You know aphorisms like "we offer it, but we ran out"? This was the type of answer that some tourists would get when they ordered seafood at bars and restaurants in Fernando de Noronha. But how could fish be missing right in the middle of an island? This started back in 2013, after environmental agencies regulated a reduction of 60% of fishing spots in this divine archipelago in Pernambuco, situated 545 km (approx. 340 mi) off Recife, the State's capital. The solution devised by local businesspeople was to prove that the gastronomy of an island in the middle of the Atlantic goes beyond seafood.
With over 70 food spots, Noronha offers about 20 gourmet establishments, connected to Abreno, Noronha's Association of Bars and Restaurants. In some of them, chef interpretations made dishes of red meat and chicken more desired than the season's fish. At Xica da Silva, for example, the Argentine Sirloin fights for first with the house special, Mestizo Fish. "There are still supply issues, but never again have we used up our fish store. When we notice that we're running out, my husband goes out to sea and catches me some mackerel or yellow hake", jokes Korean businesswoman Hea Soun Shin, or Rê, who has been in Noronha for eight years.
One of Noronha's gastronomical symbols, tubalhau - dried and salted shark meat, similar to traditional cod - is increasingly out of the island's menu, due to pressure from environmentalists. "Shark meat was already part of local culture; we didn't encourage this habit. It's not an endangered species either. When I first arrived here, there was predatory fishing from foreign boats. They used to cut off the fins and throw the poor things back into the sea. Since there was no law prohibiting this back then, we had to find a way to make use of the shark as a whole, as fish meat", recalls Concita Veras, environmental engineer and owner of the Shark Museum.
The menu at the restaurant's museum, specialized in shark dishes, underwent changes and received lighter options, such as salads and vegetables grown in the hydroponic gardens of local establishments - another solution devised to meet eventual issues in vegetable supply. Of shark meat, only the sharkballs and tubaburger remain. "If I were to take away the fritters from the menu, tourist would have me hanged", banters Concita, pointing out that the restaurant's meat is entirely caught under legal commerce in Recife. "The only endangered animal in Noronha is the artisan fisherman. Everyone wants to work at inns and restaurants, so no one goes out to sea anymore."
The training and encouragement that businesspeople gave to young kitchen talents also contributed to the changes in Noronha's cuisine. Looking like apprentices, chefs such as Tallyne Sandrelly, Lívia Vasconcelos, and Thiago Silva display amazing skills at the oven and exploit their creativity to captivate their visitors' pallets. Naming dishes after friends or celebrities is not new. But in Noronha, this habit is justified, since these people also contribute to the creation of sellouts, like the recipes that were named after journalist Patrícia Poeta, actor Bruno Gagliasso, or businesswoman Maria do Céu, responsible for the island's gay-friendly weekend, Love Noronha, which takes place in August. Another event that also deserves attention is Gourmet Island - from August to September -, in which renowned chefs from all over the country spend a "season" in the local kitchens.
Recent studies from Sebrae (Brazilian Support Service for Micro- and Mini-Businesses) show that planned gastronomy increases tourists' stay in their destinations and, nowadays, Noronha represents this fact. If they used to take three days just to visit the beaches, now they stay up to five exploring the region's different cuisines, as noticed by local entrepreneurs.
Do you need one simple reason to visit Fernando de Noronha? Sancho Bay, elected the world's most beautiful beach by Traveller's Choice Beaches, from TripAdvisor, could be one of them. If you want 13 appetizing reasons, hop aboard this trip. Diario de Pernambuco received the help of the State Tourism Agency, Noronha Administration, and Abreno.
The quest for amazement at Triboju Inn is not limited to its cozy bungalows' infrastructure. Guests are free to taste its restaurant's menu at any time, and you can even get breakfast in bed. But tourists who visit the island and just want to enjoy being spoiled in style on their first meal of the day can also do so at Triboju. Just make sure you make reservations by telephone in due time (refer to this website's Services tab).
Unlike traditional continental breakfasts, this one is served à la carte. Right off, the inn takes in its clients with a refreshing fruit salad, sided by cereals, granola and yoghurt. All served along with the gorgeous view from the pool. While tasting a variety of at least five cake varieties (mixed, rolled, white, etc.), it's time to choose the hot dishes that give "sustenance" to last a full day's worth of sun and beach.
Scrambled eggs or omelets, filled to the client's choice. Grilled ham-and-cheese or curd cheese sandwiches fight for room with famous sweet and savory tapioca crêpes, fresh off the stove. For drinking, there's fruit juices, chocolate milk, coconut water, and coffee. The complete feast costs R$ 50 per person. And it's totally worth it!
