UPDATE FEB '08
These selected tips are based on many years of extensive (and enjoyable!) research.
You can expect to eat very well indeed in Rio, spending a lot or a (very) little. At the top end, if you can afford it, don't miss Marius Crustaceos (seafood), on Av. Atlantica in Leme, for excellent, all-you-can-eat fish and shellfish (usually including lobster) - but it's now extremely expensive by local standards. A fuller description follows (headed "splurge").
Yemanja has now closed, but you can eat excellent and inexpensive Bahian cuisine at "Toca de Siri", in Posto 6 (end of Copacabana, near Arpoador) - the less formal little brother of the more sophisticated Siri Mole.
And for the best (moderately expensive, by local standards) Japanese cuisine, go for Tanaka San, on the Lagoa (lagoon).
Everyone recommends Porcao, and the quality of their meat is certainly excellent, but I don't enjoy feeling bloated - I think this is one for people in their 20s, with very healthy appetites.
The only restaurant on the beach in Ipanema is the inexpensive Barril 1800, where the food is decent if unremarkable, and one portion can (and should) be divided between two people. Try, for example, their feijoada mineira (now available only on Saturdays).
There's an upmarket hamburger and hot dog (made from veal) place on Garcia Davila (Ipanema) called Via 7, which is popular with locals and tourists alike.
Incidentally, all eating places in Rio accept all or most credit/ debit cards, VISA and Mastercharge probably being the most widely accepted.
VT tells me that my entry is now too long, so a second installment follows.
Favorite Dish: I love the occasional feijoada, the typical black beans, pork and rice dish, available in Barril 1800, and usually eaten at lunchtime on weekends, followed by a siesta: some foreigners find this an acquired taste, but try it! It's served on Weds, Fri and the w/e at Informal, on Praca NS da Paz, and on Sts in the Garota de Ipanema, R. Vinicius de Morais, both in Ipanema.One portion is usually more than enough for two people.
For those who crave a juicy steak, grilled to perfection, Marius Carnes is a typical Brazilian, good quality churrascaria, which translates as the perfect place if you are a meat lover. With an exquisite and interesting decor, the restaurant overlooks the Leme Beach and offers more than 30 different grilled meat dishes. There is also a superb salad bar with colorful, tasty vegetable combinations.
After many years of success of this all-you-can-eat rodízio system for meat, the owner just start thinking.... why wouldn't it work for seafood? And thus was Marius Crustáceos born, a must-eat stop for every seafood lover. Located right next door to its carnivorous cousin. You can start off with a trip to the buffet, helping yourself to the feast of antipasto, cold seafood such as prawns, oysters, and crab, as well as warm seafood favorites such as paella, pasta with seafood, and popular dishes from Bahia including moqueca and vatapá. But save your appetite for the prime catch the waiters will bring to your table: lobster, prawns, tuna steaks, salmon or crab.
This is a typical Brazilian, good quality churrascaria, the perfect place if you are a meat lover. With an exquisite and interesting decor, the restaurant overlooks the Leme Beach and offers more than 30 different grilled meat dishes.
The food is great and you will eat a lot there!They keep coming to your table with more meat varieties.
For those not too keen on having meat only, there is a superb salad bar with colorful, tasty vegetable combinations as well as a great selection of fish. Right next door is Marius Crustaceos, a seafood palace.
Be sure to book a table and to drink some "caipirinhas " along with your meal!
There are two Marius restaurants in Leme: Marius Carnes (Meat) and Marius Crustaceos (Seafood). These two restaurants are located right next to each other and first timers often step into the wrong restaurant by a mistake. The only difference is that the Marius Crustaceos only serve seafood.
Marius Carnes (Meat) offered both meat and seafood buffet. Although it was expensive for Rio's standards, the quality of the food was second to none. The service was great, too. The waiter kept on replacing the plates to make sure that I got a clean plate every time. The seafood was self-service buffet and the different types of meat were brought to the table in a Brazilian barbecue style.
