Top 10 Brazil Dining Experiences
A diverse melting pot of European, African and pre-Columbian indigenous peoples, Brazil is a highly multiethnic destination where cuisine can vary widely by region. However, one thing remains consistent from the southern border with Uruguay to the Northern Amazon basin and everywhere in between— Brazilians love to eat, and they consider mealtime sacred.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the quality of food in Brazil, whether dining at a Michelin-starred eatery, an off-the-beaten-path street vendor, a closed door restaurant or the most exclusive chef’s table in Rio, is anything but lacking in bold flavor, audacious creativity and verve.
Here, lunch is large, leisurely and served hot— no cold sandwiches and the like— which means dinner is usually taken much later than Americans may be used to but is still considered to be the true family meal of the day. Don’t be surprised to see young children out “past their bed time” when traveling to Brazil, and don’t be surprised by the rebuke of your Brazilian dining companions should you arrive late or sorely underdressed, as both are considered rude in local culture.
No matter how you choose to dine while in Brazil, here are our Top 10 dining experiences in Brazil:
D.O.M | Sao Paulo
Michelin just unveiled its first ever Rio and Sao Paulo guides in 2015, and DJ cum chef rock star extraordinaire Alex Atala’s D.O.M promptly soared to the top of the list. His was the only restaurant, among the 17 awarded last year, to walk away with the coveted 2 Michelin Star rating. D.O.M. also ranked #9 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list for its reinvention of traditional Brazilian cuisine, the iconic chef’s passion and use of ingredients from remote regions of the country. Other restaurants by Atala include Dalva e Dito and the forthcoming Acougue Central (Central Butchery). He also helms the ATA Institute at Pinheiros Market, which focuses on promoting socially and environmentally responsible Brazilian food.
Aprazivel | Rio de Janeiro
Just up the hill from Rio proper, in the carioca district of Santa Teresa, lies a restaurant well worth the short trek outside the city. Aprazivel, meaning “pleasant” in Portuguese, is aptly named with its cozy ambiance, breathtaking views of the bay and attentive service. It’s a sustainable Michelin Star eatery using tropical ingredients, organic produce and unique raw materials in its signature blend of international and Brazilian fare. Local chef-owner Ana Castilho’s kitchen, located in an old estate, treats guests to a bold al fresco culinary experience where communing with nature is part of the charm and the slow pace of this iconic village simply overtakes diners. The simple cookery, delectable flavors and sumptuous aromas will take you back to grandma’s kitchen— only better!
Olympe | Rio de Janeiro
Another Michelin Star winner, Olympe is the brainchild of famed French father-son team Claude and Thomas Troisgros. Here, at their Lagoa neighborhood eatery, diners will find a French approach to Brazilian cuisine that the elder Troisgros has been perfecting for 35 years. Olympe sources its ingredients from small, sustainable local producers and uses them to craft a seasonal fixed price menu composed mainly of small plates perfect for sampling and sharing. A bonafide television personality, Claude is a master of haute cuisine, helping the restaurant to land the #35 spot in the coveted Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2015. Other restaurants in the Troigros family include the CT group (CT Brasserie, CT Boucherie, CT Trattorie and CT Patisserie), as well as T.T. Burger and the catering and event company Atelier Troisgros | Open House.
Copacabana Palace Hotel | Rio de Janeiro
One of Rio’s most exclusive and sought after dining experiences, the chef’s table at the Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel’s Cipriani Restaurant is a real treat for any foodie. Here, guests enjoy their meal just feet from the hustle and bustle of one of the city’s best kitchens, as the team prepares a special menu complete with wine pairings especially for you. This award-winning restaurant is renowned for its northern Italian fare prepared with both Brazilian and Italian ingredients. One might think the vibrant and innovative dishes are the cornerstone of the menu but, in truth, it is their dichotomy to classic recipes passed down through generations that makes this experience one you’ll never forget. Be sure to stop by the Copacabana Piano Bar for a nightcap to catch Rio’s jet set alongside a bit of jazz.