Triboju Restaurant also deserves a visit during other business hours. For lunch and dinner, the menu bets its chips on traditional cuisine. As hors d'oeuvres, cassava fries (R$20), codballs (R$ 25), and kalamaris (R$ 35). Among the appetizers, a shrimp pyramid based on heart of palm (R$ 44) or beef carpaccio (R$ 30). As for entrées, choose between the chef's salad (R$ 32), the sage risotto (lemon-drizzled shrimps braised with provolone cheese, R$ 69), the sirloin fan with polenta gratin (R$ 63) or the Belle Meunière fish, with shrimp, mushroom and capers sauce (R$ 68). Kids can also choose between four lightly spiced dishes, each for R$ 39.
Located within the Dolphin Hotel, this restaurant also offers à la carte breakfast service, for R$ 45. Established in an area close to domestic inns, Acqua Marine's target is precisely those tourists whose first meal of the day isn't included in their hospitality package. Just come in, take a seat and order from the menu.
Among the many options, season fruits, yoghurt and Brazilian curd. For hot dishes, tapioca crêpes with coconut and cheese, savory crêpes, mixed or vegetarian omelets, and French toast (bread slices, eggs, and cheese). For the kids, there's also hot dogs in tomato sauce. Any item can come with different types of juices. To sweeten things up a bit, cakes, pancakes, sweetened condensed milk tapioca crêpes, and "cartola" from Pernambuco (banana layered with cheese and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar).
During other times of day, Acqua Marine offers dishes that are now famous in Noronha, such as fish on the tile. The dish serves two (R$ 110) and consists of grilled sea bass in coconut milk, palm oil, and vegetables, served still boiling inside terracotta tiles. Another dish you can't miss is the "Awesome" Gnocchi (R$ 74): sweet potato pasta filled with shredded jerky, garlic slices, and curd cheese croutons. To finish off the meal, the standard is the "Darn Good One" (R$ 27), a dessert of bananas breaded in Panko and drizzled in molasses, sided by peanut flour and ice cream.
And don't worry if you arrive covered in sand after the beach. The Dolphin Hotel's charming manager will let you jump into the pool or use the shower before plunging into Aqua Marine's goodies.
Du Mar Restaurante
DuMar Restaurant may be the island's most "family style" establishment. Seafood is the menu's base and the dishes can easily serve two. The pool/tank - located next to the house's private garden - is a good alternative to let the kids freshen up while the parents enjoy a samba ensemble that comes daily during lunchtime, and even waiters join in and dance Lepo lepo.
Chef Erick Damasceno's menu - basically the same since the restaurant's opening, about three years ago - includes over 75 options. For appetizers, the attention goes to beans, fish, shrimp, and octopus "caldinhos" (mini-stews at R$ 4,90 each), breaded crab legs with special sauce (R$ 37,90) and shrimp in beer. To stuff a full family, go for the Symphonic Moqueca (R$ 129,90) - which includes lobster, squid, octopus, shrimp, and fish. Among the individual dishes, a special note goes to the Butter Lobster (R$ 79,90), served in its own shell, with special potatoes. Another good take is the Octopus Risotto in Wine (R$ 39,90). To finish off the meal, one of the island's most famous cartola, with flambéed bananas, butter cheese, and vanilla ice cream (R$22,90).
The house in Boldró, next to the space where the introductory lecture takes place, is Cláudio Henrique Xavier's initiative, an advertiser from Recife. 13 years ago, in Noronha, he worked in a buggy rental shop (which he still owns) until he got involved in gastronomy and fell in love with it. After a partnership at Flamboyant Restaurant, he decided to open DuMar, where he also took charge in elaborating part of the menu. In the coming October, he will open Corveta Bistrô, one more gastronomical enterprise, in partnership with national soccer player Ernandes.
Restaurante do Valdênio
This restaurant's simplicity seems to be the secret ingredient to its homemade food, which is served at lunch and dinner. The place just celebrated 10 years of service, with generous servings at Noronha's most accessible rates. Tourists who search a cheaper trip end up asking themselves: "After all, where do the locals eat?" Behold the answer...
Valdênio himself prepares meals for shopkeepers, civil servants and inn employees. The restaurant delivers over 60 lunchboxes daily and more than 50 dishes at the restaurant. The menu varies according to the weekday, always valuing the crowd-pleasers of northeastern cuisine: rust chicken, beef and sauce, and fish in coconut broth are among the most requested. But they also serve rump steak, beef and onions, grilled chicken, and stroganoff. All dishes cost R$ 20 and are served with rice, pasta, mashed potatoes or baked beans (black, pinto or kidney). At dinnertime, they can also go with cassava, sautéed beans, or vegetable couscous.
The recipe for this establishment's success may lie with Valdênio himself, who brought the entire family into the his business. After working as a mason, he decided to invest in the lunchbox business. At first, they were just 15 lunchboxes a day. After only three years of service, he already raised enough money to build the restaurant. Nowadays, together with him as head of the kitchen, are his wife, Geiza, and his daughter, Tallyne Sandrelly. Even his son dropped his dream of becoming a soccer player to help with the administration and clientele.
