Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten takes on São Paulo's fine dining scene by paying homage to his past while also embracing local Brazilian ingredients.
By the end of 2017, legendary chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten will have 36 restaurants to his name, located everywhere from New York to Paris to Shanghai. However, it’s his recently opened São Paulo restaurant, Tangará Jean-Georges, located in the brand new, five-star Oetker Collection hotel, Palácio Tangará, that's garnering both regional and international attention for its unique mix of Jean-Georges’ signature style and local ingredients.
Tangará Jean-Georges, which opened along with the hotel this past May and is Vongerichten's first restaurant in South America, borrows liberally from the menus of several of his other restaurants, including recipes from the flagship Jean-Georges, Jojo, ABC Kitchen and The Mark. While he’s well known for this Asian-influenced French cuisine, Vongerichten is able to incorporate a number of local ingredients into the food offering at Tangará Jean-Georges as well, which includes everything from a six-course tasting menu to room service. The chef attributes the menu’s nods to local ingredients to feeling particularly inspired after a visit to São Paulo’s famed Mercado Municipal, where he first learned about Brazil’s extensive variety of fresh produce and local fish.
While Brazilian flavors are rarely the focal point of the dishes at Tangará Jean-Georges, evidence of local ingredients is inescapable. For instance, a sashimi with coconut, lime and chili appetizer also features tapioca and passion fruit, two of Brazil's most beloved products. This is similarly accomplished with the salad of tomato and heart of palm, one of the country's most ubiquitous ingredients, with avocado and coconut water vinaigrette. No dish on the menu more fully demonstrates Vongerichten’s adherence to local flavors, though, than the sweet passion fruit Alaska and sorbet, which is made with a whole maracujá doce—a popular local variety of passion fruit—and is topped with a browned meringue. This particular dessert is an example of the restaurant’s dedication to highlighting local ingredients through simple, but elegant preparations, one of the hallmarks of any of Vongerichten’s restaurants around the world.
While Vongerichten recently spent some time on site for the official opening party, where the hotel welcomed almost 1,000 guests, and to check on the restaurant's early progress, it’s a unique tandem of chefs that carries out his vision on a daily basis. Serving as executive chef is Vongerichten’s fellow Frenchman, Pascal Valero, who worked at Le Louis – Alain Ducasse in Monaco and Paris’ Taillevent amongst others before relocating to São Paulo in 2002. Conversely, Valero’s chef de cuisine, Felipe Rodrigues, worked in a number of restaurants in Sweden and the U.K., including for famed English chef Marco-Pierre White, before returning to his home country and helping to open Tangará Jean-Georges. The combination of these two chefs’ experience ensures that the Mediterranean techniques and local Brazilian flavors that are on display at Tangará Jean-Georges marry beautifully while still remaining distinctly in line with Jean-Georges’ trademark style.
In order to better understand Vongerichten’s system, the two chefs, along with 10 members of their team, spent nearly two weeks in the kitchens of his New York restaurants, including the flagship Jean-Georges and the recently opened abcV. While both chefs praise Vongerichten’s creativity and commitment to quality, it’s his energy and systems for consistency that they both believe will ensure the recently opened Tangará Jean-Georges’ continued success.
In addition to the food, Tangará Jean-Georges also offers a wide selection of both foreign and domestic wines, the latter of which sommelier Cassiano Borges promotes to further raise the profile of Brazil’s young, but ever-growing, wine industry. Restaurant guests can also order cocktails from the hotel's Burle Bar, named after the neighboring 27-acre Burle Marx Park, where bar manager Arianne Moreira creates unique takes on classic Brazilian cocktails, like the Caipirinha Três Limões (cachaça, mixed Brazilian limes and sugar) and the Cajú Aré (cachaça, Amaretto, cashew, lime, black salt).
Tangará Jean-Georges is only two months old, but the restaurant already has a dedicated following of international visitors, along with locals from the surrounding area that have fully embraced Pascal and Rodrigues' unique take on Brazilian-influenced Jean-Georges fare. While the restaurant continues to evolve, the chefs' hope to keep finding new ways to incorporate more local ingredients into the menu, while still upholding the quality and consistency that Vongerichten's fans have come to expect. If the restaurant's success so far is a sign for the future, Tangará Jean-Georges is sure to be one of Brazil's preeminent fine dining destinations for years to come.