Secrete Japanese restaurant in Pinheiros

minato izakaya

Looking for a cool date spot with seriously amazing food? You must try Minato Izakaya, an incredible hidden gem tucked away in Pinheiros.    This unique Japanese restaurant  is a serious dining experience.  No reservations aloud, seats only twenty people and no saving seats for your friends running late; so try to go on the earlier side otherwise you will be waiting for a long time (yes it is worth the wait but I’m not a big fan of lines). As you can see in the picture above there are no tables, just 2 bars, 10 people on each side and waiters come and go in between. The hand written menu has so many yummy options from sashimi and cold sushi to port belly and fried chicken all cut right in front of you – it is a very interactive experience. The food come a out fast so I recommend gradually ordering items. The presentation and taste of each dish was so mind blowing good here is the full rundown of what I would recommend when you go to Minato Izakaya.ToroFull disclosure, I don’t normally like or even consider ordering sashimi however…….The toro here is an insanely good melt in your mouth experience, they have definitely perfected this, 100% must try. 2015-03-13 21.00.25

Definitely not your average seaweed salad, this comes with onions and shrimp with a nice miso dressing.2015-03-13 21.10.22

Best item on the menu is the fried kale with tuna and giant cavier (ikura),  it is a mixture of very different textures and flavors that complement each other very well creating the perfect salty, sweet, crunchy bite.2015-03-13 21.13.10

The dumplings came out all stuck together so they are fun to pull apart and taste great!2015-03-13 21.30.21

I am a sucker for chicken wings and if available I will get them.  These wings are very tiny served in a very flavorful sauce that Bon Chon can’t hold a candle to!  We also had the green peppers filled with shredded shrimp (we ate them too fast for picture sorry), also one of my favorite dishes.  Every dish that came out looks more delectable then the next so will have to go back and try the rest (can’t wait!).

The food is awesome but it is more about the full experience than just the food itself. It is fun, its cozy, its friendly, and interactive so I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  Let me know what your favorite dish was!

Minato Izakaya, Rua Dos Pinheiros 1308Sao Paulo

Where to eat in Natal

full_0402201403013800612da3b026573c8d5c81e8a7285208If you are in Natal for just one night you want to go to Camarões Restaurante located on Av. Engenheiro Roberto Freire, named the best restaurant in Natal. Ask anyone and they will tell you you need to try this place! When you walk into the large open 2 floor space you are greeted by a long table with cachaca shots and fruit to nibble on while you wait to be seated.  There is always a wait, thankfully they are prepared for it – there is a separate side room with high top tables where you can order food or drinks while you are waiting. As you could guess with the name which translates to ‘shrimp’ there are a LOT of shrimp dishes to choose from.  

Had a flash back to on of my favorite movies Forrest Gump Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich…” 2016-01-13 18.29.02
Since almost all of the dishes are made for two people (they can easily feed 2-4 people), we went with the teriyaki shrimp with grilled pineapple and rice (above), and it was excellent.  We had the
 triple chocolate mouse for dessert which was the perfect way to end dinner.  Overall it was very reasonably priced at R$168 ($42USD) for dinner plus multiple waters and caipirinhas.

Av. Engenheiro Roberto Freire, 2610 – Ponta Negra, Natal – RN, 59090-000, Brazil

Where to stay in Natal

Sehrs-aereo-1Looking for an awesome family vacation destination or a fun layover on your way to Fernando de Noronha? Natal is the place and Serhs Natal Grand Hotel is where to stay! This 5 star beach front resort has everything you are looking for. There are 8 restaurants to choose from including a pizzeria, Brazilian steak house (with live show of course), seafood/ Mediterranean cuisine, sports bar, pool bar and the most ridiculous breakfast buffet I have ever experienced (I’m talking multiple hot stations, 3 breads/muffins/croissants displays – it has it all). There is a spa with indoor heated pool and gym (a pretty decent one!).  

2016-01-14 07.48.00Whether you have kids or not you will enjoy the ‘water park style pool’ which loops around the beach front of the property offering a variety of slides, jacuzzis and nets set up for volley, football or basket ball.  Parents- there is a full kids zone and camp so drop the little ones off and enjoy a relaxing day.  I grew up going to Club Meds and this hotel feels like an upscale version.  We were only there for a day and a half (flights for Fernando are a bit annoying) and this was a great place to spend time while we were in Natal.  If you have more time, I recommend doing the buggy tours of the sand dunes!2016-01-14 06.17.15

Serhs Natal Grand Hotel

Best restaurants in Fernando de Noronha

20121109_134249On the 7.1 square miles that make up the main island of Fernando de Noronha there are some incredibly beautiful restaurants with sophisticated flavors.  Every meal