In fact, Tallyne is one of the island's few young folk who can be considered "fishborn". Since she was young, she'd watch her dad's adventures from the side of the stove. She asked him to go to culinary school and came to Recife, where she spent two years studying. While interning in the kitchen of renowned chefs, such as Auricélio Romão and Ariane Maluf, she also attended a course in wellness food. Whoever expected Tallyne to revolutionize the business started by her father, after coming back to Noronha, was deeply mistaken. "I brought administrative skills to the kitchen, reducing all the waste we used to have. I came back with better ideas for dish presentation and even new china models. After all, tourists love simple food just the way we offer. While they were together, actors Grazi Massafera and Cauã Reymond came to eat here every day, just because of our rust chicken", the young chef proudly commented.
Varanda is one of those places that has become a tourist hotspot in Noronha. The dining hall offers a cozy deck with view to the islands flora, perfect for a "welcome sip". The different cachaças (sugarcane spirits) - coconut, cinnamon, banana, mint or simply the original one - fight for the stage with generous drinks, especially caipirinhas (cachaça mixed with fruit juice). The pitomba berry caipirinha is a must, as well as an extremely exotic option. If you're looking for something non-alcoholic, go for the day's caldinho (a mini stew of beans, shrimp or fish).
The menu is slightly more selective than most of the island's establishments, with a bit over 50 options (seven of which were newly added). But just by looking at the appetizers, an auteur touch is undeniable in the menu, a work of the island's gastronomical ambassador, chef Auricélio Romão. Among the menu's novelties, pork ribs Gourmet Island-style (R$ 49) steal the act: marinated and fried, they're served with a spiced couscous and molasses, which resembles teriyaki sauce. Mangoes, one of the stars in Auri's kitchen, act in appetizers like Shrimp tartlets (R$ 49), served with green salad and crackers.
For the main course, the chef splurges in generous servings and flavor. One of the novelties is the shrimp with okra and turmeric (R$ 119), served with creamy coconut rice, ginger and cashews. The taste in this unexpected mix conquers even those who aren't big fans of okra (as this writer), which is carefully minced. Turmeric, a common spice in Brazil's Northern region, yellows the dish and highlights Auricélio's curiosity for all cuisines in Brazil.
However, the house special is still the Seafood Gratin (R$ 139). Here, regional fish and shellfish are covered in peppers, garlic, and onion, sprinkled with parmesan, and served with rice and vegetables. The chef's secret lies in the farofa that gives the gratin its crust, prepared with panko flour, garlic, and butter. Another specialty - and Auri's favorite dish - is the Shrimp in squash cream (R$ 119), followed by bell pepper rice and the same crunchy farofa from the gratin. To finish off, the house's new dessert: Romeo and Juliet pastry (R$ 17), filled with guava paste, butter cheese, cream cheese, and sprinkled in cinnamon sugar. As if that weren't enough, you still get a scoop of ice cream with caramel and dulce de leche sauce. If you're going for something more traditional, ask for the Petit gateau (R$ 25), which comes at Varanda covered in pitanga berry sauce.
Chef Auricélio Romão is from the neighboring state of Rio Grande do Norte and took Fernando de Noronha as its home almost 12 years ago. He worked for a while at the Zé Maria Inn (there he invented the crunchy farofa), until he opened up his own restaurant and became one of the island's most important figures.
He knows all islanders and always shares hot tips of where to go and what to do, receiving clients with a good-humored openness in his dining hall. He is also a partner of Cacimba Bistrô (which you can find in this guide, under Dinner). Auri was the one who got together with other local cuisine businesspeople and established the Bars and Restaurant Associations of Noronha (Abreno), of which he is currently president. The Gourmet Island project belongs to him and takes place from August to September, during which all associated restaurants receive guest chefs from outside the State to head their kitchens.
In his concoctions, pumpkin, cassava, banana and other earthy fruits always receive intricate functions. If you're a fan of chef César Santo's cuisine and his Oficina do Sabor, in Olinda, don't marvel at some similarities that you might notice with Varanda's cuisine. Auricélio and César have been best buddies for years and often partner up in many festivals. "I always go to Olinda and César comes here. We've already celebrated New Year's in Noronha for six years now and we're associates in events, such as weddings. I love sharing the kitchen with him. Aside from being a friend, I'm a huge fan of his.
Ginga Bar Restaurante
With an atmosphere as hot as its name, Ginga is one of the most coveted spaces in the region of Flamboyant Woods, especially during weekdays, when locals stop by for happy hours and extend the night with packed parties and live music till 2 AM. Apart from offering a diversified menu, the establishment also provides surfboard and camera rentals as well as live sport games transmission. In service for over five years, a year and a half ago the place became part of the enterprise of businesswoman Hea Soun Shin (whose story we will get into more detail through Restaurante Xica da Silva), who brought along young chef Thiago Silva, her right hand at the kitchen.
