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

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


Rua Custodio Serrao, 62; +55 (21) 2537-8582

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. It's very well thought of locally, with reservations essential.

Belmond Copacabana Palace, Avenida Atlantica,1702 +55 (21) 2548-7070

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.

Churrascaria Oasis
Estrada do Joa, 136-Sao Conrado, +55 (21) 3322-2883

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.

Visconde de Caravelas, 184, +55 (21) 2286-3391

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.

Avenida General San Martin, 1227, +55 (21) 2274-6841

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.


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