Mergulhão (pictured above) located next to the port area is a stunning peaceful place to be for sunset drinks that lead into dinner.  Sit outside under the stars or inside under a giant multi colored umbrella roof.mergulhao1The grilled fish with banana and coconut rice was delicious, but the multi meat risotto with ribs on top was the show stopper, maybe one of the best dishes you can have in Fernando de Noronha.  Best Restaurant!

do marRestaurante Du Mar is housed in a former US military base in the village Boldró, near the Tamar Project. There is a relaxing pool in the center of space so if it is hot out you can cool off before the food arrives.  This is hands down the BEST moqueca in Fernando de Noronha, perfect place for lunch

banner-31Beijupira restaurant If you are looking for a romantic place to take that special someone then Beijupira is the perfect spot.   Walk through the garden on a walk way lined with little lights, and tucked away in back of a house you find Beijupira. As you can see above it is a cozy home- like atmosphere, the menu is impressive, with many nice fish and beef options served with eclectic sides. Beijupira1Definitely the most sophisticated side dishes I have seen in Brazil. Start with the provoletta and croquettes, for your main dish I recommend the fish served with coconut rice and bananas (its amazing)

varandaVaranda Restaurante This is the largest restaurant we went to on the island with the biggest menu including many delicious steak, fish, pasta, and risotto options.  Sit outside and enjoy the nice breeze or go with a big group and take over the middle of the restaurant.  

The lobster with lime pasta was excellent and the bolognese did not disappoint.   It was the perfect portion so you won’t be in a carb coma which is perfect since the blonde brownie sundae is perfect way to cap off your meal.  Overall, it was a great dining experience.

maravilaMaravilia The most famous (and expensive) hotels in Fernando de Noronha.  As you can see above the setting is beautiful.  We started with salad which was surprisingly large (salads in Brazil are usually on the smaller side) and it was delicious.  After so many days eating just fish I think my body was craving some greens and this totally hit the spot!  We had the tuna with lime risotto (which was incredible- highly recommend it), the steak with onions and rice (which was good but nothing to write home about) and we finished off the meal with the  dulce de Leite petit gateau for desert (which was amazing).  It is a beautiful restaurant, the food is good however it is by far the most expensive meal you will eat in Fernando de Noronha so plan accordingly.  

 If it doesn’t fit in your budget, go for a sunset drink then head to Mergulhão

Beaches of Fernando de Noronha

fernando handstand 3

Fernando de Noronha, home to some of the worlds most beautiful beaches is an island off the northeast coast of Brazil.  It was declared a marine national park in 1988, and now only 420 tourists are allowed on the island at any time (so make sure you plan in  advance!).  Since 75% of the island is national park in order to access a number of the beaches you will need to buy park access passes.  Passes cost R$178 for non Brazilians and R$89 for Brazilians, each pass is good for 10 days.

The waters are clear and full of colorful fish, dolphins, lobsters, turtles, sponges and corals, making it a favorite diving and snorkeling locale. 

Baia do sueste, also known as ‘turtle beach’ was one of my favorite experiences! When you arrive you must get a life jacket and snorkel gear if you do not already have it. Everything here is protected and the water is quite shallow in some parts so the vest is necessary.  The first time we were with a guide and saw a bunch of huge turtles, some small ones, lobsters, octopus then watched a nurse shark eat an octopus! Definitely one of the coolest experiences ever! 

Baia do Sancho (above) is one of the most beautiful in country.  Cliffs loom 230 feet over the perfectly shaped crescent beach which is lined by beautiful fauna (we saw some monkeys too), and below amidst the soft perfect sand are lava formations which are crawling with large beautiful red and yellow crabs.  The only way to reach Sancho is by foot: several hundred meters on a trail, then descend down a ladder that is squished tightly between rock wall (FYI if you are claustrophobic this might not be the right adventure for you), once down the ladder you will walk down a few dozen uneven slippery sandy steps.  I promise it is worth it!  Bring your snorkel gear, there were tons of colorful fish and turtles decorating the bluest clear water I have ever seen.  We even saw turtles mating – quite the unique experience.
565177856-XG (1)Praia do Gofinohs, dolphins bay, cannot be entered by foot so I strongly recommend doing one of the boat tours.  Watching large groups of dolphins jumping and swimming freely is a magical experience.port

Baía e Porto de Santo Antônio is where you can hop on one of the various boats for your water adventure.  Different from most ports, this one is actually quite interesting to swim around in as their is a  sunken Greek frigate you can experience via snorkel or dive plus you are highly likely to run into a dolphin or two:)  surfers