After spending a full day at the beach, it's a good idea to sit at Ginga's balcony and, as you enjoy the venue's trendy musical selection, ask for the house's caldinho mini-stews (R$10), which range from more traditional flavors (shrimp, octopus, beans, and fish) - to the more remarkable Cow Madness, Okra Ragu and Northeastern style. The restaurant-bar's focus are indeed appetizers and the more popular ones are the assorted rangoon (R$ 22) - beef jerky, cheese, chicken, and shrimp -, calamaris (R$ 35), tuna ceviche (R$ 29), and the mouthwatering shrimp bruschetta (R$ 22), with arugula, basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
Did you happen to miss lunch? No worries. Ginga offers a variety of lunch orders, such as spaghetti and meatballs and Parmigiana beef. There are also more gourmet options, for those committed to exploring island flavors, such as breaded ginger shrimp (R$ 67), served with some fabulous creamy octopus risotto. Do you think those who come to the island only order seafood? Well, you'll be surprised when you discover that one of the most ordered dishes happens to be the grilled sirloin for two (R$ 97), which comes with farm-style potatoes, crunchy sautéed cassava flour, and, the menu's best surprise, the rice in mini peppers, of indescribable color and spiciness. Score for Tiago and Hea!
Oh, if you're just looking for something sweet, don't forget to stop by Ginga and order the Lemon Pie, which comes with generous meringue pieces, or the sweet rice, served with peanut butter ganache and sprinkles. Would you rather have some flan? This one's made from cheese and comes in guava sauce, in the best Romeo and Juliet style. Any dessert cost R$ 12.
Mergulhão Gastronomia Brasileira
Most of the flights to Fernando de Noronha land between noon and the end of the evening. So, if you don't want to lose your first day on the island, head to the Praia do Porto and check out the gorgeous sunset, with its pink and orange embellishments. The program feels even more special when watched from a cozy environment with spectacular food.
This is where Mergulhão comes in, with its privileged style - it's the only restaurant in the island with an ocean view - and contemporary Brazilian cuisine, which mixes dabs and ingredients from all over the country, with an emphasis on flavors from Minas Gerais, homeland to the owners. "My son Pedro used to come to Noronha since 2001 and had the idea of starting a restaurant, four years ago, bringing to tourists a reinterpretation of national cuisine. I decided to leave Belo Horizonte and come here too. Now, my friends say they're totally jealous of my 'office'," comments the advertiser Álvaro Chaves, who moved to the island six months ago.
Cuisine from Minas plays a role in the jabuticaba berry liqueur, the coffee, cachaça spirits and the famous Okra Chicken (R$ 65), a confit with balsamic vinegar glaze, followed by creamy cornmeal and crunchy okra. "But we don't intend on coming off as a restaurant from Minas. We couldn't. After all, we're right at the seaside!" highlights Álvaro while pointing to the sunset, seated in one of the comfortable beanbags on the grass under elegant tents - a perfect scenario for couples in love.
On the menu - elaborated by the young chef Rafael Sudatti, from Jundiaí, in Sao Paulo - the Mackerel ceviche is one of the ones that draw the most attention on the page for appetizers. The combination of white and cayenne peppers gives just the right amount of spicy to the delicacy. The Tanned Curd, breaded curd cheese drizzled in honey and lime zest, scores among foreign tourists' favorites. For the main course, three orders are a guaranteed hit. If you're looking for seafood, go for the Crunchy Fish (R$ 83), which is stuffed with shrimp, heart of palm, and curd cheese, served in a tasty bed of puréed squash and leaks. If you have a more exotic pallet, take the Darn Good Fish (R$ 72), which has a spicy pitanga berry sauce, with kale crisps and northeastern couscous. If you'd rather have red meat, the suggestion is the Trooper Mignon (R$ 75), with grilled steak medallions in a bittersweet sauce, served with beans in farofa (sautéed manioc flour).
The Banana Puff Pastry (R$ 29) is one of the desserts that attract the most attention. After a flambé in cajá berries, the banana is set in cassava puff pastry and filled with dulce de leche. To finish off, don't forget to order the coffee with dulce de leche (R$ 9), which comes to the table in its own strainer.
Museu do Tubarão
Sharks are certainly one of the sea animals that bring the most curiosity to humans. Not by chance, the museum dedicated to these creatures is one of the musts for whoever visits Noronha, especially for those with small children. The space is filled with exposed jawbones, panels, photos, videos and an array of informative material handpicked by the couple of environment engineers Leonardo and Concita Veras, who has dedicated almost 25 years to studying and protecting sharks. Visiting the museum is free of charge and there's also a souvenir shop. The space also includes a restaurant that serves in the deliciously breezy balcony, with a view to the immense field filled with interactive sculptures.