Mara | Sao Paulo
Nestled in the Bela Vista district of Sao Paulo lies a closed door restaurant not to be missed. Veteran chef Mara Rasmussen, formerly of the now defunct Bar da Terra, has opened her private home to diners seeking delicious Brazilian comfort food in an intimate setting. Locals say the weekend lunch is your best bet, but you really can’t go wrong at this underground eatery. Menus vary, but you’ll likely see appetizers including squid and fish stew paired with entrees of tenderloin or fish fillets and garnished with organic greens, beans and grains. The prices at this cash only private dining room are moderate and well worth it for the chance to rub elbows with Sao Paulo’s bohemian set and, of course, chef Mara herself.
Les Amis Buffet | Sao Paulo
A 2006 trip to Buenos Aires and its famed private dining scene launched a new endeavor for lifelong friends and French-trained chefs Pila Zucca and Demian Figueiredo— Les Amis Buffet. Less buffet and more closed door restaurant, Les Amis is a monthly private dining experience designed to accommodate only 12 patrons. Here, guests enjoy a themed pre fixe menu in an intimate and informal setting around a table once belonging to Demian’s very own grandma. Although always tasty, guests never know quite what to expect for each monthly menu, so you can visit again and again without ever having the same experience twice. Recent menus have included sweet garlic soup, lamb stew, spiced couscous and cod chips. A welcome drink is included in the price but glasses of wine are extra.
Esquina Mocotó | Sao Paulo
Second generation Sao Paulo chef Rodrigo Oliveira’s Esquina Mocotó is located in the Vila Medeiros neighborhood— right next door to the original Mocotó Bar & Restaurant his father launched in 1974. Esquina has a more adventurous surf and turf menu than its neighbor but still is inspired by the northeastern backlands from which the elder Oliveira hails. Esquina is a true neighborhood eatery, serving up high quality ingredients from all corners of Brazil but, especially the northeast (of course). Carnivores, in particular, will love Esquina for its playful takes on such rarities as bone marrow and beef tongue. Oliveira also recently opened Mocotó Café at the same market where Atala’s ATA Institute is, and be sure to keep a look out for his Mocotó Aqui food truck.
Restaurante Roberta Sudbrack | Rio de Janeiro
Ranked #14 on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014 list and named the Best Chef in Latin America by Restaurant magazine, Roberta Sudbrack’s eponymous eatery is an exercise in simple, contemporary fare presented across an eight-course tasting menu that never ceases to leave guests speechless. The menu changes nightly, as does the price based on a tiered structure, but a few things remain consistent— the neighborhood ambiance, high quality ingredients and attentive service. Sudbrack did a stint cooking at the presidential palace, and it shows at her Zona Sul restaurant. Here, in this renovated home, Sudbrack’s restrained approach to preparing fine ingredients has garnered local love and international acclaim. It’s modern Brazilian cookery at its very best.
Lasai Restaurante | Rio de Janeiro
Husband and wife team Rafa Costa e Silva and Malena Cardiel launched Lasai in 2014 with Rafa at the pass and Malena helming the front of house. It wasn’t very long before this contemporary farm-to-table Brazilian hotspot began collecting shining accolades, including the #16 spot in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 list. The restaurant is located in an historic turn-of-the-century home with views of Christ the Redeemer, but it is the New York City and European trained chef’s daring cuisine and fresh seasonal ingredients (many of which come from the chef-owner’s own farm) that keep patrons coming back for more. Lasai is a Michelin Starred restaurant that appeared on CNN’s 2015 Restaurant Wish List of 15 global eateries they were dying to try.
Mani | Sao Paulo
Another Michelin Starred restaurant, Mani also ranks #41 on the World’s Best list and #5 on Latin America’s Best list for husband-wife chef team Daniel Redondo and Helena Rizzo’s Brazilian-European fusion cuisine. We recommend opting for the 10 course tasting menu and leaving the decisions to the award-winning chefs, but you can’t go wrong with a la carte options either. Redondo and Rizzo (who won the Vueve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef title in 2014) met while working at the highly acclaimed Michelin Starred El Celler de Can Roca, and have brought their signature style of avant garde European cookery to Mani, pairing it with top notch Brazilian ingredients. The pair also own Manioca, Padoca do Mani and Restaurante Manioca.
If you’re heading to the 2016 Rio Summer Games or just looking for a Brazil vacation, contact us today for a private tailor-made journey just for you— we can even help you book all our favorite Brazil dining experiences!