By Bryan Gregory Sanders, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Of Rio’s many iconic neighborhoods, Botafogo is often under-represented, but recently it has seen an increase of innovative restaurants opening in stylishly renovated older buildings. Less expensive rents have allowed Botafogo’s creative culinary ventures room to take shape and provide some unique dining experiences.
Away from the beaten path of the indisputable lovely Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana food circuit is Botafogo’s growing restaurant quarter. The result adds both a sense of traditional taste and something new to a market that is at times overtly modern or chic.
Specifically Rua Conde de Irajá’s reputation is growing as a restaurant hot-spot, spreading across Zona Sul (South Zone) and making the street a destination for diners looking for good service, quality food and value.
In Botafogo the abundance of abandoned colonial-style houses, lower rents, and lower still luva (under-the-table “glove” money) is ushering in another two restaurants and an art gallery opening in the near future.
Restaurant Irajá Gastrô, at the center of the Botafogo movement, on Rua Conde de Irajá’s, is a perfect example of what can be done with a vision, less expensive rents, and when a restaurant meets that demand for quality, style, and care for it’s customers.
Irajá Gastrô brings contemporary Brazilian cuisine to a perfectly planned restaurant space. Irajá offers a unique homestyle ambiance with a vintage elegance and clean functionality that pairs nicely with the accessible, playful, and well thought out dishes.
Chef Pedro de Artagão’s (of MAM’s Laguiole restaurant) seventeen years of experience is seen in every dish that goes out while his attentive, courteous, and talented staff match the Chef’s primary focus: to serve food with care and love so that “you feel at home.”
“I wanted my restaurant to be more inviting, the kitchen’s large windows allow all who enter to talk freely with the chefs and interact. It helps to destroy the stigma that chefs are serious, militaristic types that don’t enjoy talking with their customers”, says Chef Pedro de Artagão.
“There is nothing more elegant than being invited into someone’s home for a meal” he adds, “this space (being a former residential home) allows us to do just that.”
The space’s separated lounge and dining room provide two different experiences. The living room styled lounge allows guests to order from the bar and menu, sit comfortably in colorful arm chairs and sofas, gaze at the 1920’s exposed brick walls, and choose from the wine racks above, all under an exposed pitched red tiled roof above.
Irajá Gastrô is a perfect space to taste stylish traditional home style Brazilian cooking, in an environment that proves incredible food does not need to be served in a formal or stuffy restaurant. The culinary landscape in Botafogo truly embraces the emerging restaurant movement happening in areas outside of the usual locals.
Restaurant Irajá Gastrô is located at Rua Conde de Irajá 109 and is open for lunch and dinner daily. Reservations are recommended as the 55 dining room seats and 22 lounge seats fill up fast.