Niterói on the other side of the Bay of Guanabara is its Oakland. Connected to Rio by a trans-bay bridge, Niterói is less cosmopolitan, less glamourous and less wealthy than Rio. If Gertrude Stein had been from Niterói she might have written "Não tem ai ai" about that city instead of "There's no there there" about Oakland.
Apart from a spectacular museum of contemporary art designed by the famed Brazilian architect Oscar Neimeyer, Niterói doesn't have much to draw the tourists away from the beaches, bars, shops and restaurants of Rio de Janeiro. Except for tourists like Flavors of Brazil, for whom Niterói possesses a location of great interest - its fish market, named after St. Peter (São Pedro). For reasons of geography and access to fishing grounds up and down the coast of Brazil, it makes sense to have the area's regional fish market in Niterói, not in Rio de Janeiro itself.
Housed in a non-prepossessing industrial style building near the waterfront, the Mercado São Pedro is one of the world's great fish markets. The variety and quality of fish and seafood available in amazing - and with the exception of farmed salmon which comes from the cold waters off of Chile, it's all local. You won't find cold water fish here, only the bounty of the tropical oceans and freshwater lagoons of Brazil.
The first floor of the market is divided into retail stalls for direct sales to customers. One floor above is a collection of bar/restaurants. Fish market customers often choose their fish or seafood downstairs, carry it upstairs to one of the restaurants, and have it cooked and served to them right then and there. The next post here on Flavors of Brazil will discuss these restaurants.
The best way to show the range of products available at Mercado São Pedro, their freshness and presentation, is through photos. The following were all taken on day in late December 2010 at the market, and give some indication of what's available for sale at any given time.
The market is easy to reach from Rio de Janeiro by bus/bridge, or by ferry and a short walk from the pier. For anyone who is a tourist in Rio and wants a gastronomic day-away from the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, you can't do better than an excursion to Niterói's fish market - plan to be there at lunch time so you can choose your own fish or shellfish for lunch upstairs, and if possible, go during the week, when it tends to be somewhat less busy.
(click on photos to enlarge)
dourado (dolphin fish, mahi-mahi)
fish cut into steaks
unidentified tropical fish