Brazil in general, (and Rio de Janeiro in particular), is a foodie’s paradise. If you want delicious sushi, well Brazil has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan. The same thing goes for Italians, Germans, Portuguese, Afro-Brazilians, Arabs and Jews….substantial populations and of course, their respective cuisines. Into meat? Brazil has some of the best beef on the planet. Seafood? Thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline supply any type of fish and shellfish that you could ask for. Fruit lover? Brazil has hundreds of delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables (including the popular acerola and açai) that not only can you have a sweet, fresh, piece of fruit, but you can have it mixed with other fruits in a “vitaminas”, or fruit shake. Street food? Some of the most delicious (not synonymous with healthiest) you can find anywhere. And the lovely dichotomy about Rio in particular, is that you can stroll along the beachfront promenade going from Leme to Leblon beaches (which bookend the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches) and see locals (with bodies straight out of a Michaelangelo work of art), walking, running, biking, skating, playing volleyball and then stopping at a street kiosk for a cold “chopp” (draft beer) and “acarajé”, which is a dish of peeled beans rolled into a ball and deep fried in dendé (palm oil).
And believe me, I tried to eat and drink as much as possible of this deliciousness during my month in Rio. Starting with the basics, every morning I started out my day with a “cafezinho” (small espresso) or “cafe com leite”(coffee with hot milk) as well as a hot serving of “pão de queijo” (Brazilian cheese bread,the picture of which is under the title of the article above). These small baked cheese rolls are popular for breakfast or for a snack and they are delicious! Before finishing my breakfast, I would also have a fresh fruit juice or a “vitamins de mamão” (fresh papaya shake)
Then feeling energized, I would walk from Vidigal, where I was staying, to Leblon, Ipanema or Copacabana (between a half mile, mile and two miles, respectively), in search of action, fun and you guessed it…my next meal! One such day, I walked the two miles to Copacabana, in search of Cervantes (no,not the writer) Restaurant. Cervantes is a Brazilian institution around for more than a half a century and famous for its sandwiches in general, and steak sandwiches in particular. But this is Brazil, so you don’t think it will be any ordinary steak sandwich, do you? No, Cervantes is famous for its filet mignon steak sandwich with melted Brazilian cheese and topped off with a hefty slice of sweet pineapple (abacaxi) and served between two slices of Brazilian bread flattened and toasted on a panini press. And believe me, after tasting this masterpiece, you will never be the same again!
While still on the topic of meat, you cannot leave Brazil without eating at a traditional “rodizio”, which is a typical restaurant serving skewers of barbecued meat in an all you can eat setting. The server will place a circular chip on your table with a green side and a red side. While the green side is facing up, other servers will keep bringing you different kinds of meat, so please keep an eye on that chip (for your waistline’s sake!) One of the best meats you can eat at a rodizio (besides the chicken (“frango”) wrapped in bacon, of course) is the “picanha”. Picanha is a very popular cut of Brazilian steak (known as sirloin cap in the United States) which is perfectly grilled and seasoned. Here is the delicious picanha I ate at the Casarão (Big House) Rodizio which is a beachfront buffet restaurant. Not only did I eat some mouthwatering picanha
but I also partook in enjoying some lamb chops with mint jelly and sirloin steak.
But don’t even think for a moment that a non meat eater can’t find delicious food all around Brazil. Besides the numerous vegetarian options, Rio has some fresh and delicious seafood.
The above picture was a plate of grilled langoustines and shrimp which I ate at Bene, another beachfront restaurant. And was it good!
But with what can we wash down all of these heavy meals? Well, when in Brazil, of course, you must drink the national cocktail, the “Caipirinha”, which is a simple drink made of “cachaça” (sugar cane hard liquor), limes, sugar and ice. Thirst quenching, refreshing and delicious!
And after dinner, you can get delicious dessert anywhere in Rio. From their “sorvete” (ice cream) to their most famous”brigadeiros” (bite sized chocolate balls made of sweet condensed milk, eggs, sugar, butter and covered in sprinkles) all the way to their fine pastry scene with a local twist on some traditional favorites:
And something which I had never seen before and tasted really great was the Brazilian take on cappuccino, which had all of the elements of a traditional cappuccino with one delicious addition, a piece of dark chocolate melted in it. No words!
I’ll bet you would love one of those right now!
And for those of you who are lighter eaters, well, Rio has you covered too. Take this delicious brick oven pizza for example.
Remember I said there were thousands of Italian immigrants in Brazil!
On a final note, after all of these heavy breakfasts, lunches,street snacks and decadent desserts, your dinner can be a light affair. And what better way to have a light evening meal (as well as a great palate cleanser) than with the incredible, ubiquitous, delicious Brazilian fruit. Since much of Rio de Janeiro is beachfront, you know there are coconut trees. So you can definitely refresh yourself with one of these:
Not a bad way to watch the sunset, eh?Or one of my favorites:
I have never tasted such sweet, delicious mangoes anywhere in all my world travel!
I hope that you enjoyed my whirlwind culinary tour of Rio de Janeiro (it has probably gotten you very hungry) and I hope it inspires you to visit Brazil and eat around Rio!