Maybe you've heard before about the tabalhau. However, one of Noronha's gastronomical symbols - salted and dried shark meat, similar to traditional cod - is increasingly excluded from menus in the island, due to pressure from environmentalists. "Shark meat was already part of local culture. We were not the ones who encouraged this habit. When I first arrived in Noronha, there was predatory fishing from foreign boats. They would take the fin and throw the poor things on the sea. Since there was no law back then that prohibited such behavior, we had to find a way to take advantage of all of it, as a fish," recalls Concita. If the meat used to be cooked in casseroles, broths, and even fried pastries, nowadays it's restricted to two items in the menu: shark balls and tubaburguer (shark burgers). "Sharks are protected here. The only endangered animal in Noronha is the artisan fisherman," considers Concita, emphasizing that the meat cooked in the restaurant is entirely legal and caught in Recife. The idea here is to forget controversies and give in to the gastronomical experience. Concita took advantage of the island's change in habits to also remodel the menu. "There was a lot of fried food. And since I was also in a more "detox" phase of life, I decided to make the menu lighter as well. There was just no way I could take away the sharkballs, otherwise tourists would kill me," she jokes. In fact, these shark fritters are the restaurant's biggest hit. The serving with eight costs R$ 12 and astounds for its lightness, since it's made with cassava dough and can go well with any drink. "There are times when it's hard to find potatoes on the island. We must adapt," admits Concita. Another common shark meat request is the Tubaburger (R$18,50), served with cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onions, and herb mayonnaise. And whoever wants to give the house's new and lighter options a try, designed in partnership with chef Camila Freire, won't regret it. The Veg Burger is a tasty burger made from quinoa, smoked zucchini, light mozzarella, lettuce, tomatoes, and grilled onions and comes with a special mustard sauce. Whereas the Sea Salad is a tribute to the World Cup in Brazil and gets its colors from the Brazilian flag, in a mix of green leaves, mangoes, shrimps and croutons, drizzled in honey mustard sauce from molasses. The arugula produced in the island is one of the best in Brazil - just the right amount of sharp.
Concita also gave the kids some thought, since they're the museum's main customers. They get three choices just for them, with extraordinary care in dish arrangement. The grilled beef and chicken go with smiley potatoes and "The Incredible Hulk" rice, which gets its green coloring from the arugula reduction. Whereas the grilled fish gets the company of a tasty coconut rice, shaped like a dolphin: another caring treat. There are also dishes for two, such as the Fish Arrangement (with kidney beans, vinaigrette, and farofa, sautéed manioc flour) and the Sea Moqueca (a stew with island fish, octopus, squid, and shrimp cooked in coconut milk, onions, tomatoes, and peppers). To finish off, don't forget to check out the house's Pineapple Delight.
With a privileged location, The Peak is one of the most hip and chill places in Noronha. As a multifunctional space, it hosts the eponymous restaurant, a store for clothes and crafts - from Pernambuco, Bahia, and Minas Gerais -, an art gallery, a café bar and even a small open air cinema. The Peak's cuisine is perfect for those who leave the beach in the middle or at the end of the evening looking for some grub. In the menu, salads, sandwiches, soups, and pasta. But who really gets some attention here are the fabulous ceviches. Go for the one with biquinho pepper or passion fruit (R$ 43), made with the island's fish marinated in lime and spices, served with thin sesame saltines.
If you're a little hungrier, go for the herbed fillet and brie risotto (R$ 57), one of the island's most succulent dishes. The octopus risotto (R$ 68) and the vegetarian option (R$ 49) also deserve some attention and go extremely well with the house's refreshing lemonades (R$ 8). While you wait, check out the permanent exposition of master J. Borges's works, who created exclusive woodcut prints with the island as theme. Some drawings were also reproduced in ceramic tiles.
Sweet lovers will also loose themselves on the options prepare by the Belgian chef and confectioner Cinaraa Henchen, who concocts different delicacies every day with the purest of gourmet chocolates. Sweets and cakes vary from R$ 5 to R$ 15 and the Peak's Brownie, served with nuts, costs R$ 23. At the bar, mojitos and caipirinhas (lime and spirits drink) are the most requested. Another attention grabber is the Spicy one, one of the establishment's drinks with pepper.
One of the island's most recent culinary enterprises, Cacimba Bistrô, located on the charming Vila dos Remédios, is one of journalist Ana Clara Marinho's new ventures with chef Auricélio Romão. As a native of Rio Grande do Norte, he is the archipelago's gastronomical ambassador and also responsible for the hip Varanda Restaurant, which is part of this guide. Here, there's a more intimate feel, for couples and groups of friends to relish these delicacies on floor-level tables with comfy pillows. The menu has a French inspiration with dabs of Brazilian culture and the dishes honor celebrities who often spend their vacations in Noronha and some of the chef's friends.
