The culinary scene in Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon basin, Brazil and beyond, has grown up considerably in the last few years. Situated near the confluence of the Amazon and Negro rivers and a transportation hub for boats, flights, and buses to more distant locales, the city absorbs a wider swath of Amazonian culture than any other. While Belém do Para is often hailed as the region’s great food city, Manaus is catching up thanks to inventive young cooks that are making use of the access to the flora and fauna of the most biodiverse place on earth. While Felipe Schaedler continues to expand his connections to remote indigenous communities and has added another restaurant, other chefs are joining his cause. Here are my recommendations:
Like Mocotó in São Paulo and Remanso do Peixe in Belém do Pará, Banzeiro is one of Brazil’s most iconic regional restaurants. Felipe Schaedler has become Manaus’ biggest celebrity chef and Banzeiro is routinely coted as the city’s best restaurant. Most of the dishes are typical of the region and cooked simply, though Schaedler has worked for years to create a network of suppliers to get the very best of every ingredient, which is no small task in the Amazon. Standout dishes include lemongrass tasting saúva ants with manioc foam, black rice with shrimp, and grilled tambaqui ribs. Rua Libertador 102, Nossa Sra. das Gracas. Website.
Named after an indigenous fermented yuca drink, Caxiri sits on the second floor of a colonial building in eyesight of the Teatro Amazonas. The restaurant is inspired by regional fish and produce, though it veers away from traditional preparations. The menu is extensive, with finger foods like fried sardines with banana vinaigrette, moringa, tucupí, and uarini farofa and share plates like whole grilled tambaqui. Rua 10 de Juho 495, Centro. Facebook page.
Inside the chic boutique hotel Villa Amazonia in the Centro, Fitz Carraldo is a stylish oasis of calm overlooking the hotel’s leafy pool area. The menu reads like an Amazonian bistro, with regional flavors like cupuaçu added as a sauce to duck confit or to flavor cheesecake and cashew nuts added to pesto to slather over grilled pirarucu, alongside steaks, risotto, and sandwiches. Rua Dez de Julho 315, Centro. Website.
Mercado Adolpho Lisboa
Manaus’ central market, with its stained-glass windows and metallic frame, is based on the Les Halles marketplace of Paris, where it was built and then shipped piece by piece before its 1882 inauguration. The main pavilion features mostly handicrafts and spices, though more interesting are the outer pavilions, where you’ll find stacks of dried and rolled up pirarucu and plastic jugs of tucupí. There are food stalls scattered throughout the market serving typical Amazonian plates.
Moquém do Banzeiro
Felipe Schaedler opened this modern Amazonian restaurant in in 2017 inside the Cristal Tower complex that’s connected to the Manauara shopping center. A moquém is a grated platform built over a fire that’s used by indigenous Amazonian communities. It’s a form of live fire grilling and smoking that Schaedler has adapted to a modern restaurant and it employs it throughout the menu in dishes like grilled tambaqui that’s been wrapped in banana leaves and served with smoked tucupi. Schaedler has been one of the strongest supporters of indigenous mushroom project, Cogumelo Yanomami, and the fungi can be found in a handful of dishes. Avenida Jorn. Umberto Calderaro Filho 455, Adrianópolis. Facebook page.
Amazonian sushi might not sound like an actual thing, and for the most part it’s not, though the sushi at Shin Suzuran is respectable and has managed to stay open for decades. While mostly using Atlantic fish, there are small touches of local ingredients like pickled Victoria regia water lilies and tucunaré tataki. Rua Rio Itannana, Vieiralves. Website.
Tacacá da Gisela
If steaming bowls of tacacá, the heady yellow broth laden with salted shrimp and mouth numbing jambu, are what you are after, this stand Largo São Sebastião beside the Teatro Amazonas is the most reliable and convenient. Largo São Sebastião s/n, Centro. Website.
While it has açaí centric branches and kiosks around town, including in the Manauara shopping center, Waku Sese’s full café in the Nossa Sra. das Gracas neighborhood features a full menu of regional dishes, like vatapa, tapioca, tambaqui ribs, and pato no tucupi. There is of course a girthy section of açaí na tigela, or açaí bowls, which can also be made with buriti (aguaje). Rua Rio Purus 260a, Nossa Sra. das Gracas. Website.