Hot Spot in Adrianópolis
In the past few years, the upscale neighborhood of Adrianópolis has emerged as Manaus's culinary hot spot, with a number of fine restaurants in a relatively concentrated area. In addition to the Village (one of the city's best, reviewed above), there's top-quality (and top-dollar) Portuguese cuisine at Casa do Bacalhau, Rua Humberto Caldeirado Filho 1587-A (formerly called Rua Paraíba; tel. 092/3642-1723; Mon-Sat noon-4pm and 7:30pm-midnight, Sun 11:30am-4pm). For local -- and more affordable -- Amazonian dishes there's Choupana, Rua Mario Ypiranga Monteiro 790 (formerly called Rua Recife; tel. 092/3635-3878; Wed-Sat 11am-3pm and 6:30-11pm, Sun noon-4pm). Even cheaper, and arguably more fun, is Açaí e Companhia, Rua Acre (tel. 092/3653-3637; daily noon-midnight), a kind of outdoor kiosk which specializes in local fish dishes such as jambu and tambaqui. On Friday and Saturday evening there's live music. Korean food is hard to find anywhere in Brazil, much less in the middle of the rainforest, and yet in Adrianópolis there's Ara, Rua Mario Ypiranga Monteiro 1005 (formerly called Rua Recife, casa 1; tel. 092/3234-2650; daily 11am-2pm and 6-10pm).
Ponta Negra offers a number of nighttime dining options, none outstanding in terms of food, but most in very pleasant surroundings. On the waterfront, Laranjinha (tel. 092/3658-6666; Mon-Sat 5pm-3am, Sun 5pm-5am) has a great patio and makes for fine people-watching. Most nights there's a slightly Vegas folklore show featuring beautiful young things (male and female) in skimpy "traditional" costumes. On a candlelit patio in the Tropical Manaus, the Karu Grill (tel. 092/2123-5000) offers a nightly buffet with excellent regional local fish, macaxeira(a local root that is often cooked like a potato), soups, or grilled steak and fresh salad.
The Lowdown on Amazonian Cuisine
Amazonian dishes mix a dollop of Portuguese and a dash of African flavors with native traditions and lots of local ingredients. The star attraction in most dishes is fish, fresh from the Amazon's many tributaries. It's worth visiting the market in Manaus just to see what these creatures look like. Make sure you try at least the tucunaré; the meat is so tasty it's best served plainly grilled. Pirarucú is known as the codfish of the Amazon. It can be salted and used just like bacalhau. Tambaqui and paçu also have delicious firm flesh that works well in stews and broths. One popular stew is caldeirada. Often made with tucanaré, the rich broth is spiced with onion, tomato, peppers, and herbs. Very different is the pato no tucupí, a duck dish stewed with tucupí, the juice of fermented and spiced cassava. Tacacá is a delicious native soup, made with the yellow tucupí cassava, murupí peppers, and garlic, onion, and dried shrimp. You'll often see this for sale on the streets, traditionally served in a gourd cup. To add kick to your food, try some murupí pepper sauce.
The region is also rich in fruit, many of which can only be found in the Amazon, most of which do not even have English names. The citruslike bacuri, with its soft spongelike skin and white flesh, is addictive; like Christmas mandarins, you can't eat just one. The most commonly eaten fruit is cupuaçu. This large round fruit, like a small pale coconut, has an odd sweet-and-sour taste at first bite, like it's almost too ripe. But you'll learn to savor it in desserts and juices. Tucumã is a small, hard fruit similar to an unripe peach. Locals eat slices of it on bread. At lodges it's also a favorite of half-tame monkeys and parrots who will snag one whenever they get a chance. Açai is a popular fruit, but it can't be eaten raw; the berries are first soaked and then squashed to obtain the juice. You will find it in juices and ice cream. In the jungle you'll come across fruit that you don't even see in Manaus markets. My favorite is the mari-mari, a snakelike vine about as long as your arm; when opened with a quick twist it reveals a row of Lifesaver-looking fruit. Green, juicy, and full of vitamins.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.