Telenovela heartthrob Bruno Gagliasso, maybe the most noronhense of all Globo actors, became a flavorful pastry with creamy lobster filling (R$ 39), for example. He shares attention for appetizers alongside the Beef jerky balls with squash and sweet pepper (R$ 29). Bruno's wife, the actress Giovanna Ewbank is praised here in a grilled lobster dish with caper and curry butter served with coconut rice and crunchy farofa, which is sautéed manioc flour (R$ 139).
"When they visit my restaurants, I ask them what they like to eat. Thence comes my inspiration. Last time he came to Noronha, journalist Patrícia Poeta's husband commented that she's crazy for breaded shrimp. That was the hint I needed", recalls Auri. Thus emerged the bistro's two main dishes. In honor of Jornal Nacional's anchorwoman, the Shrimp à la Patrícia Poeta (R$ 58) is dipped in bread flour with almonds and cashews, then served with sweet pepper sauce. Fernanda Abreu, on the other hand, became a salad of mixed leaves, chicken slices marinated in curry, and chunks of green apple with mango (R$ 42).
As a berry lover, businesswoman Maria do Céu is honored in a salad of flambéed shrimp in olive oil and berries, with a mix of green leaves (R$ 54). Fellow chefs are also remembered here: by Auricélio's hands, Zé Maria Sultanum becomes a ceviche, Hea Soun Shin (Rê) turns into crunchy sardines breaded in special flour and peppered honey sauce (R$ 32), whereas the fish fillet with shrimps in coconut and ginger (R$ 75) are a tribute to César Santos.
At Cacimba, Auricélio also ventures more into pasta and risottos. The spicy Penne (R$ 69) mixes seafood in a red sauce. The Creamy Shrimp Risotto (R$ 72) has al dente wild rice in a cheese sauce with ginger and sesame. "I want to go on creating. I'm thinking of having an exchange period with chef Thiago Freitas (from Thaal Cuisine) to search for inspiration in Thai dishes, but without losing the essence in my northeastern cuisine" highlights Auri.
Pousada Zé Maria
Businessman and chef Zé Maria Sultanum, a live symbol for Fernando de Noronha, is responsible for a large contingency of workout aficionados leaving their diet when they visit the archipelago. The inn's Culinary Festival, which takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 8 PM to midnight, may be considered the "Babete Banquet" of Pernambuco's heaven. It's over 40 options of hot dishes per night, presented in a detailed and energetic ritual. Since it's practically impossible to taste everything, pay attention to the host's suggestions.
The humongous seafood paella with a stream of shrimp is a must at the buffet. There's no lack of full fish wrapped in banana leaves or in crusts of salt, farofa (the stale bread with crunchy garlic is delightful) and assorted types of rice (the one with jackfruit is one of Zé Maria's darlings). The northeastern beef jerky with curd cheese, mini crabs, and shrimp in squash are also among the most coveted items on the table. A special note also goes to the sushis and sashimis served inside their own fish. At the end of the night, the table is reset with deserts: local fruits make mousses, cakes, flans, and chocolate sweets. The feast costs R$ 149 per person and it's requested that reservations be placed with good timing (check out the telephone on our Services tab), for even guests may have to stay out if they don't act fast enough.
But if you can't make it to the festival, no drama. The restaurant at Zé Maria's Inn is also open daily for guests and visitors. The menu includes an impressive selection of 118 dishes, elaborated by the innkeeper himself with the help of his son, Tuca Sultanum. "I'm crazy about parmigiana fillet and this one takes my name. It's the best in the world!" believes Tuca. All prices in the menu end in "8", as a result of Zé's spiritualist superstition. "I believe that this is the 'exact' number. Just as I believe that it will help you choose just what you want among so many options," commented the innkeeper.
National celebrities, friends, and family are all remembered in some of the house specials. Datena's spicy shrimp (R$ 84,98), for example, is a tribute to the famous police journalist. The acting couple Giovanna Ewbank and Bruno Gagliasso are represented by a fish in mint sauce with squid and grilled banana rice (R$ 69,98). Pernambuco's ex-governor, Eduardo Campos, has his name in a dish of jackfruit rice with jambú herb and sesame seeds (R$ 9,98). The menu also includes a myriad of pizzas, sushis, gourmet sandwiches, and desserts. The special drinks deserve a chapter just for themselves. Vivi Volante's Perfect Love (R$ 44,98), for example comes in a pineapple, with vodka, cointreau, fruit juice, and sweetened condensed milk, whereas Patrick Müller's Caipinha (R$ 29,98) takes Absolut vodka, mangoes, strawberries, kiwis, and lemongrass extract.
