Although our Rio exploits took us all around the city, we chose to stay in Copacabana. Although we spent zero time on the beach, it is a great walking area, close to other beach towns like Ipanema and Leblon and close to shopping and the Metro, which provides convenient access to much of the city and the Carnival activities. We also focused most of our culinary experiences in this area. This was not too great a hardship, since Copacabana has many good restaurants. The one notable exception, in which we ventured far beyond Copacabana, was Cocinelle French Bistro in central Rio.
Our entire five night stay was at the lovely, conveniently located and comfortable (but also expensive—especially during Carnival) Porto Bay Copacabana Hotel. The hotel, located along the beach on Copacabana’s Avenida Atlantica, is a block from Copacabana’s retail shops and about five blocks from a Metro station. Our fondest memories, in addition to the comfort and very efficient and hospitable service, were the incredible views—the beach and the row of high-rises that ring it, the mountains, including Corcovado and its iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, and the sunsets.
Our first stop, in arriving in Rio, was, both for ourselves and for David, who had never been to one, a churrascaria. These Brazilian restaurant specialize in meat, Many, including Porcau, which we visited on our first night in the city, began with a huge buffet, filled with salads, selections of vegetables, peel-and-eat shrimp, a selection of cheeses, salumi and even a few different paellas and a sushi bar.
Once you have our fill of appetizers, and you are ready for the “main course” you turn a paper marker next to your plate over, from red to green. This is a signal for tends of servers, each carrying a skewer of a different meat dish, to explain what they are se raving and, if you wish, cut slices of pieces for you. Within three minutes of turning our marker to green, your plate is literally filled with virtually every cut of beef you can imagine, several types of pork, chicken and even ostrich. Although not all offerings were equally tasty, we were all very happy w it’s the food and the incredibly prompt service. We also vowed not to eat for the next could of days (a vow that lasted until the following day’s lunch).
La Fiducia Restaurant
After thoroughly enjoying a snack at this restaurant’s snack bar, we decided to try the full restaurant. We shared a very nice snapper ceviche, universally enjoyed Joyce’s meat lasagna and my roasted rabbit and mustard sauce. David’s paparadelle with duck ragu, however, had too little duck and too little flavor. We all enjoyed another Reserve Malbec, a wine to which we have taken quite a liking on this trip.
This restaurant, along the south end of Avenida Atlantico, is a celebration of foods from different provinces of the country. Although I was tempted by its many feijoada offerings, we decided that, after lunch, to try something else. After splitting an appetizer of baked hearts of palm marinated in olive oil and herbs, I had Shrimp in a Pumpkin. The steamed, hollowed out pumpkin was filled with a creamy, cheesy sauce catupity with shrimp, which was ladled out over white rice and farofa. (Good, but very rich and very filling.) Joyce had grilled octopus with vegetables and David, a grilled cod fillet with farofa, caipirinha egg, onions, peppers and manioc. (Both were a bit overlooked and salty for our tastes.) But, as we discovered from our own taste, as well as speaking with our hiking guide and the restaurant’s owner, most Brazilian food is pretty heavily salted. As the owner told us, it is perfectly acceptable to order food without salt, and add it to taste, after it is served.
A Sampling of Feijoadas
Feijoada, is one of Brazil’s national dishes (originally made largely for slaves) consisting of a black bean stew with one of several types of low-cost cuts of meat, that is served over rice. Our hotel, the lovely Porto Bay, celebrated Carnival with a complementary feijoada lunch, accompanied by Brazilian music, for its guests. Along with an array of salads, appetizers and desserts, the hotel restaurant offered several different types of feijoada–black bean, pork loin, pork rib, sausage, smoked tongue, pork ear and pork tail.
Although not among the best feijoada I have had (mostly in U.S. Brazilian restaurants) it was an interesting sampling. I definitely plan to try others before we leave the country.
Cocinelle French Bistro (Travessa do Comerico in Central Rio)
Although the bistro focuses on three- course meals, we just had a two of their wonderful fresh fruit cups, an equally good almond tart with mineral water.
La Fiducia Bistro
A Parma ham and cheese sandwich with sun-dried tomatoes on focaccia was delicious
This very popular local sandwich shop serves a wide range of meat sandwiches that are stuffed with your selected protein. My sliced pork leg sandwich with pineapple was delicious (other than for the customary heavy salting) and too much by half for my light lunch. The other half, however, made for a nice snack before leaving for our final Carnival event–the Gay Costume Ball.