The fine-dining scene in the Olympic city is setting records – half a dozen Rio restaurants were awarded Michelin stars last year. Book your table at one of these red-hot venues before you fly, writes Fiona Joy.
At number 14, this restaurant claims Rio’s highest ranking on the 2015 San Pellegrino Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. It also has a Michelin star. The chef after whom the eatery is named is as well known for being (shock) a woman as she is for her reputation, which includes an eight-year stint at Brazil’s presidential palace. Using local and organic ingredients, Roberta Sudbrack offers tasting menus – with an appropriately Brazilian theme – that change daily depending on what’s available at the local markets. In this low-key bistro setting the desserts are so famous that word is even the fashion crowd is unable to resist.
When in Rio and all that. Attracting meat-lovers from near and far, this churrascaria epitomises gaucho cuisine, with 15 different cuts of meat and seafood served at the table. Diners are issued with the time-honoured green/red disc to indicate whether they’re busy digesting or ready for more. As a support act, the Market Table features fresh seasonal salads. The restaurant’s setting, with a view of Sugarloaf Mountain, adds to the authentic experience.
Sometimes a craving for crisp duck is something you can’t ignore. Mr Lam was formerly the chef at Mr Chow – in London then New York – and the upmarket vibe lives on here in Rio, with his eponymous Chinese restaurant specialising in duck, seafood, satays, noodles and various other Asian favourites. Set over three floors, the eatery has a terrace with views of the Corcovado mountain (on which Christ the Redeemer stands) on one side and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon on the other.
￼If you’re looking for a romantic setting, this hillside restaurant with views over downtown Rio will meet the brief. It’s a bit out of the way but that doesn’t seem to put people off – it’s one of the city’s most popular dining destinations. Alfresco is the order of the day and diners are seated in small gazebos amid tropical gardens (you might even see a monkey or two) at tables lit by candles and fairy lights. The menu features Brazilian dishes of goat, wild duck and seasonal fish. Sip on one of the 100 or so flavours from the cachaça bar while you choose your dishes.
Sushi is big news in Rio and if celebrity spotting is your thing, you’ll be reassured to know that Sushi Leblon, with its Zen-like ambience, counts the likes of Madonna and supermodel Gisele Bündchen among its fans. It is consistently voted the best sushi haunt in town and presentation is the key here, with offerings such as sashimi, gyoza, tempura and yakisoba. Dress smart, arrive early and prepare to queue, even if you’ve booked.