Praia da Conceição, located at the base of the Morro do Pico the landmark, that looks like a giant gorilla (or something phallic – you decide) and towers 323m out of the landscape. This beach was our favorite for several reasons.  The view is incredible, the sand is super soft, it is not crowded and the water is warm, but those aren’t the only perks; it is a 15 minute walk from Pousada Teju Acu  (where we stayed) and from Vila dos Remédios. This is one of the best beaches for surfers (as you can see above) there were some pretty killer waves but definitely more manageable than some of the other surf spots.  While I am all for exploring the wilderness of uncharted territories having infrastructure in place has its perks and it is one of the reasons we liked this beach so much: Bar Duda Rei2016-01-08 12.01.33They have the best music around the island, great food, rent chairs/ umbrellas and come on who doesn’t want to shower under the palm trees while on the beach?!  It’s also a decent sized beach so you can walk the beach, or scale over the rocks when the tide is low to the Praia do Boldró home to Bar do Meio the best beach bar on the island.  Can you spot me in the picture below??2016-01-11 09.00.05

Praia de Atalaia, if you want to explore this beach you must make arrangements 10 days in advance for a guided tour as they only allow 30 people a day to explore this beach.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to explore this one;/2016-01-16 15.50.00

Praia do Cachorro, The dog’s (Cachorro) beach lies below the P (totally worth exploring) and right of the Bar do Cachorro, the islands discotheque. It has its name from the huge rock on the left, that can easily be recognized as a sleeping dog.  There is a natural pool, the “Buraco do Galego”, in the rock at the right border of the beach. 2016-01-09 13.36.55

Praia do Americano, got its name from another cruise missile surveillance base of the US army during the cold war. Until 1989 it was a military base and not allowed to be entered by the islanders. There is a fort and bar at the top of the mountain, spectacular for sunset drinks.fernando from top

Praia tubero is a shark beach which means – look but don’t actually go into the water! You can hike around to various points and enjoy the beautiful, or visit the church in top of hill.2016-01-09 11.54.20

Sunset party in Fernando de Noronha

2016-01-08 15.11.20While there are a number of stunning locations to watch the sun set in Fernando de Noronha Bar Do Meio Lounge on Praia Do Meiois with access from Praia da Conceição it is by far the most lively and trendy spot. With white day beds, and filled with the most beautiful people on the island it feels like a trendy european beach club where people ‘get tables’ and dance as the sunsets.  Starting at 3pm the DJ starts to get the party going, so head over on the early side to get a good spot. Dancing in the sun can work up a sweat, thankfully the bar is located on a beautiful point with easy to access beaches on both sides making it easy to dunk in for a quick cool off then go back to your caipirinhas:). If you want one of the day beds it will cost R$600 per person, make sure you factor in that it includes open bar.2016-01-08 13.12.13

Estrada Da Alamoa S/N | Situado Entre a Praia Do Meio E a Praia Da Conceicao, Fernando de Noronha,

Where to stay in Fernando de Noronha

Pousada Teju AcuFernando de Noronha is one of the most beautiful untouched places in the world, its a place that has been on my personal ‘bucket list’ so being able to spend 6 days here was a truly magical experience.  A little background for you: Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago of 21 islands off the Northeast of Brazil. The main island is only 7.1 sq mi and with a population around 3000 people (that’s the amount of people that participated in Summit At Sea)! Getting there takes some advanced planning so keep the following in mind: There is only one flight a day from Natal and one from Recife so unless you are already in Brazil it might take 2 flights. When you arrive there is an entrance fee as well – this is not a cheap trip, there are various additional charges for everything so plan accordingly.2016-01-13 17.33.50

 Pousada Teju-Açu is a a charming boutique hotel surrounded by native vegetation of the Atlantic. THe pool is small but considering there are only a handful of guests it never feels crowded.  It’s quite peaceful lined with white comfortable day beds and couches.2016-01-09 18.28.13 Enjoy a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere with your own private bungalow that includes a hammock decked balcony overlooking the forrest. 2016-01-09 05.05.38  

The restaurant is quite good, for breakfast you can pre-order your selection and have it brought to your bungalow for a private breakfast.  It was nice I had the “Carb” which included acai, waffle, scrambled eggs, and a piece of cake every morning.  For lunch the cheese burger and steak sandwich were incredible. For dinner I recommend starting with the ceviche then trying one of the fish dishes in the tranquil upstairs restaurant atmosphere.

The hotel is a short 10 min walk to Praia Conceição, the only beach on the island that actually has infrastructure ie restaurants, chairs etc.

