A taste of Rio

By Deanna Palić

By Deanna Palić (Part 3 of 4. Go to part one.)

There are more than 1,000 restaurants in Rio from which to choose your momentary culinary pleasure. Options range from elegant settings with the most sophisticated, award-winning French and Italian cuisine to the humblest of corner bars serving local snacks washed down by an ice-cold chopp (lager draft beer) or a variety of natural fruit juices (graviola, maracujá, caju, etc.).

Eating out is entertainment in its own right. Caricoas rarely eat dinner out before 9 p.m., and most restaurants only start to fill up after 10.

Street sweet

Founded in 1894, Confeiteria Colombo in downtown Rio offers an elegant buffet. Photos: Palic

While strolling along the beach on a hot day, make a pit stop for água de coco (coconut water). This is available at any of the kiosks on the tiled promenade.

The coconuts are green, iced and ready to be cut open by the vendor with a razor-sharp, machete-like knife. Through the tiny hole punctured into the shell, you drink the liquid through two straws.

Regional cuisine

Very popular are restaurants specializing in cuisine from the regions of Bahia and Minas Gerais and dating back to the slave era. I particularly enjoyed the complete buffet dinner for US$7 at Restaurante à Mineira (Avenida das Américas 16.631, Rio de Janeiro; tel. 2490-2195).

And Siri Mole & Cia (Rua Francisco Otaviano 50, Copacabana; tel. 2267-0894) offers a wonderful collection of Afro-Brazilian dishes from Bahia with a suave mix of spices. From the soft-shelled crab, my preferred appetizer is siri, with a crabmeat mixture stuffed into the shell. The Saturday buffet offers the opportunity to sample such dishes as spicy chicken gumbo or shrimp as well as cod or crab stew with coconut milk. Waitresses dress in turbans and puffy white dresses of the old plantation style.


Marius offers an all-you-can-eat rodizio, with waiters ready to serve meat from skewers.

Also not to be missed are the barbecue houses, serving a wide selection of barbecued meats, and the hotels for their traditional Saturday feijoada. Feijoada is the national dish of black beans cooked with sausage, dried beef and all parts of the pig. It is served with rice, collards, orange slices, hot sauce and ground cassava.

The established beverage accompaniment to enjoying the feijoada is a caipirinha. The caipirinha is a traditional Brazilian drink prepared with cachaça (sugarcane liquor) poured over sugar and chunks of crushed lime. Cachaça is also the base for the fruit juice batida, similar to a daiquiri.

Every day is feijoada day at Casa da Feijoada (Rua Prudente de Moraes 10B, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro; tel. 2247-2776). They serve other Brazilian dishes as well.

Barbecues come in all shapes and sizes, from the corner galleto serving barbecued chicken and steaks at the counter to the churrascaria rodizio, a barbecue restaurant which, for a set price, serves as much of the varied barbecued delicacies as the customer desires.

The rodizio (US$28) at Marius can only be described as delightful gluttony. Just a few of the fresh seafood and salad selections from the endless salad bar could have been, for us, a meal in itself. This, however, was just the beginning. On long, sword-like skewers, waiters brought to our table cuts of grilled beef, pork, lamb, chicken, sausage and turkey wrapped in bacon. We then chose exactly the cuts we wanted and the waiter sliced them, hot off the skewer, directly onto our plates. The scenario continued until we literally begged them to stop.

Marius has extended this concept to a seafood rodizio at their next-door location. Grouper, salmon, lobster and shrimp are served, still sizzling, at your table. Both restaurants face the beach. Marius is located at Avenida Atlantica 290, Leme, Rio de Janeiro (tel. 2542-2393 [meat] or 2543-1767 [seafood]).

A new entry into the rodizio concept is pizzas. La Maison, near the J.W. Marriott in Copacabana, just before the corner of Avenida Atlantica and Rua Santa Clara, serves an endless assortment of pizzas for US$3.50. The rodizio is served from 5 to 11 p.m.

Buffets de peso

A recent concept in dining is the buffet de peso — food by the kilogram. These restaurants are extremely popular with office workers for lunch. You make your selection from the buffet and are charged by the weight.

The dessert selection at Confeiteria Colombo.

Near the Othon Palace Hotel in Copacabana I discovered the Millennium Inn at the corner of Rua Djalma Ulrich and Rua Aires Saldanha. In Ipanema there is Da Silva (Rua Barão da Torre 340). In Leblon it’s Fellini’s (Rua General Urquiza 104), at any time of the day.

Meals in these restaurants cost about US$4.

Old favorites

• Not to be missed and, founded in 1894, more than a century old is Confeiteria Colombo in downtown Rio. With its jacaranda-framed mirrors from Belgium plus chandeliers and an Art Nouveau decor, it is a magnificent vestige of Belle Epoque charm. Confeiteria Colombo was the favorite tearoom for rich families, politicians, poets, journalists, writers and artists. The present-day Colombo’s remains a popular restaurant for entertaining business clients or simply having fun.

We enjoyed the popular lunch buffet at US$13; beverages were extra. The elegant buffet included a variety of salad ingredients, hot entrées and an infinite assortment of desserts. Try palmito (heart of palm) in the salad section. Colombo is open weekdays for lunch and afternoon tea. Few Brazilians lunch before 1 p.m.

• Closed for many years, my favorite restaurant, Cantina la Fiorentina, has reopened as a more elegant version and is named simply Fiorentina (Avenida Atlantica 458, Leme). Fiorentina is in vogue with Rio’s TV and media personalities. The menu is quite varied, and a meal will cost about US$18.

• A lovely, old-world style restaurant with a magnificent view of Copacabana beach is located on the second floor of the Grandarell Ouro Verde Hotel (Avenida Atlantica 1456, Rio de Janeiro; tel. 2543-4123). The restaurant is known for its intercontinental cuisine. Main dishes range in price from US$9 to $16. If it is on the menu, the gazpacho is not to be missed.

The hotel has been declared a historic monument because of its Art Deco architecture. It looks much as it did when it opened for soccer’s World Cup in 1950. The hotel was sold out during my visit, so I was unable to see any rooms. I do recall their interesting period furnishings from a previous site inspection. The rate is US$97 for a single or double including breakfast and taxes.

Coming up next month: Rio de Janeiro, a city that knows how to party!