A Foodie's Guide to Rio de Janeiro
With its myriad culinary influences and a burgeoning health scene to boot, Rio is an appetising place to visit with plenty of food experiences to sample during your stay. From the fun of pay-per-kilo restaurants to the sheer theatre of the meaty churrascaria, there’s also great sushi to be found in Brazil, which is home to the world’s greatest Japanese population outside Japan.
Açaí at Yogoberry £
Rua Visconde de Pirajá Rio de Janeiro – RJ, Brazil +55 21 3281-1512
For a cooling pick-me up or a revitalising palate cleanser after a churrascaria blowout (see below), head for one of Rio’s countless smoothie bars like Yogoberry (a chain) and get yourself an Açaí. Pronounced a-sigh-ee, the native Brazilian Açaí berry is a potent antioxidant sold in either smoothie or sorbet form all over the country. Açaí is wonderfully dark and purplish and genuinely feels like it’s doing you good – just watch out for the inevitable cherry-coloured smile it’ll give you. The health scene in Rio is bigger than anywhere else in Brazil and you’ll find plenty of locals stopping off for a smoothie on the way to beach for a circuits session or after an evening jog along the iconic beach sidewalk.
Porcão Churrascaria ££
Rua Barão da Torre 218 Rio de Janeiro – RJ, Brazil +55 21 3202-9150
A churrascaria is an authentic Brazilian experience you’ll want to try for yourself then introduce your friends and family to when they come to visit. A churrascaria is essentially in indoor BBQ – sharp suited waiters will come to your table proffering all manner of juicy skewers of meat. You’ll be given a two-sided coin to place by your plate: the red side means STOP and the green side means LOAD ME UP. Porcão Rio’s churrascaria is highly regarded amongst locals and costs around £33 per head. Just wear something with elastic, and have a light lunch before you go.
Frontera Ipanema ££
Rua Visconde de Pirajá, 128 Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, Brazil +55 21 3289-2350
One of the pay-per-kilo places we’ve already mentioned, Frontera is a reputable chain restaurant that lays on masses of extremely well-presented, delicious food all day every day. Whether you fancy a traditional feijoada (a gut-busting traditional Brazilian meal of stewed meat, rice and black beans), Moqueca de Camarão (shrimp stew in coconut milk) or pizza, Chinese, sushi, or just a damn good salad, this is the place to head. The routine is simple: fill your plate and take it to the register where it will be weighed. You’ll be served your drink here too, then presented with a receipt. You pay by the front door when you leave the restaurant to allow you the option to go back for seconds (and thirds…) and add it to your tab. Just don’t lose your receipt – there can be a hefty release fee!
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Found on most menus in Brazil, a pastel (plural = pasteis) is essentially a small savoury pastry. Filled with all manner of delicious meats and cheeses and then deep fried to a crisp, they’re very naughty but very nice and can be eaten as a starter or as a meal in itself. The sort you can sometimes buy on the street are this size of Cornish pasties and typically filled with a spiced minced beef or cheese, and the dinkier ones sold in restaurants tend to have more refined fillings. Pastelle frito de frango is a popular chicken and creamy cheese concoction, and heart of palm is an unusual but very tasty filling, a bit like artichoke.