The total bill was R$135 (US$55) per person, which included meat and seafood buffet, a glass of red wine, a bottle of sparkling water, dessert, and 12% tip.
I'd be tempted to put Marius into the tourist trap section if only the food weren't so good! The meal ended up being quite a bit more pricey than our guide book suggested, by the time you added up the main all you can eat meat part , the salad bar, the caipirahanas that appeared to be included and bottled water we ended up dropping over 125 reals per person ($62US). A tad more than the $18 quoted in Lonely Planet....
Favorite Dish: This was the best meal we had on our 10 day trip, the salad bar was more like a seafood bar with shrimp, oysters, squid and about 100 other items to choose from but go sparingly here because the meat is the star at this restaurant. Skewer after skewer appeared at our table, chunks of filet mignon, followed by sirloin followed by tbone. Not to mention the sausage, the wild boar, the frog legs, lamb, you name it, they served it!
Just when you think you can't possibly eat anymore, you'll check out the dessert buffet and decide there's just a little more room in that stomach, the white/milk chocolate mousse was out of this world. And I think I tried a few others too but by that time I was in a food coma!!!!
Anything and everything you can imagine is before you for the taking. Once you made the mistake of gorging on the lobster, crab, and other assorted dishes, the Churrasco starts coming and flows non-stop until you cry, "uncle!"
The place is awesome, the ambience is unlike anything you've probably encountered outside of Rio, and you'll never forget it.
Favorite Dish: I am a meat lover. I do not do well with the lobster and crab. My wife loved them, but I wanted the beef. When it was all over, I felt like a glutton. Hmmmm . . . . Can't quite remember what I paid. I think it was about $80.00 for three of us.
Check out their web site:
Everything about Marius Crustaceos in the 'Leme' neighboorhood of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was tacky and over-priced. The all-you-could-eat seafood was not good and even worse than the food was the check when it arrived -- US $70 -- and this was the price just for 1 person.
I'm Carioca (born in Rio), and I gotta tell you I love meat. Marius is a Restaurant, where you pay and you eat all the meat you can eat. There's and salad a hot buffet, as well. The food is great. But, it's a scamm... They have 2 different prices: one for brazilians and another one for tourists. They we'll charge almost twice they charge us...
I think there are other great "churrascarias" in Rio. You can Always go to Porcão Rio's. You'll have a fantastic meal (all meat you can eat) and an amazing view. And it's cheaper than Marius...
But, it's all up to you!
Gates because I'm talking about TWO restaurants here , one next to the other , one is Marius Churrascaria and the other is Marius Frutos do Mar (= seafood) situated on Ave. Atlantica on the Leme side , that means , if you look at the ocean from Ave. Atlantica the restaurants are on the far left side of the avenue.
Not at all cheap , maybe not even by international standards because the U$ has reached a very long time low in the past weeks ( March 2006 ), these two restaurants should be on your priority list of where to eat in Rio...... maybe you should even leave these two places for the last two dinners because after eating there nothing else might taste like something ....
And listen to who's talking , I know the culinary temples of São Paulo and Rio..... Rio actually cannot compete with São Paulo when it comes to restaurants, but Marius 1 and Marius 2 make up for all the other lack, these are classy and posh places apt to satisfy the most demanding palates....
Favorite Dish: In Marius Churrascaria I especially love their tender Picanha meat which is so succulent that you might get hooked on it...... But with about 30 types of salads and 25 cuts of meat , sausages , fowl and exotic plates ( like jacaré = alligator , pheasant, deboned quails, wild South American type boar, rabbit and much more) it gets extremely difficult to chose a favorite dish because everything is just so good.....
In Marius Frutos do Mar I went especially "nuts" over the whole barbecued octopus tentacles. Shrimps in all sizes and prepared ways , all kinds of mussles , oysters, fish ( raw sashimi or grilled, cooked, fried , baked...) . Too many items to count them all. If it's from the ocean and is edible , you'll find it here. I would say Marius Frutos do Mar is the BEST sea food place I have ever eaten at...... and as I love seafood , you can maybe imagine that I have eaten at many seafood restaurants before ...