From the restaurant's balcony, customers can see Zé Maria's "living salad". In his own hydroponic garden, he plants lettuce, arugula, and even the cucumber that goes in the sunomono seafood salad and vegetable salads that have been part of the restaurant for almost 10 proud years. Apart from supplying his own inn, Zé's production matches the demand of many of the island's restaurants.
Eco Pousada Teju Açu
The Teju Açu Eco-Inn is one of the island's most coveted spots, and not by chance. Situated in the middle of Boldró, it was made entirely from planted wood. Its application of solar energy to water heating also attests its commitment to sustainability. The restaurant, cropped on a charming balcony, is open to visitors and packed during dinnertime. The contemporary kitchen here is headed with skill by chef Lívia Vasconcelos.
Lívia's timid ways might fool even the utmost skeptic. At 24, this girl is a real hurricane at the stove. Graduated in culinary arts from UniNassau and Senac, she had the opportunity of interning with the renowned chef Alex Atalla from São Paulo and wonderful people of the local cuisine, such as Erick Damasceno and Leandro Ricardo. "Whenever I can, I go to Recife to participate in culinary events. My favorite pastime here at the beach is visiting other restaurants, to know what my colleagues are coming up with," declares Lívia. Not by chance, beyond their taste and generous servings, her dishes are prepared at remarkable speed and with impeccable presentation. The inn also offers some of the best prices on the island.
When faced with so many options, it's hard to choose what to order. The restaurant even allows its clients to put together their own pasta, with sauces and side dishes. But after a quick chat, Lívia herself suggested what we should try for this meal. The chef's salad (R$ 39) has salmon stuffed with caper cream. The mixed greens come from the inn's hydroponic garden, where they plant herbs, lettuce, and arugula. Another good request for starters is the Octopus with creamy polenta (R$ 29), cooked in coconut milk. To go along with this, her suggestion is a Piña colada, one of the house's most ordered drinks.
Among the main courses, three dishes steal the attention of seafood lovers. The Golden Harmony (R$ 65) is the season's fish fillet served with olive oil and capers, mashed yams, and cashew rice with braised shrimp. The Shrimp in caipirinha sauce (R$ 69) includes huge (I'm not exaggerating) tiger shrimps breaded in panko flour and followed by a pumpkin risotto and a caipirinha sauce (lime and sugarcane spirits), in a mix of sour-sweet in just the right balance. There's also the Sea Beauty (R$ 59), grilled fish served with cashew rice and an incredible plantain puree.
If you're interested in red meats, you may order the Fillet trio (R$ 59), mignon medallions in fungi sauce followed by pesto pasta. For dessert, we suggest the Romeo and Juliet petit gateau (R$ 29), a steaming cheese cake covered in guava paste, a recipe elaborated by chef Leandro Ricardo and kept in the menu. The Mango Berry (R$ 24), which is flambéed mangoes in blackberry syrup and vanilla ice cream, is also among the most successful dishes with tourists. To go with dinner, there's the wine chart, with 42 international labels, heavy on those of Chillean, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese origins.
Xica da Silva Restaurante
One of the most charming establishments and with the island's most Brazilian menu is, believe it or not, a Korean's dream come true. Born in Seul, Hea Soun Shin - dearly called Rê, by locals and friends - moved still as a child to São Paulo, where she worked with the entire family on the bustling commerce of Rua 25 de Março. After years as a vendor, Hea managed to raise enough money to take her first vacations, in 1997, to the long-dreamed archipelago of Fernando de Noronha. As a scuba diving aficionado, she returned many times as a tourist, until she decided to leave the largest metropolis in Latin America to live once and for all in heaven, where she has been for eight years and met her husband, a fisherman, to start a family.
She started making dinners and small gatherings, until her desire to build her own business spoke louder. "I like to eat everything. Beef jerky, sirloin, pasta. I created Xica da Silva's first menu by myself, adding dishes that I liked to cook, my personal trademark", recalls the charming and self-taught Hea. Nowadays, seven years later, the businesswoman can depend on the also self-taught chef Thiago Silva, her right arm in the kitchen, to whom she passed on much of her knowledge learned by the stove.
The menu's variety is huge, from fish and seafood to salads, pasta and meats. One of the most requested menus by tourists (who make up almost 80% of her clientele) is, believe or not Argentine sirloin (R$ 125), which serves two and includes a black bean cream, egg farofa (sautéed manioc flour), rice, fries and vinaigrette. It fights for attention with the house hit, the Mixed Fish (R$ 69). The dish - which represents the house in many gastronomical festivals - is the season's fish grilled, dabbled in basil sauce and cashew farofa, and served with pumpkin purée and parmesan gratin. It's to die for. And there's no danger of the establishment running out of this dish. When they're out of fish, Hea send her own husband out to sea to catch and serve it fresh.
