Not to Miss and Should Miss restaurant experiences in Rio de Janeiro | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | Rio de Janeiro, same a London, was never known to be a gourmet destination. But over the years and since my last visit, this has changed and developed drastically. Six One-Michelin starred restaurants, lots of fine and informal Brazilian Cuisine options have taken over the Carioca cuisine scene, and more will come coping with the pulse of the 2016 Summer Olympics in the horizon. For this reason, I came to Rio de Janeiro for a full week, to experience, review and curate the best on the radar and tucked away gourmet gem and experiences, to offer to my VIP clients/guests coming to Rio next August 2016 to attend the Olympics. Nowadays, my savvy travelers demand more than just celebrity Chefs, international awards and glamorous locations. Overall experience, food quality, local influence and friendly service rank high to select the best gourmet options. See below my list by experience of Not to Miss, Undecided and Should Miss restaurants. Bon Appetite. !!!
NOT TO MISS 01st / Private and elegant International dinner at the Chef’s Table at Cipriani Restaurant at the iconic Grande Dame of Rio de Janeiro and Copacabana – Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel, where I stayed for the entire week. 10-course dining experience by Chef Luca Orini, at the intimacy of his kitchen. Located in the heart of the Hotel Cipriani Restaurant’s kitchen, the Chef’s Table is one of the most exclusive fine-dining adventures in Rio. Guests to follow Chef Orini as he prepares an array of dishes inspired by the day’s freshest ingredients. This special menu is paired with carefully selected champagnes and both local and international wines. A 48-hour notice is required to reserve the Chef’s Table. The Chef’s Table seats comfortably 6 people. An experience I strongly recommend.
NOT TO MISS 02nd / Panoramic Brazilian lunch at Aprazivel at my absolute favorite carioca district of Santa Teresa. Despite of ranking it second, I must say, this was my favorite dining experience during my week in Rio. The menu reflects the multiplicity of Brazilian flavors. At the table, a culinary that uses tropical ingredients to blend Brazilian and international cuisines. Aprazível Restaurant is located in Santa Teresa, a carioca district where life flows at a slower pace. Innumerous reasons do justice to its name as the word aprazível means pleasant: the view of the Guanabara Bay, the poetic sun- set, the patterned trees that provide cooler days in the summer and protection from the cold in wintertime, the cozy ambiance and the background music make coming to Aprazível a true sensory experience. Must try: Palmito Fresco Asssado. Fresh, baked palm heart. Served in a bamboo tile, with pesto made of olive, basil and cashew nuts. And also the long list of artisanal beers.
NOT TO MISS 03rd / Degustation dinner at Lasai Restaurant in Botafogo. Well deserved One-Michelin starred resturant by Chef Rafa Costa e Silva. Inspired by the cuisine of the Basque Country, but based on local rustic ingredients – including those grown by the chef himself in his garden – the Lasai born with the mission to bring you a dining experience never before experienced. Our experience began at the outdoor rooftop over artisanal Caipirinhas and original tapas, overlooking the glowing Christ Redeemer atop the Corcovado. Later we were escorted to the main room for a degustation menu paired with local and international wines. Your dining experience will depend on what the earth and the ocean offer on that given day. Inspired by tradition, they transform the ingredients with skillful preparation and modern techniques. There are two original options for the menu, both mind food restrictions and allergies. the Don’t mess with me experience, giving you the options and you choose your combinations. Or the one we went for, the Festival, where you allow them to take control, and they do indeed and excellent job. If I were a local, I would without a doubt be a regular of Lasai.
NOT TO MISS 04th / Elegant top class Brazilian Cuisine lunch at Laguiole Restaurant at Parque do Flamengo. Contemporary gastronomy within and urban, discrete and elegant atmosphere. Embedded in one of the most emblematic buildings of modernist Carioca architecture (MAM – Modern Art Museum) and known for a creative and tasty cuisine, Laguiole oozes freshness. Unique in the city, this restaurant is the materialization of the two greatest passions of its founder Marcelo Torres: an exquisite cuisine accompanied by excellent wines. Kitchen, Lounge and Cellar, everything here reveres beauty.
