Maní Manioca has a one star Michelin rating. It is a long fairly large place with a good sized enclosed patio in the back. Upon entering there is a long hallway for waiting that has benches on either side. The small tables are nicely spaced and set with white clothes and napkins, however they were too small to hold the dishes if you had the breads. The stucco walls are decorated with mirrors and art. Music plays in the background and lighting is lowered with lots of short candles in the rooms. They offered 3 tasting menus. The 3 course allowed you to pick courses from the a la carte menu. Wine pairings were available with the largest tasting. Service was friendly and helpful with passable English. Portions were generous but pacing was a tad variable. We ordered the largest tasting menu which was by Chef Helena Rizzo, who was named Best Female Chef of the Year by Restaurant Magazine in 2014.
The wines took a bit of time arriving and so we filled the gap with some Brazilian sparkler. They came by and asked if we wanted bread and be forewarned this is not part of the tasting however it was only about $5.50 when converted. The ‘Basket’ is more a bag of breads made in their own bakery. It contained tapioca starch chips and rolls alongside cheese curd with smoked paprika, goat cheese with pink peppercorns and butter. The chips were thick, crisp and light, whereas the little breads were doughy and dusted with corn meal. Both were good. The other spreads were fine but the butter was my favorite.
The tasting started with a cashew bonbon presented in a heavy stone box with ‘Mani’ on the lid. They were frozen, filled with cashew liquid and thus one bite.
A cashew ceviche was cubes of a local fruit that was spongy and chewy covered with an icy slush. Great textures and tastes here, particularly the icy part. The fruit bits were supposed to mimic a fish ceviche and did a pretty good job.
A fermented cassava flour pancake was covered with açaí berry mole, mousse made from urucu-amarela bee pollen and honey and non-conventional plant food salad sprinkled with leaf-cutter ants. It was a Brazilian version of a taco. The bottom shell folded up on itself to be eaten by hand. It had a nice flavor but was a hair salty. Good textures in this one and overall tasty.
Watermelon, tomato confit, goat cheese, capers and dashi were served with marinated day-catch (white fish) and mini toasts. The fish was a couple slices and had a mild flavor. The tomato confit was smokey and filled with cheese and other things. It was good and provided a nice contrast to the fish.
Okra was covered in a tempura batter and stuffed with shrimp and served with an emulsion of cilantro and malagueta chili pepper. This one had a great texture with no slime in the okra at all. The shrimp were mildly flavored and the coating nicely crisp and light. The dip was full of flavor with a little spice in it – great.
An egg yolk cooked at low temperature was combined with peas and served in a lemon balm broth. It reminded me of a primavera pasta without the pasta, it had a real taste of spring. Some of the peas were in the shell and others taken out and they were mixed with browned onions and topped with pea shoots. Some thin crisp slices of bread were the final garnish. A bit of ham jelly was mixed in with the broth to add a savory touch. It was nice.
Leek was combined with dry vermouth, bottarga and coriander flour. The leeks were quite tender and mixed well with the full flavored bottarga. It was an interesting dish.
Artichoke was combined with crayfish and fermented green tomatoes. The crayfish was more like a langoustine in size, chewy and moist. The artichoke was good but I’m not sure the 2 parts really complimented each other. I preferred eating them separately.
Fish of the day (Prejereba) was wrapped in an elephant ear leaf and served with jackfruit and toasted Brazilian nuts. The gelatinous fish was mild and totally moist. The nuts added a good texture to the dish and the thick and sticky sauce was nicely rich to accent the fish and greens. This was a good one.
Lamb neck was served with eggplant alongside sheep yogurt and the Brazilian spices masala and pimenta-biquinho ( Brazilian perfumed mild chili). The extremely tender lamb was full of flavor and didn’t really need the spices or the yougurt but I did enjoy rubbing it into the spice mix to give a little kick.
Camomile panna cotta was paired with urucu-amarela bee pollen sorbet and carrot and orange slush. The carrots were in ultra thin slices and combined well with the sweet custard. A crispy ribbon topped it off and added a nice textural contrast. This was a satisfying sweet fix.
Yerba mate, clementine get, yarns of rapadura (Brazilian sugar cane bar), burnt brown sugar ice cream and coal made up the second dessert. The black tea was in a gelatin that combined well with the other ingredients. This was one were it was best with all parts eaten together. It had a mild sweetness but lots of textural variations for a good end result.
The final dessert was made with green papaya compote, hibiscus, spices syrup, jabuticaba and cachaca (fruits) slush and papaya ice cream. The papaya was in an hibiscus infusion that was caramel like. This one was creamy and good topped with a slice of sweet crisp sugar.