By Kate Rintoul, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — Copacabana was the symbol of Rio’s glamor up until the 1980s, when it became overshadowed by Ipanema and then Leblon as the elite neighborhoods for luxury shopping and upscale dining. Yet there remain some culinary bastions in Copacabana, as well as new eating adventures to explore.
The most notable of the old guard restaurants has to be Cipriani at the Copacabana Palace. Named after the famous hotel in Venice, this restaurant specializes in exceptional Northern Italian cuisine, prepared by Lombard chef Luca Orini, who revamped the menu since starting in 2013.
Steeped in grandeur and with a meal for two costing around R$800, this is one of Rio’s most exclusive restaurants and it’s luxurious charm has won it many life-long fans. Expatriate, Patricia Barbeyron has not always had a perfect experience at the restaurant, but still rates it highly, “I’ve always liked Cipriani, the food is amazing and I have a soft spot for the Copa, although it is a little stuffy and the service can be iffy.”
Another hotel restaurant to experience fine dining is at Hotel Sofitel’s Le Pré-Catalan. With a dramatic dining room overlooking Copacabana Beach, this is a partner to the same-named Parisian restaurant and serves Franco-Brazilian fusion haute cuisine. For a unique experience try award-winning Chef Roland Villard nine course tasting menu that celebrates ingredients from the Amazon region priced at R$290.
The efforts to revitalize Copacabana has seen upmarket dining options outside of the big hotels increase, many of which continue to import foreign flavors. One of the most popular is Azumi, held by some as the best of traditional Japanese cuisine in Rio.
While it is less well known than the likes of Sushi Leblon, this restaurant is popular with second generation Japanese Brazilians and lovers of good sushi. Don’t be fooled into thinking this could be a place for a bargain, prices reflect it’s reputation and meals are priced at between R$75-150.
For a more authentically Brazilian but equally well-regarded experience, Siri Mole & Cia is a good option. The restaurant serves the best contemporary Bahian food. The location might not be as spectacular but many regard it as the best restaurant for Brazilian seafood.
Those looking for contemporary and experimental cuisine should head to the self proclaimed “gastrobar” Zot. This is a stylish venue whose chefs showcase the finest Brazilian ingredients on a diverse menu. Current dishes include ceviche, tuna with coconut and yam and duck in a cacao sauce. With a range of dishes, well stocked bar and live music, the restaurant is popular with diners looking for a memorable experience and atmosphere.
Belgian expatriate Laure Dulière says, “I am quite fond of Zot. Their dishes are not always perfect but at least they try to offer something creative and different in Copacabana. And they have a good wine list and cocktails. The terrace is great to see Baixo Copa types passing by.”