Published on April 20th, 2012 | by Mark Chesnut
Carioca Cravings: 6 Great Restaurants in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
BY MARK CHESNUT
In a city as cosmopolitan as Rio de Janeiro, it’s no surprise that the food is equally as worldly. During my recent trip on assignment for Latin Trade, TravelAge West and Orbitz Worldwide, I sampled Brazilian cuisine as well as international dishes at a wide variety of restaurants in several different neighborhoods. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. Giuseppe Grill
Located in the chic neighborhood called Leblon, Giuseppe Grill is a handsome venue that caters to the desires of those who love red wine and steak — although I started with tasty charcoal grilled octopus and shrimp before diving into a heavenly rare cut of steak. I’m not much of a drinker, so I didn’t get to sample any of the 634 labels of wine, which come from 18 countries (the most expensive of which runs more than U.S.$12,000), but I enjoyed every moment of the meal, as well as the ambiance. The brick walls are lined with contemporary artwork that’s part of the owners’ private collection, and the glass-walled kitchen allows an interesting peek into the workings of the place.
BEST FOR: Fans of wine, red meat and upscale elegance in the stylish Leblon district.
|Barra bound: Pampa Grill is a popular churrascaria steakhouse restaurant in Rio de Janeiro.|
2. Pampa Grill
Brazil’s churrascaria steakhouses are legendary for their seemingly endless servings of beef and other meats. Pampa Grill, located in the fast-growing Barra da Tijuca area in the south of the city, is a good option for a pleasant — and very satisfying — meal. The sizeable salad bar is an ideal complement to the hearty cuts of beef, pork and chicken. (There is also a rather large children’s play area outside of the main dining area, making this a good choice for diners with kids.)
BEST FOR: Very hungry carnivores seeking satisfaction in Barra da Tijuca.
|Artistic touch: Brasileirinho is a new restaurant in Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana district.|
Opened less than a year ago on Copacabana’s beachfront boulevard, Brasileirinho is a supremely attractive venue with decor and cuisine that represents various regions of the nation (try to visit with someone who knows Brazil well, so they can explain where the various crafts and artwork are from). I especially liked the sopa de feijão, a hearty black bean soup, and the gigantic platter of grilled seafood, which was more than enough for two people. One of the few truly beautiful restaurants right on Copacabana’s Avenida Atlantica, Brasileirinho is definitely worth a visit.
BEST FOR: Anyone looking for an upscale ambiance with ocean views in Copacabana.
|Jiló do Claude, a vegetable dish, is a specialty at Achonchego Carioca restaurant in Rio de Janeiro.|
4. Aconchego Carioca
This restaurant’s name translates as “coziness,” and with good reason — it’s a comfortable, relaxed place that has the feeling of a local hangout. Creative Brazilian dishes include bolinhos de feijoada (feijoada balls, a variation on a traditional dish), chick pea and codfish croquets, and the absolutely delicious Jiló do Claude, which is fried gilo (a green fruit related to the tomato and eggplant — I’d never heard of it before either) prepared with balsamic vinaigrette reduction and sides of goat cheese and mini toast. Beer lovers will find plenty to satisfy among the 180 labels of brew. The flan de cachaça, a twist on the traditional flan smothered with Brazil’s favorite spirit, was a real treat.
BEST FOR: Hungry souls looking for tasty, creatively Brazilian dishes in a laid-back atmosphere.
|Nightlife: Rio Scenarium is a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro that offers live entertainment.|
5. Rio Scenarium
Located in the lively Lapa district — the downtown area known for its nightlife, Rio Scenarium is a unique venue set in a three-story, 19th-century building that is still packed with antiques, artwork and curiosities that date to its earlier incarnation as a prop rental store for movies and television. Tapas-style Brazilian cuisine is a good choice here, but the main attraction is the ambiance and the entertainment; the cover price — which ranges from about U.S.$12 to U.S.$19, depending on the night — allows you to stay and see live performances by bands and singers, who play great Brazilian music on the first floor (arrive early if you plan on getting a seat near the stage). Many patrons take to the dance floor after dinner.
BEST FOR: Night owls ready for some fun with their meal.
|Come in: Albamar restaurant offers lovely views of the Rio de Janeiro waterfront.|
Set in a historic former market tower on Rio de Janeiro’s downtown waterfront, Albamar is relaxed yet elegant, with beautifully presented dishes like salmon, snapper and file of sole and a heavenly creme brule with fruit foundation. But I have to admit I was distracted (in a good way) by the amazing view of the waterfront — including the castle-like Ilha Fiscal building that sits in the distance and the line of colorful aircraft gliding gracefully over the water on approach to Santos Dumont airport (they’re far enough away to not create any noise in the restaurant, but close enough to photograph if you have a decent lens). I was as taken by the view as I was by the tasty and attractively presented food.
BEST FOR: People looking for excellent seafood and other international dishes, artfully served in an attractive venue with waterfront view.
|Salmon, snapper and filet of sole served at Albamar restaurant in Rio de Janeiro.|
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