people how important it is to choose coffee carefully, to understand what good coffee is, and how good it is. Another great spot for coffee is Supernova. We’re lucky because it’s really close to our restaurant, like two steps. It’s a nice neighbourhood.

Guide last updated August 2020

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