Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

On the Road to Rio de Janeiro
(Published: 01/25/99)



The Cariocas—those fortunate enough to live in what they call the Marvelous City—may have it all. It's one of the world's most dramatic settings, sprawled between bay, jungle-covered mountains and fabulous beaches, with fine weather and the music, food and drink to go with it all. The savvy, curious business traveler would be painfully missing the soul of the city without tasting a mixture of her cuisines—elegant
European-influenced dishes, heavier, more–South American plates, and
some of the world's finest meats.

Prices ($) indicate the cost of a three-course dinner per person, including tax and tip—but not wine.
$--under $20
$$--under $35
$$$--under $50
$$$$--$50 & up

RESTAURANTS:

Claude Troisgros
Rua Custodio Serrao, 62; (21) 537-8582
$$$

On a side street in a charming small house in the Jardim Botanico neighborhood, the food is perhaps the city's best example of a mixture of French basics and Brazilian innovation. The quail stuffed with onion, cilantro, raisins and a local sauce can be to-die-for, and the duck breast with apricot, raisins and a locally spiced curry sauce
isn't far behind. It's very well thought of locally, with reservations essential.

Cipriani
Copacabana Palace Hotel, Avenida Atlantica,1702 (21) 548-7070
$$$

Facing the swimming pool at Rio's most famed hotel, across the boulevard from the sands of Copacabana and seating just 60, this is the loveliest dining room in town, not to mention the exceptionally comfortable adjoining bar area. It's another spot where reservations are a must. Shining with fish and pastas, Italy—not surprisingly—is master here, dominating dishes such as tagliatelle with squid ink and lobster, or lobster in a pastry crust, heavily festooned in olive oils and baby onions.

Churrascaria Oasis
Estrada do Joa, 136-Sao Conrado, (21) 322-3144
$$

There's just nothing for carnivores exactly like eating meat in Rio at a churrascaria rodizio style, and this is the best. Hot, sizzling grilled meats come off the coals and are served on skewers at the tables, and they keep coming 'til you drop, or at least give a negative shake of the head. In this large, open room floored with tiles and trimmed with woods, the chicken, sausages, filet mignon and pork loin are truly a festival for the palate. There's also the classic Brazilian caipirinha drinks mixed at the tableside, and a superb salad bar. Weekend afternoons may be the best time for this spectacle.

Botequim
Visconde de Caravelas, 184, (21) 286-3391
$

On a narrow street in the middle-class Botafogo neighborhood, this is a real taste of a typical Brazilian menu. Nearly every dish comes with black beans and rice, none better than the peixe a Brasileira, a whole fish in a tomato sauce with traditional piron made from manioc. The kitchen is especially good for carne seca a Paulista, meat with kale, sausage and a fried egg. It's a fine spot to rub elbows with students and local residents while quaffing a cold draft beer. Forget reservations.

Florentino
Rua General San Martin, 1227, (21) 274-6841

It's elegant and subdued and, even though there is a restaurant upstairs, the bar is the thing. On a residential street in the upscale Leblon neighborhood, this has long been a haunt for the Leblon and Ipanema sophisticate. The small bar and rich wood and leather lounge area lend themselves to the most gracious of Brazilian service. Drinks here are typically Rio, meaning a minimum of two ounces, and the presunto and cheese on the back bar are perfect to hold you off until a late-night Brazilian dinner.

HOTELS:

Explanation of the Golden Key ratings system


Caesar Park Ipanema
Av. Viera Souto, 460, (21) 525-2525

This hotel has a fabulous location on the boulevard across from Ipanema Beach, walking distance from city's best shopping and restaurants. Views are superb from the 11th floor up. They're known for their classic Saturday afternoon feijoada feast, plus a couple of good restaurants. The 220 rooms frequently host visiting heads of state. Service is excellent and all business facilities are available. Rooftop dining is great for the Brazilian buffet breakfast, plus there is a small rooftop swimming pool.

Copacabana Palace
Avenida Atlantica , 1702, (21)548-7070

With 226 rooms facing famed Copacabana Beach, this is the city's Big Reputation. Lots of money has gone into renovations, and it shows. There's good-sized rooms and the largest and best swimming pool in town, tennis court, all the usual business services, not to mention a beach lounging site which serves fresh pineapple and cold mineral water. Orson Welles doesn't hang around any more, but it's still a beautiful place to see and be seen.

Hotel Sofitel Riio Palace
Av. Atlantaica, 4240, (21) 522-1232

At one point Sofitel moved in and took over the Rio Palace on the boulevard across from Copacabana Beach. The hotel needed money and it got it, so that today its public areas are among the most attractive in the city. The rooms, although beautifully refurbished, are sometimes on the small size, but usually have superb beach views, most with balconies. Be sure you get an oceanfront room. All the usual business facilities can be found, along with good restaurants.

(Updated: 07/07/08 HC)

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