Many restaurants in Rio are rated 5, 4 and 3 stars by critics. These are venues associating gourmet food to a special atmosphere, and usually prices to match. Think of them as expensive but worth it, and dress up for the occasion. We are not talking suit and tie, but at least take off those wet trunks and flip-flops, and put on some shoes and pants!
Ipanema is a gourmet's dream come true. Many of Rio's best restaurants are in a walking distance from each other. Satyricon, that has another branch in Buzios, is where Madonna had dinner while in town. Although there are excellent pasta alternatives, the specialty is fish and seafood Mediterranean style. Margutta is the other outstanding Italian, near Bar 20.
If you have a steak in mind, Esplanada Grill is the restaurant to see and be seen. From the appetizer with pão de queijo, cod croquettes and green salad followed by prime steak, veal, fish or moqueca, there will be plenty to keep you busy. Do not miss the famous caipirinha de lima. Porcão is bigger, more relaxed, and popular with locals, soccer players and tourists. There's also a buffet with salads and cold cuts (see steakhouses).
Pecado is a relative newcomer to the scene, offering a contemporary cuisine with a Latin influence. Other charming restaurants in Ipanema are Olivier Cozan, Zazá Bistro Tropical and B! located on the mezzanine of bookshop Livraria da Travessa. Via Sete has tables on the outdoor patio, and they serve delicious wraps.
Leblon is our next stop, and restaurants are also in a walking distance from one another. The most celebrated is Antiquarius, with outstanding Portuguese cuisine and Quadrucci with italian contemporary dish and a cozy atmophere. Dishes like fresh codfish moqueca, siricaias, duck rice, soups and homemade desserts are some of the attractions. Garcia & Rodrigues is chic, cosmopolitan, and in addition to the excellent restaurant there's a bakery-cafe where they serve brunch, sandwiches, and salads, plus a shop with state-of-the-art cooking utensils, wines and imported ingredients. Cap it off with a cigar at Esch Cafe, right across the street.
Carlota is nearby, and the contemporary cuisine uses Brazilian ingredients to produce masterpieces. Bar D`Hotel offers sophisticated food with a view to the sea. Zucca has an apparent kitchen, featuring a charcoal grill. Sophisticated 00 (Zero Zero) is a few minutes away, in Gavea. In Jardim Botanico, near Gavea Caroline Cafe is meeting spot for beautiful people. In Sao Conrado your best bets are at the Fashion Mall, where you find Clube Chocolate and Essencial Cafe.
It's a funny coincidence, but it seems that the best restaurants in Copacabana are all located in 5-star hotels along the beach. Cipriani is considered by many the best restaurant in Rio. The very special setting, overlooking the legendary pool of Copacabana Palace Hotel, is a major plus. In addition to the Italian specialties they have a number of vegetarian options, an extensive wine list, they bake their own bread, you get the picture.For gourmet French cuisine you may choose either Le Pré-Catalan, at the Sofitel Hotel near Arpoador, or Le Saint-Honoré, at Le Meridién. Expect superb food, elegant atmosphere, fashionable patrons and, from the latter, a bird's eye view to Copacabana Beach from the 37th floor!