By Nathan M. Walters, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Coccinelle Bistrô, Centro’s newest French-inspired eatery, situated nicely on a street that looks like it was cut from the small neighborhoods of Lisbon and imported to Rio’s Centro, is a welcome addition to the city center’s restaurant community. The area, dominated by kilos and lanchonetes (snack bars), has long been in need of a casual yet refined eating establishment for those looking to experience something new and different.
Coccinelle, located at Travessa de Comercio, 11, fits the bill perfectly. Offering visitors savory traditional French dishes, creatively prepared by Japanese chef Madame Coccinelle, in a relaxed atmosphere. A spacious yet cozy place decorated as a modern French bistro with tones of Japanese design throughout.
Yves de Roquemaurel, a Parisian restaurateur, and Madame Coccinelle, a Japanese-born internationally trained chef, draw from their diverse backgrounds to create a dining experience that pushes the concept of modern French cuisine.
“We wanted something accessible but different. Our focus was on creating a modern French bistro with traditional French cuisine but with an international influence,” a smiling Madame Coccinelle describes.
Though the menu changes regularly, as a result of the chef’s focus on fresh organic ingredients, some of the Bistro’s common dishes include a succulent grilled salmon as well as steak and frites. The main courses are usually accompanied with a vegetable salad and potatoes or another starch, such as the surprisingly tasty pureed beetroot.
“We try to work with Brazilian ingredients as much as possible. A lot of our main courses may include local vegetables, like batata baroa (yellow potatoes) or chuchu, and we use exotic fruits in some of our deserts. Our guava tart was a big success,” states Yves.
Each of the meals are served in a modern bento style (bento is a Japanese concept, referring to the packaging of “box” lunches), with hearty meal trays including appetizer, main dish, and salad.
“Bento serving is different for French cuisine. There is a set order of dishes in French bistros, appetizers then main course, though here it makes sense to use the bento style. It reflects our Japanese influence but also is common for Brazilian diners who are used to taking a whole meal all at once,” explains Madame Coccinelle.
“Bistros are popular all over the world, New York, Paris, Tokyo all have casual places where people can enjoy good natural food in a comfortable setting,” says Yves. “Right now Rio is perfect for this type of dining. People want to try new things and the bistro is a great choice. Good food in a nice environment at a fair price.”
Items on the menu range from a very reasonable R$18 to R$46, Coccinelle also offers a great value plat du jour (daily special) around R$18. Coccinelle’s lunch menu is mainly focused on French dishes, though every Thursday from 6PM till 10PM the bistro offers a Japanese izakaya happy hour.
Izakaya refers to the after-work happy hour places in Japan, where people enjoy Japanese style tapas and drinks. At Coccinelle’s izakaya visitors can taste traditional Japanese food (not sushi), sake (rice wine), beers, or a sampling from the bistro’s extensive organic wine list.
“Sustainability is important to us. We focus on organic ingredients, organic wines, and strive to have a reusable culture in the restaurant,” states Yves.
Coccinelle is French for ladybug, in Japanese culture it is a symbol of good luck, and an international symbol of environmental awareness. For those looking for natural balanced meals in a welcoming environment, the ladybug is more than appropriate. Visitors to Coccinelle Bistrô in Centro will certainly be in luck.
Travessa do Comercio, 11
Rio de Janeiro 20010-080
(+55) 21 2224-8602