By Kate Rintoul, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — Home to Rio’s hippy movement in the seventies, and known for it’s “Tall and tan and young and lovely” residents, the Ipanema crowd care about what they eat for environmental and health reasons. As a result, a strong and vibrant restaurant scene focused on using certified organic products has taken hold in Rio’s health hub.
While neighboring Leblon’s Rua Dias Ferreira might be Rio’s high-end culinary focal point and more organic restaurants have been opening city-wide, Ipanema is the home of organic eating, with a variety of dining options and price points.
Eating organic need not be expensive and kilos are a popular choice for those on a budget. Ipanema’s Delirio Tropical is set apart from the rest thanks to its strong commitment to healthy food. Delirio grow most of their own certified organic crops and showcase the seasonal best on a daily changing menu, which features an array of hot and cold salads.
Another great option in Ipanema in the lower price range is Fontes, a hidden gem of a restaurant situated inside an average looking shopping plaza. This low key pescetarian restaurant has been serving up organic and macrobiotic dishes for forty years and their menu includes some fantastic gluten free and low sodium and sugar recipes. Most dishes priced between R$10 – 21, and there is also a small shop selling organic products to cook at home.
With so many well-established restaurants serving organic food, Ipanema has become a magnet for environmentally aware restaurateurs. Having opened in 2012, at Mexican restaurant Azteka organic produce always took provenance on the menu, which features dishes including burritos and quesadillas from R$22.
Co-owner Aglika Angelova says, “We use organic rice, chicken, eggs, oranges, green peppers, lettuce, agave, zucchini, salt, eggplant. I don’t know another restaurant in Ipanema with that many organic ingredients.” Azteka currently source products from a variety of suppliers, including dried goods from Camil, organic and antibiotic free meat from Korin and vegetables from local organic certified growers.
With better awareness of food production, it is only natural that more and more people will look for restaurants offering organic food because of the widely regarded benefits, as Angelova sums up, “Choosing organic is better for the health, taste and planet.”
Those dinning on a slightly higher budget should visit Zazá Bistrô Tropical. With a lovely corner veranda a stone’s throw from Ipanema beach and art filled dining room, it is another neighborhood favorite and highly rated restaurant serving organic food.
According to the restaurant’s website, “As we aim at healthy nutrition, we choose to use organic [ingredients] whenever possible. In our point of view, eating is more than merely nourishing the body.”
Owner and namesake Zazá Piereck recommends her favorite organic plate to The Rio Times, “We have our organic chicken curry, with organic vegetables. This is one of our best selling dishes and it is part of our menu since Zazá Bistrô opened, fifteen years ago.”
For Piereck, eating organic has been a long-standing lifestyle choice, not just a business decision, “When no other restaurants were using organic ingredients in Rio, our chicken was already organic, it was born at the same time of my first baby, when I start to eat only organic.”
It seems that the seeds planted by surfers and hippies who hung out at the iconic Ipanema beach in the seventies have grown into a fully fledged organic movement in this vibrant Rio neighborhood and indeed have been an essential part of a growing global trend.