rioA couple of weeks ago I had the fortune of being down in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for a meeting of the International Astronomical Union.  In addition to the great science, scenery and sunshine, we had a few really spectacular meals.  Rio isn’t just churrascarias (just skip Porcão); there is a wide mix of styles and tastes to satisfy any palate.  Here is a perfect day of eating for anyone going to A Cidade Maravilhosa.

cafeinaBreakfast @ Cafeína in Ipanema

One of my all-time my favorite things to do in life is breakfast cafe in Paris, and Cafeína is almost a perfect reproduction of that in Rio.  Located on the leafy Rua Farme de Amoedo just a few blocks in from the beach between Postos 8 and 9, Cafeína is one of several restaurants and cafes in a hip and lively section of Ipanema.  It sets itself apart by its excellent food, good service, and fun people watching from the sidewalk tables.  They serve traditional Parisian déjeuner (roll or croissant with butter and jam, cheese & meats, juice and coffee/tea/chocolate), as well as omelets, quiches, sandwiches & salads.  The also serve torts, cakes and pies, and have a nice selection of breads in the morning.  The croissants were particularly outstanding – so much so that they typically ran out by the afternoon – as was the chocolate quente (hot chocolate).  They also have a particularly potent “caffeine cake” that will would almost certainly raise the dead.

aprazivelLunch @ Aprazível in Santa Teresa

Sitting along a ridge running through the center of Rio, Santa Teresa is an artsy, eclectic area with a quiet view over the favelas and urban centers.  And nestled within is Aprazível, a restaurant precariously perched on the steep hillside facing southeast toward Pão de Açúcar.  Indeed, a few of the tables (like the gazebo shown at right) stand on shaded platforms of eucalyptus hanging off the cliff, giving the sensation of eating in a treehouse.  The ambiance alone ranks this restaurant as a “must go”, but the food also lives up to its setting.  As an appetizer, I recommend the Palmito Fresco Assado, palm heart that is left in the palm!  Follow that up with a Cordeiro Sagrado – sacred lamb.   Be sure to leave room for a sobremesa; the Banana Santa Teresa is the perfect facilitator for food coma.  Pass on the “famous” cashew caipirinhas; I had to follow that drink with three traditional caipirinhas to get rid of the bad taste.  Note that getting to Aprazível can be an adventure in itself; out of five taxi rides, only one managed to get there without asking directions, and the steep hairpin turns can either be a thrill or cause for indigestion (there is a tram that services the area).  Before heading down, be sure to take a post-meal stroll through the neighborhood to see the saguis (little monkeys).

GaletteDinner @ Le Blé Noir in Copacabana:

OK, maybe I have a French bias, but who thought one could find some of the best crepes – in or out of France – in Copacabana at Le Blé Noir.  Blé noir translates into “black wheat”, a low-gluten buckwheat (also called sarrasin) that is used extensively in the northwestern Bretagne region of France.  It is no surprise then that the candlelit, intimate interior is done up in full Brittany decor, and they even serve a good fermented cider.  The selection of savory crepes (Breton galettes) was quite extensive – up to 80 varieties – laid out in the menu in a grid of cheese choice versus everything else (guess what’s most important?).  There were several unusual combinations to try, with ingredients such as duck, scallops, Parisian mushrooms, and palm hearts (yum).  Each galette was ringed with salad greens, a nice balance to the rich cheeses and meats.  Four of us shared five galettes family-style to maximize our taste experience, which left us with barely enough room for a dessert crepe of chocolate and toasted almonds (we finished it anyways).  Bom apetite!

For more information:

Cafeína: Rua Farme de Amoedo 43 – Ipanama; Phone.: (21) 2521-2194;

Aprazível: Rua Aprazível 62,  Santa Teresa;  Phone: (21) 2508-9174;

Le Blé Noir:  Rua Xavier da Silveira 19,  Loja A; Phone: (21) 2267-6969