The decor was outstanding, the service superb, and the buffet was the best I've encountered. But all the meats served at the table were soaked in salt, which assists your thirst for alcohol, but would not be recommended for your overall health, and not very tender or enjoyable. After all the hype about Brazilian beef, I would rate the quality of the meat a "C" at best. Next year I will report on the seafood side.
Favorite Dish: the buffet
When I first ate at Mariu's, in May 1998, the meal and the service were both outstanding.
In February 2004 both were substandard. At the hors d'oeuvres bar the varieties of foods offered was limited and inferior to other churrascurias (there was, for example, no sushi -- now a feature almost everywhere else).
I thought that I had perhaps caught the restaurant on an off night. During my 90 minutes or so at table, waiters with spits of meat came by only five (5) times. At a good churrascuria -- and at Mariu's six years earlier -- I'd have expeced them 15 or 20 times.
Worse yet, the 'waiters' offered only one meat -- roast beef -- and, worst of all, it was an inferior grade. It was so gristly that I used napkins to spit out and discard about half of each bite.
Lastly, Mariu's prices have escalated. I paid over twice what I had in 1998 for a meal that was less than an eighth as good. (A caiprinha, available almost everywhere else for R$3 or less, was R$12.)
The Carioca who sat next to me on my flight back to the US sympathized with my account. 'Only tourists go to Mariu's now,' she said, 'all the big hotels send them there.'
Favorite Dish: Until and unless Mariu's improves, it should be avoided.
Kilos: Buffets in which you pay by the weight of the food you pile on your plate (i.e., a kilogram of beef costs as much as a kilo of lettuce). Some are excellent; all are cheap.
Café do Theatro: Below the Theatro Municipal, at Praça Floriano 210, in a cavernous room decorated with massive Assyrian figures designed from tiles; good food; feijoada on Friday since it’s closed Saturday (and Sunday); popular with businessmen. Reasonable.
Confecionaria Colombo: Ornate late 1800s two-story eatery in 'old Rio,' a maze of pedestrian-only streets near the Theatro Municipal. Though it serves sandwiches and other light meals, the Confecionaria is known for its pastries and decadent desserts. In 2008, a pot of coffee cost R$6,90 (US$5.75) and 'Chocolate Passion' (whipped cream, chocolate ice cream, brownie, and fudge sauce) R$13,90 (US$9.27).
Marius: The best churrascuria I’ve tried. Two dozen kinds of meat are delivered to your table on skewers. There’s also an hors d’œuvres, vegetable, and salad bar — and a sushi station. Very expensive. (The Marius grilled seafood restaurant is next door; and there's another Marius in Niteroi.)
UPDATE: 2004: The place has gone seriously downhill. I've posted a separate review. In sum, Marius is now 'for tourists only' -- and it shows in food quality and service.
St–Honoré: Top floor of the Meridian Hotel, with spectacular views and world–class French cuisine. Very expensive.
Cipriani: Copacabana Palace Hotel, world–class Italian cuisine. Very expensive.
UPDATE 2008: My pork ('suckling pig') was all but inedible. My wife's lamb chops were merely OK. Either there's a new chef or the regular chef had the night off.
La Pergula: Copacabana Palace Hotel, more casual than the Cipriani but with superb food (the cream of avocado soup is to die for). Expensive.
UPDATE 2004: The buffet lunch during Carnaval was spectacular -- but not so spectacular as the price. I paid R$127 (US$45), without a drink and before tip -- the most I've ever paid for a meal in Brazil. It simply wasn't worth it.
UPDATE 2008: Avocado soup is no longer on the menu. My lobster and my wife's shrimp dishes were excellent. Breakfast -- the most lavish I've encountered on five continents -- cost R$55 (US$37) each, though it was complimentary for us (as guests of the hotel).
Churrascuria Palace: Opposite the Copacabana Palace Hotel, a half-block in from Av Atlantico. Excellent food. Reasonable.
UPDATE 2008: Still better than Marius -- and still cheaper.