NOT TO MISS 05th / Informal Brazilian lunch at ZUKA Restaurant along amazing Caipirinhas in Leblon. Local comfort food and deadly original and tasteful Caipirinhas – try the Green Caipirinha. Located along Rua Dias Ferreira, one of Rio’s gourmet epicenters.
NOT TO MISS 06th / Rustic Lunch with marvelous views. Known by locals as the best seasfood restaurant in Rio de Janeiro, Bira de Guaratiba Restaurant. Located in Guaratiba 45 minutes drive, and trust me, both the food and the views are worth the drive. Located along the atlantic ocean outside Rio opes from Thursdays through Sundays and serves some of the finest seafood anywhere. Owner Ubiratan de Souza Leal closes his restaurant to fish Monday through Wednesday. He serves up his seafood in giant cast-iron skillets with spices from throughout South America. Must try: Pasteis Camarão.
VERY UNDECIDED / I am a HUGE fan of Asian cuisine, and trust me, I really wanted to like this restaurant and was very much looking forward for my dining experience. Dinner at One-Michelin-Starred Pan Asian Restaurant MEE at the Belmond Copacabana Palace. By celebrity Chef Ken Hom. The menu felt to me like a well put together, but still potpourri of cliché Asian dishes from Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam, China and Japan. My appetizers and main course were very tasteful and well prepared. The dessert was more appealing to the eye than to my palate. I would have loved to enjoy the OMAKASE experience, but I was told that this was only offered at the Sushi Bar not at the table, strange. Local people strongly recommended the bar and they were absolutely right, drinks were right on point, on taste and presentation, with a great selection of Sake based cocktails. Service wise is where the entire experience went wrong. Waiters barely ( and I mean barely ) spoke English and have little to no knowledge of the long list of Pan Asian dishes on the menu, having to go several times back and forward the kitchen to inform us on our selections. Brazil is a destination, where you expect to have outstanding Asian cuisine, and coming to a Michelin starred restaurant at the Copacabana Palace, raises the bar very very high. Unfortunately I don’t feel my expectation were met.
TO BE MISSED 01st / Excellent views, decent food, terrible unprofessional service. Lunch overlooking the horse-tracks at Rubaiyat Restaurant in Jardim Botanico, was a disappointment. And trust me, we truly liked the venue, overlooking the racing-tracks, and the Christ Redeemer atop the Corcovado. For this reason we came twice to try dinner and lunch, hoping service would improve, but on the contrary it got even worst. Waiters barely speak English, and service is very unprofessional. It took over an out to get the food on our table, after having to send the food back to the kitchen twice. Highlight !!! if you would like to try Feijoada – a typical Portuguese bean based stew – each Saturday Rubaiyat offers a Feijoada buffet, which looked to be very popular among locals. Personally I was more interested on the horses than the food on the table. If you plan to visit, make sure to book a table at the outdoor terrace.
TO BE MISSED 02nd / One-Michelin Dinner dissapointment by Roberta Sudbrack in Jardim Botanico. Known to be one of Brazil’s most beloved restaurants, for me fell short from beginning to end, in every way. As we walked into the restaurant, the ambience was off to me. The cooking style is contemporary but relatively simple, perhaps too simple for my palate. Food was blunt and flavorless. On the second floor they have a much nicer room, with a rounded window through which flanked by orchids, you can have a peak to the heart of the kitchen. Everyone praised about this restaurant and her Chef, which is supposed to be very charismatic. Unfortunately she wasn’t present to make the difference.
There are still some options pending to experience, which I will keep in my list for my next visit. Anyhow I will be spending all August 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, hosting my VIP clients/guests coming to the 2016 Summer Olympics. Some of them are: Satyricon, Le Pre Catalan, Brigite’s, Olympe and Oro among others. Carlos Melia Luxury Travel Curator – www.carlosmelia.com
(*) To book your own travel experience, do not hesitate to contact me either by email email@example.com or phone # 917.754.5515. Also check our scheduled Small Travel Groups at Coups de Coeur. I am an experienced Travel Agent with over 25 years of experience, member of LGTNetwork, VIRTUOSO, First in Service Travel, TZELL Travel Network. www.carlosmelia.com