The seafood symphony (R$ 169) can only get better with chef Thiago Freita's creative touches. Here, fish, shrimp, lobsters, squid, and oysters are drenched in white wine and followed by sauté potatoes and the "biquinho" pepper rice, which is a must and quite the hit in the menu created by them for Ginga Bar. The fillet mignon cutlets (R$ 72) lie in a bed of arugula and are served with shitake rice and mashed potatoes gratin. As the chef suggests, close the dinner with the house Brownie, which has a fluffier texture similar to regular cake and comes with vanilla ice cream.
As an Asian with a Brazilian twist, Hea doesn't forget to serve the traditional feijoada (bean and meat stew) for lunch on Sundays. Xica da Silva has two pleasant ambiances: an external porch and an air-conditioned dining hall, where clients can check a carefully planned wine chart, with selections from Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Portugal, and Chile, as well as champagnes and sekts.
Shrimp in okra
300g of clean shrimp fillet
200g of okra
400g of white rice
Crushed black peppers
1 Bell pepper
1 Yellow pepper
1 Red pepper
Finely chop all vegetables and reserve them in a serving of olive oil and turmeric. Wash and dry the okra. Finely slice it and put it aside. In a skillet, add the oil and vegetable mix and let them sauté. Add the shrimp until they're red and set them aside. Add the okra to the mixture. In a pot, bring the mixture to a boil with coconut milk and cashew, adding the rice bit by bit. Pour the rice in a serving dish and throw the shrimp on top.
Shrimp in pumpkin sauce
200g of pre-cooked and clean shrimp fillet
500g of puréed pumpkin
150ml of heavy cream
100ml of requeijão (or cream cheese)
50ml of olive oil
Vegetable stock (made from potatoes, chayote, and carrots)
50ml of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring the shrimp into the oil, along with the scallions. Add the pumpkin, requeijão, heavy cream, and vegetable stock. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes in low heat. Still in the pot, throw in the parsley for decoration. Serve with rice.
FOR THE RICE
In a skillet, add tempero verde (scallions, parsley, cilantro, garlic and onions) and a bit of butter. Sauté with white rice until it's loose.
Tubalhau can be cooked in many ways, from the traditional with coconut, in the oven, or fried, to the shape of meatballs. No matter what recipe, the meat deserves special care. About six hours before cooking, soak the tubalhau in cold water, to hydrate it. Change the water periodically, to extract excess salts. When cooking, drain the meat slightly and taste, to determine whether the amount of salt fits your needs. If it doesn't, repeat the process.
600g of shredded shark meat
1kg of cassava
1 large chopped onion
2 bushels of chopped parsley
Salt to taste
Oil, for frying
Shred the meat and reserve. Cook the cassava and purée it, then add the onions, chopped parsley, and meat. Adjust the salt. Shape the mixture into meatballs and fry them in hot oil, allowing them to drain in paper towels. Yields approximately 40 sharkballs.
Cod Shark à La Fernan de Loronha
1kg cod shark
4 medium onions
10 medium potatoes
4 large tomatoes
100g of olives
1 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Shred and arrange the meat in layers in a casserole, surrounding it with sliced onions, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and olives. Adjust the salt. Drizzle everything in olive oil. Bake in low heat and occasionally test the potatoes for doneness with a fork. When they're cooked, the tubalhau is ready. Serves 8.
200g of fresh fish, preferably mackerel
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Cayenne peppers
Half a passion fruit
Juice and zest from 1 lime
Salt to taste
Fresh herbs: chopped basil, rosemary, and mint
Fillet the fish in thin and square strips. Sprinkle on top of this half the lime juice, salt, black and Cayenne peppers, and lime zests. Add two tablespoons of the passion fruit vinaigrette (with the chopped herbs), mix and serve. To go along, homemade bread.
More than a natural spectacle, a gourmet paradise. In just two (intense) days, our team trekked through the main gastronomical spots in Fernando de Noronha. Under pouring rain or scorching sun, with or without fish, there's no such thing as bad weather for these people. Businessmen, chefs, waiters and bartenders all synchronized their agendas to our crazy schedule and hopped aboard the project. A caring hug goes as well to the gentle locals who took us in with open arms and a tender smile - from airport employees to drivers, fishermen and tour instructors.
A special thanks goes to the island's ecotourism manager, Manuela Fay, to the communications team in Pernambuco's Tourism Office, and to Abreno, Noronha's Bars and Restaurants Association, represented by chef Auricélio Romão, who believed in this project from the start. Another special thanks to Teju Açu Eco Inn and Dolphin Hotel for the fantastic hospitality during our brief stay at the island.
And I would never forget to thank my two travelling companions: photographer Annaclarice Almeida (for her patience and professional commitment) and Mitsy Medeiros, the island's best psychologist-guide-escort-driver. Always with a smile on their faces, they were responsible for the most entertaining moments in this gastronomical journey!
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