On the Road to Rio de Janeiro
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. It's very well thought of locally, with reservations essential.
Facing the swimming pool at Rio's most famed hotel, across the boulevard from the sands of the Belmond 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 the gnocchi alla romana with lobster and shellfish sauce.
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.
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.
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.