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Rio de Janeiro has been through a food culture revolution, after years of being in the shadows of São Paulo. It has emerged as one of the top food destinations in Brazil. So for those who will come for the Olympics, just skip the sightseeing and enjoy the best beachside food: we asked local chefs to recommend their favourite restaurants and bars in Rio de Janeiro, to get all the best from the city during the Olympics.
“Have some caipirinhas after the games at bar Jobi (Av. Ataulfo de Paiva, 1166 B) or Adega Pérola (Rua Siqueira Campos, 138 – Copacabana), with their Portuguese-influenced croquettes, sardines and octopus. And at night have a nice dinner and after it, you can end the night at one of the Olympic Hospitality Centers most of them are free to visitors, such as Maison de France, House of Switzerland (where visitors could practice ice skating and taste alpine delicacies). The Austrians will operate a bakery meanwhile the German hospitality house will offer big screens and teutonic cuisine,” recommends Rio chef Pedro de Artagão.
Pedro owns the Irajá Bistro where his cuisine flows with the free soul of cariocan people (Rio natives). He serves dishes as peixe paiche with sautéed plantains and a national treasure: heart of palm. “For diners coming for the first time or on a schedule I would recommend to try one of the traditional bars that serve Feijoada and caipirinhas for lunch like Academia da Cachaca, and of course, a stelar gastronomic restaurant for dinner like Troisgos's Olympe, Roberta Sudbrack or Lasai Bistrô from Rafa Costa E Silva, in order to experience the versatility of flavors in Rio,” says the proud chef.
In the race to Maracaná
Chef Thomas Troisgros, always a reliable source for the best eats in the city, shares his recommendations for dining near the legendary Maracaná stadium where athletes will compete in archery, soccer and other disciplines. “Bode Cheiroso (R. Gen. Canabarro, 218) is a botequim típico (traditional tavern), where I go with friends. For a quick snack try Bar do Momo (Rua general Espírito Santo Cardoso 50 A) and for drinks: París Gastro (Praia Do Flamengo, 340)”.
The chef also recommends the food of chef Rafael Costa e Silva, who recently came back to Rio to open his successful Lasai Bistro, after working for several years as sous chef at Mugaritz. Another place on his list is Acochego Carioca (R. Barão de Iguatemi, 379, Praca da Bandeira), he explains: “Their bolinho de feijoada (fried black beans stew ball) and camarão na moranga (shrimp and pumpkin) are awesome!”
But it is not the only food that makes his mouth water. “There is a bar very near the stadium called bar Da Gema (r. Barão de Mesquita 615, Tijuca Río de Janiero). It is the best Brazilian food bar: they have a very good pastel de feijão gordo (a savoury pie filled with black beans), but the polenta and the oxtail are great.”
Batucada of flavours
The city gained notoriety for top chefs preparing Michelin-quality food, but Rio de Janeiro also has a big bar scene and a host of places that offer traditional food choices. The street food is normally an echo of the traditional dishes and food culture. That's why chefs love to much to hit the markets when traveling alone.
In Rio we find a lot of delicious meat on a stick cooked in charcoal, accompanied by farofa (a side dish made of toasted cassava flour) and sauces, on the sidewalk. When the sun sets prepare to find the tapioqueiro, who cook tapioca pancakes with delicious fillings as banana, coconut and cheese seasoned with the rhythm of batucada (a sub style of samba) on their stalls. There are also those who sell “pastel,” which is a kind of fried popover filled with minced meat or cheese, adapted by Chinese immigrants.
Street food expert Roberta Sudbrack (legendary for her eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant) will also debut Da Roberta (Rua Tubira 8A, Leblon), a casual bar with local beer, brisket sandwiches, falafels and her famous SudDog (a hot dog covered with queijo, a typical Brazilian cheese). The best part is that chef Sudbrack has a food truck that will bring these delicacies closer to the Olympics. Follow the food truck on Instagram @SudTruck to stay up to date on its location.
For more casual food choices, a great option is TT Burger, originally based in Ipanema, by Thomas Troisgros. You'll find hamburgers with 100% Brazilian beef placed on golden potato buns (baked by a community in Río) with sweet onions.
Cozinha Artagão, by the chef Pedro Artagão, has a relaxed atmosphere with a large menu that fits all sorts of tastes. Based on Brazilian and revamped continental dishes, it serves appetisers as croquetas de pernil, ravioles de burrata or shrimp risotto, both places perfect to enjoy between all the competitions in Barra de Tijuca, where you can find the Velodrom, Aquatic Stadium and the Olympic Arena.
Rio de Janeiro is a voluptuous city full of geographical and culinary contrasts. One of the hidden gems is the house juice found throughout the city, which offers a carnival of flavours blended with exotic fruit. The agua de fruta (fruit-flavoured waters) and juices are part of the local culture explains Nathalie Passos, chef of Naturalie Bistrô, who also suggests Bar Urca (R. Cândido Gafree, 205 - Urca): “It is not that close from the sporting events, but it has an amazing view, great vibe and of course, great food. It is without doubt a place to get an unforgettable postcard of Río's bay. Beautiful!”
Cooking with the heart
Great cuisine begins with generosity and that is why local and international chefs have joined forces to demonstrate that no ingredient is too small. For instance, grand Italian chef Massimo Bottura (this year top of the World's 50 Best Restaurants list) and founder of Food for Soul joined forces with Brazilian chef David Hertz of Gastromotiva. Together these non-profit organisations serve less privileged communities.
They offer a soup kitchen in the Lapa neighborhood of Rio. Also, chefs from all backgrounds will show their talent by cooking meals from the food surplus of the Olympic Village. Free meals will be provided to those in need throughout the whole period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. A special event titled RefettoRio Gastromotiva will be held 9 August.