Chef, world traveller, and host of Travel Channel show “Bizarre Foods” Andrew Zimmern has visited Brazil multiple times.
It’s his job to seek out the best of the best when he travels, and he’s shared his picks for the best restaurants, bars, and hangout spots in Rio de Janeiro.
Zimmern, who has traveled to over 127 countries and is known for ingesting unusual local foods, said that rather than the meats, it’s the quality and variety of the fresh fruits and vegetables that appeal to him in Brazil.
“Rio is a town that has co-opted Portuguese food, but it’s also influenced by the Amazonia region,” Zimmern said. “So to me it’s always the fruits and vegetables that get me excited about that part of the world — even though I love the meat restaurants. The last time I was there I had a pink passion fruit that was so new they didn’t even have a name for it. The quality of the fruits and vegetables is absolutely outstanding.”
Because Brazilians have access to such fresh, quality foods, he said that the dishes are simple, but delicious.
“I like the simplicity of the food,” Zimmern said. “Most restaurants are serving simple roasted and grilled meats with great accompaniments, like roasted snapper served with tomato and heart of palm salad — that’s my favourite thing to eat whenever I see it on the menu. They don’t understand eating something that’s out of season.”
Zimmern also recommended eating at a boteco, a type of small bar which he equated to the Brazilian version of a British pub. At these bars, they serve small plates of local dishes like shrimp with cheese, dried meats with rice and onions, or empadinhas (pastries stuffed with meet, cheese, or veggies).
Here are Zimmern’s picks for Rio:
Best Churrascaria (Brazilian barbecue): Porcao
“Porcao (which translates as pigpen) is my favourite churrascaria,” Zimmern said. “Waiters carry around these huge skewers of meat: duck, lamb, goat, pig, beef, chicken. I go to the one in Flamengo because the view of the bay and Sugarloaf Mountain is unbelievable. I’m not a salad bar guy, but I love the salad bar here. They have a mountain of food in the middle of the dining room for the salad bar with amazing fruits and vegetables. The waiters come around with meat.”
Best Feijoada:Lanchonete Casa de Feijoada
Feijoada is the national dish of Brazil, but Zimmern said that he just loves the simplicity of the stew, which is typically made with black beans and a combination of smoked pork, bacon, ribs, sausage and beef.
Best Caipirinha:Academia de Cachaca
Caipirinhas are delicious cocktails made with cachaça (sugar cane hard liquor), sugar and lime. It’s Brazil’s national cocktail. Zimmern said his favourite place to drink a caipirinha is on the beach in Copacabana.
Best Moqueca:Bar Do Marco
Moqueca is a coconut milk-based Bahian fish stew that’s made with prawns, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coriander and other fish.
Best Bahian Restaurant:Siri Mole & CIA
Brazilian food is heavily influenced by its African roots. Bahian cuisine, Afro-Brazilian food, uses lots of seafood (usually shrimp), okra, coconut milk, and banana.
Best Dive: Garota de Ipanema
Garota de Ipanema translates as “The Girl from Ipanema,” and this dive bar is where the famous song of the same name was written.
Best Music Venue:Rio Scenarium
This Samba club is located in the hip Bohemian neighbourhood of Lapa, which is where Zimmern likes to spend his evenings while in Rio. He said that Lapa is home to “one of the most insane party streets I’ve ever experienced.”
“There’s something about Rio that moves to a musical beat, and that neighbourhood [Lapa] is a tempo setting for the rest of the city,” Zimmern said. “There’s no sexier or fun place to be than Lapa.”
Best Hotel Bar:Bar d’Hotel
Located in the trendy neighbourhood of Leblon, the Bar d’Hotel features gorgeous views of Leblon beach. It’s a great place to people watch while drinking a cold beverage.
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