Header images: Fasano rooftop and snacks at Bar da Gema; coconuts on the beach; the interior at Lasai and fish with daikon and miso (image: Tomas Rangel)
The Olympic Games are officially on and Rio de Janeiro’s chefs are ready to show the world the Carioca way of life. The ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ (marvellous city) is not just one of the most beautiful places on Earth – it’s also one of the most exciting and vibrant cities on the planet.
While in summer people spend most of their time at the beach, in the cooler weather (by Rio’s standards) there’s a convincing excuse to go on a gastronomic adventure and explore the city’s foodie side. We’ve put together the ultimate list of six perfect places to enjoy during the Olympics – each one representing a different side of Rio cuisine.
Best for street food: Breakfast at Tapioca Kiosk, Instituto Maniva
Food lovers adore the organic markets around Rio. Chef Teresa Corção, in charge of Instituto Maniva, is a specialist in cassava, the main ingredient in Brazilian-style crepes.
Tapioca crepes are one of the most famous Brazilian street food specialties, gluten free, and prepared with savoury or sweet fillings. Try them with carne seca (a type of beef jerky), with coalho cheese (similar to halloumi) and also try the sweet ones with guava jam and cheese (called Romeo and Juliet in Brazil) or with fresh coconut.
Best gastrobar: Bar da Gema
Rua Barão de Mesquita, 615 - Andaraí 20540-001
Gastrobars are part of Brazilian culture and Rio is the city of the botecos. Bar da Gema is located in the Tijuca neighbourhood and is famous for its coxinhas – a teardrop-shaped fried croquette filled with chicken. They also serve pastel, another Brazilian pastry prepared with savoury fillings – at Gema, try pastel de feijão (bean pastel) and fried polenta with braised oxtail.
Gema also serves unusual specialties. The ‘signature boteco dishes’, include a scarlet eggplant lasagne and fondue da Gema. All to be washed down with extra cold beers and cachaças, of course!
Best for carnivores: Churrascaria Majórica
Rua Senador Vergueiro, 15 22230
Brazilians love their meat and you’ll find many churrascarias (steak houses) around Rio offering ‘rodizio’ – an ‘all you can eat’ serving system that often offers quantity rather than quality, with a few exceptions.
Majórica is a traditional-style family steak house, serving the best cuts of meat in Rio, à la carte: T-bone steaks, picanha (a Brazilian beef cut) and perfect ribs accompanied by classic side dishes such as banana farofa and biro-biro rice. If you’re looking for the perfect meaty experience, this is the best of its kind!
Best for home cooking: Aconchego Carioca
Rua Barão de Iguatemi, 379 / Rua Rainha Guilhermina, 48 20270-060
A visit to Rio must include the house of Katia Barbosa. A quintessential Carioca, she has created a space that symbolises the soul of the city – with an easy-going atmosphere, happy vibes and Brazilian flavours. From snacks and caipirinha cocktails to comforting homemade food, this is a restobar where you’ll fall in love with and experience the Rio spirit at the table.
Katia’s menu mixes her Carioca style with the flavours of the Brazilian backlands, and her famous ‘bolinhos’ such as the feijoada croquettes can be found alongside hearty dishes such as prawns ‘bobo,’ baião-de-dois (rice, beans and jerky beef), and even delicious pulled-pork rolls.
Katia shares the kitchen with her daughter Bianca, and between them they couldn't be more proud to cook for you – you'll feel as if you've stepped into their home.
Best for fine dining: Lasai
Rua Conde de Irajá, 191, Botafogo
Chef Rafa Costa e Silva, owner of Lasai, No.16 in Latin America's 50 Best Restaurants, is giving a new voice to Brazilian cuisine. He has his own farm, where many of the organic products come from, and his naturalistic approach to fine dining turns a tasting menu into a journey around Rio’s farms, markets, rivers and the ocean.
Every detail at Lasai is important, from the cocktails to the wine list. Here you’ll find the best of Brazilian cuisine and have the opportunity to experience a blend of luxury and simplicity in the form of creative, light and delicious dishes, prepared by the chef and his team of young stars. If you love to see the action in the kitchen, take a spot close to the chef, or a table beside the kitchen, where you’ll be able to learn a few tricks. Tasting-menu only.
Best for cocktails at happy hour: the pool bar of the Fasano Hotel
Av. Vieira Souto, 80, 22420-002
At Ipanema beach with its stunning view, Fasano has become a Rio institution for luxury and comfort – the first Brazilian hotel designed by Philippe Stark.
The rooftop has the most photographed swimming pool in the country, with a view of the Sugar Loaf Mountain, Ipanema and Arpoador beaches. The bar offers creative and classic cocktails, light dishes, snacks and great music, so a happy hour at the Fasano pool bar is unforgettable.
You’ll meet famous actors and musicians and experience the hot scene from the city. Rio doesn’t get much more exclusive and glamorous than that.