 Pousada Teju-Açu, Estrada da Alamoa, s/n – Boldró, Fernando de Noronha –

Best restaurants in Pipa Brazil

2016-01-04 18.37.151. AprecieLocated on a cute little side street off main road in town is one of the best restaurants I have been to in Brazil.  The restaurant is simple with one wall open to outside of this charming cobblestone street.  Start with the tuna sushi appetizer (below), the sushi was drizzled with soy, balsamic and honey making each bite sweet and tangy in a great combination.  2016-01-04 19.01.14For dinner we tried the grilled tuna with sushi rice and asian vegetable slaw and shrimp over rice noodles with vegetables which were seasoned perfectly. Plus the service was excellent for Brazil. Total for the R$145 which was quite reasonable considering we also had a number of caipirinhas.  Aprecie bem-te-vis 34,, Tibau do Sul – State of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil2016-01-05 20.48.59

2. Pan e vino: This cute Italian restaurant is located on side street near the end of the town shops area. It felt like we were dining at a traditional Italian restaurant with red and white checkered placemats, brick facade lined with plants and of course an outdoor seating area.

Start with the bolognese and or Parma crostinis, and a bottle of wine.  For the main course we had the homemade gnocci which melts in your mouth its so good and the pesto dorado fish with potatoes and salad.  The fish was incredible, definitely a top dish this trip. Pan e Vino: Rua Da Albacora – Pipa | Proximo Pousada Coco Fresco, Praia de Pipa,2016-01-07 19.32.36

3.Lampião Located at the start of the town this cute restaurant which is open on all sides, surrounded by trees and has inventive lights decorating the space always has a little bit of a wait, but it is worth it! 

We had the banana leaf wrapped dorado with scalopped potatos and asparagus and the short rips with vegetables and potato.  Both dishes were excellent, the caiparinhas are strong and the atmosphere was lovely.  Highly recommend dining here while you are in Pipa. LampiãoBahia Dos Golfinhos 500, Praia da Pipa, Rio Grande do Norte, Brasil2016-01-06 19.39.25

4. Why Not BarLocated on a small side street right off the main road, Why Not offers a wide variety of sophisticated and unique drinks and some delicious snacks.  The scene is really fun and everyone is exceptionally interesting and friendly. The bar tender was awesome, and for every new concoction  he created gave everyone who was at the bar a sample shots, the ones we tried were great!.  There is also a roof top terrace that overlooks the ocean, awesome place for pre or post dinner drinks.2016-01-06 21.16.37

5. Aruman Crepes e Drinks: Best crepe place in Pipa, they have a large list of savory and sweet crepes to choose from. They are a little crunchier then normal crepes, its actually kind of awesome and the chicken curry crepe with grilled pineapple will rock your world2016-01-06 20.54.16

6. There are a lot of good gelato and ‘do it yourself’ ice cream places but Sorveteria Real de 14 is by far the best gelato!

Where to stay in Pipa

2016-01-05 06.11.06 HDRPipa Beach is one of the most famous beautiful beaches of Brazil. Located an hour and a half from city of Natal, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte Pipa is ideal vacation destination. The scenery is breath taking with clear warm waters, natural pools, sand dunes, and impressive cliffs, the town is lively and the restaurants are fantastic. 2016-01-05 07.35.54

Set on a cliff overlooking the ocean, Pipa Privilege is luxury boutique hotel is a 3-minute walk from Praia das Cacimbinhas beach and 6 km from the center of town (R$25 cab). The view from each of the private villas comes with a panoramic of the ocean(see above). Each villa comes with a kitchen area, spacious living room, and private balcony area with hammocks.

The hotel grounds scream luxurious relaxation, there are nice chairs, day beds, infinity pool overlooking the ocean, jacuzzi (which they clean in between each use so you need to book in advance – the pump was broken so we didn’t get to enjoy it but looked amazing) and beach access.  As with most Brazilian hotels there is a nice breakfast buffet which is included.   There is a cute restaurant where you can also rent chairs in front of the hotel on the beach.  Even during high season the beach doesn’t feel crowded and it is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a LOT of beaches). Plus it is an easy walk to Praia Madeiro the more lively surf beach.  
2016-01-06 13.14.07

Pipa Privilege was a beautiful hotel and we liked being a little outside the town however there were some negatives:  This was by far the worst service (and I have accepted service in Brazil is normally bad) but this was really bad service with a smile (worst kind!). They were not helpful with planning (or even being knowledgable) on the various excursions they are supposed to offer, we ended up making our own buggy tour arrangements in town.  There was a serious lack of towels, the ones in the picture above were a rare gift; they would run out of towels everyday before day was done.  In addition the rooms weren’t cleaned properly as in, I didn’t get a pillowcase (and had to ask each day), the sheets had hole in them and needed changing, and the air conditioner leaked all over the floor.  If you can put up with the service situation, the hotel is incredible and worth staying at.

2016-01-05 14.39.45
How to get there: Fly to Natal and take cab.
Pipa Privilege, Av. Antonio Florencio, 1339, Praia da Pipa – Tibau do Sul, RN, Brazil