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While Rio de Janeiro doesn’t enjoy the stellar culinary reputation of cities like Lima, Buenos Aires and São Paulo, Brazil’s former capital still has a plenty of outstanding restaurants and botecos (bars) offering up a wide variety of cuisines reflecting Brazil’s diverse cultural and historical influences. From carne-heavy churrascarias to casual lanchonetes to upscale fine dining experiences, Rio de Janeiro has something for every kind of diner.
Rafa Costa e Silva’s restaurant was an instant hit when it opened in 2014 and currently sits at number 16 on the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. There are two tasting menus to choose from, both featuring fresh, seasonal produce grown on the chef’s own farm located on the outskirts of the city. Rua Conde de Irajá, 191 – Botafogo; lasai.com.br
This stylish restaurant sits right next to Rio’s tranquil Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens) and manages to blend stylish luxury with an easygoing, informal atmosphere. At the helm is Pedro Siqueira, who previously worked with Brazilian super-chef, Alex Atala, at DOM in São Paulo. The menu is packed full of modern treatments of traditional Brazilian dishes, such as the divine Moela de Pato Confitada (confit duck gizzards). Visc. de Carandaí, 43 – Jardim Botânico; purorestaurante.com.br.
After training at Barboncino in Brooklyn, Sei Shiroma moved to Rio and in just three years went from towing an improvised pizza oven on wheels to owning his own brick-and-mortar restaurant. Shiroma uses a three-day natural fermentation process, producing a beautifully chewy, flavorful crust that is unrivaled in the city. Toppings often involve unusual ingredients, which reflect the chef’s eclectic tastes, though the classic Domenico (tomato sauce, fior di latte, Grana Padano and basil) is a great choice for the purists. R. Andrade Pertence, 42 – Catete; Facebook page.
The flagship restaurant of chef Claude Troisgros, Olympe is the standard by which all other fine dining restaurants in Rio are judged. Troisgros, whose father and uncle were instrumental in the development of nouvelle cuisine in 1960s France, moved to Brazil over 30 years ago and is now something of a national treasure. Now working in partnership with his son, Thomas, Troisgros applies French technique with Brazilian ingredients to offer an exquisite, if somewhat formal, experience. R. Custódio Serrão, 62 – Lagoa; olympe.com.br/en.
Kátia Barbosa opened this laid back restaurant in 2002, and in doing so planted the seeds of a burgeoning culinary oasis in the otherwise drab neighborhood of Praça da Bandeira. As well as offering the original bolinhos de feijoada (black bean croquettes stuffed with bacon and collard greens) the menu is heavy on high-quality Brazilian comfort food. R. Barão de Iguatemi, 379 – Praca da Bandeira; Facebook Page.
Noo is one of the most exciting new developments to hit Rio in recent years. As the name suggests, there is an extensive range of cachaças and some mind-blowing caipirinhas and batidas (cachaça-based fruit shots), but the food is the real draw. The menu offers classic boteco dishes alongside innovative new creations such as the sublime bolinhos de cucuruqui (crunchy, gooey balls of tapioca, cheese and sausage). R. Barão de Iguatemi, 358 – Praca da Bandeira; Facebook Page.
Located at the entrance to the Chapeu Mangueira favela, which overlooks Copacabana, Bar do David is a simple bar which serves up inventive dishes such as a seafood and white bean feijoada and tender pork ribs served with pineapple, mint and chili jelly. Winner of the 2016 nationwide bar food competition, Comida di Buteco. Ladeira Ari Barroso 66 loja 03 Chapéu Mangueira – Leme.
Galeto Sats rarely closes before 5am, making it a favorite haunt of late-night drinkers and chefs coming off duty in the madrugada (small hours). Located at the grittier end of Copacabana, this somewhat rough looking bar serves arguably the city’s best galeto (spring chicken grilled over charcoal). Don’t leave without trying the coração de galinha (grilled chicken hearts) and farofa de ovo (toasted cassava flour and eggs). R. Barata Ribeiro, 7 – Copacabana; Facebook Page.
This simple lanchonete (snack bar) serves by far the best Amazonian food in Rio. The entire setup is distinctly no-frills, but dishes such as tacacá (a richly seasoned shrimp soup flavored with tongue-tingling jambu leaves) and casquinha de caranguejo (minced freshwater crab served with crunchy toasted cassava flour) make this a compulsory stop for anyone looking to expand their culinary horizons. R. Barão do Flamengo, 35 – Flamengo.
This large, dining hall style restaurant is best visited on weekends when the surrounding Feira de São Cristóvão market stages its 48-hour celebration of all things Nordestino (relating to the northeast of Brazil). All the classic northeastern dishes are available and served in typically enormous portions. Avenida do Nordeste, s/n – São Cristóvão; barracadachiquita.com.br.
Café do Alto is located in the heart of the charming Santa Teresa neighborhood. Chef Mariana Villas-Bôas prepares dishes from Brazil’s northeastern region with the lightest of touches – a refreshing change from the usual carb-heavy fare offered up at more traditional eateries. The northeastern breakfast, served on weekends and public holidays until 1pm is not to be missed. Rua Paschoal Carlos Magno, 143 – Santa Teresa; cafedoalto.com.br.
The giant vitrine that runs the length of this popular Copacabana bar displays dozens of enticing dishes and snacks which are served on small plates as a form of Portuguese tapas. Highlights from the huge range of items on offer are the various seafood escabeches and whole cured garlic cloves. Search through the massive menu to pick out popular local treats such as rã à milanesa (frog fried in breadcrumbs). Rua Siqueira Campos, 138 – Copacabana; Facebook Page.
Counterintuitively, Claude Troisgros’ specialty meat restaurant attracts almost as many vegetarians as it does meat lovers. The explanation lies in the serving format which turns the all-you-can-eat rodizio on its head. Select one of the exquisite meat options as the centerpiece to your meal (vegetarians, skip this step!), and then wait for the seemingly endless array of meat-free side dishes to appear at your table. Troisgros flair is seen throughout the menu with the stand-out entrée being a watermelon carpaccio. Rua Dias Ferreira, 636 – Leblon; ctboucherie.com.br/en.
A luxury butcher by day, Sabor DOC transforms into an informal barbecue restaurant after 6pm. Select your desired cut of beef (supplied by Brazilian luxury meat specialist, Beef Passion), then hand it over to Thiago Breton, ex-sous chef from Lasai, who will grill it to your liking. The intensely marbled beef is unsurpassed in Rio. Rua Dias Ferreira, 605 – Leblon; Facebook Page.
Opened in 1963, Majorica eschews the niceties of modern interior design and gets straight to the meaty point. Mouth-watering cuts of beef and lamb from southern Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina are displayed in a wide, refrigerated cabinet, which is located next to an enormous charcoal grill. Waiters won’t necessarily invite you to inspect this beauty pageant of meat but take matters into your own hands and they’ll be happy to talk you through the different options on display. Rua Senador Vergueiro, 11/15 – Flamengo; Facebook Page.