Madame Butterfly: The best of several Japanese restaurants I’ve tried; the shabu–shabu is superb. Expensive.
UPDATE 2008: M Butterfly has moved to a new and sterile building since 1998. All the servers -- except for the sushi chef -- were Euro-Brazilians the night we visited.
Plataforma: Rodizio on the ground floor of the nightclub. Excellent food. Expensive.
Sheraton Hotel: A first–class Italian restaurant (very expensive), a good rodizio (not cheap), and an ambitious coffee shop (not cheap).
Favorite Dish: Shabu-shabu at Madame Butterfly (in 1998 and 2008). The beef is Grade A and plentiful; the vegetables are fresh; and the tofu and noodles are firm.
Shabu-shabu is my favorite of all meals. I've had it in Japan; Hanoi and Saigon; Nairobi; Paris; London; New York; Washington, DC; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and the Big Island of Hawai'i. M Butterfly's is as good as any.
What a dump... Yes, it's charming and cute and all that good stuff, but the place is a run down aging dump. We got there early by dinner standards here, around 6:30 pm. The place smelled so strongly of deodorizing spray it was incredible. When it finally subsided, it wasn't hard to tell why they needed it. The smell of wet dog was so thick it literally made my stomach turn. My wife convinced me it must be the cheese we were sitting by, so we moved. Luckily there was a breeze where we moved to, but it didn't get any better. As the food started coming out, the food had a distinct rancid smell. All of it tasted HORRIBLE save for a few items. My son and wife said the bread was the best part.
Mind you we only had the seafood part. The menu is priced 115 for just meat, 150 reals for seafood, 170 reals for combination. That's a LOT of money. We shared a moderately priced bottle of wine, the three meals, two local cocktails, water and some sodas for my son. Final price 713 Reals... At todays exchange rate that was $382.00 USD! An absolute, absolute tourist rip off orchestrated by the hotel and taxi staff.
A MUCH better choice, where we ate the night before, was Oasis. An authentic rodizio style grill similar to Fogo de Chao in Houston. That was $225 for the three of us.
Favorite Dish: The table bread.
Well I've visited a lot of restaurants in my various stays in Rio de Janeiro and after six years of visiting this wonderful city, I finally went to Marius. The Restaurant has a pretty good name and is very well known in the city. So of we went.... we arrive at the restaurant and the waiter came to us to ask if we knew how the restaurant works, Rodizio (all you can eat for a fixed price), since I'm not new to the Rodizio system, I said i did. so the waiter pointed us out to the buffet and asked if we wanted a drink. We never saw a menu and they didn't offer us one. So the prices were unknown to us. We asked for a caipavodka (Caiparinha with Vodka instead of Cachasa). And we went over to the buffet. Honestly I wasn't very impressed with the seafood, the choice was not that eleborate, and the real goodies (lobster, king crab,.....) were hard to find. Luckily they came at the table with some better food. The Japanese food (nowadays always present in the better rodizio's) was there but the choice was again limited. The service at the table was not very good, especially if you compare it to the excellent service you get in almost all restaurants in Rio de Janeiro. And then came the "Bill" ..... I almost fell off my chair. the Rodizio of seafood was a 135 R$ (75 US $) per person. Te total bill for 2 Rodizio's 2 Caiparin's 4 beers and the final bill added up to a whopping 350 R$ (= 200 US $). For that amount I can go 4 times to a very good Japanese restaurant in Rio with far more better service. A pitty that all the big hotels send tourists to that restaurant ..... Oh I almost forgot when you go to the dessert buffet they add another 25 R$ per person to your bill. Even if you don't eat any dessert they try to put it on you r bill, we saw it happening to all the parties around us. So CHECK your bill for any unwanted items... This is a disgrace ....
The price would be something around 35 reais w/out the drinks.
During weekends its more expensive and crowed as well.
Copacabana Porcão is cheaper ( around 20 reais w/ no drinks) , the difference is that u dont have a rotanting buffet there, but the food is the same.
Favorite Dish: Meat in sections,salmon and shrimp, broiled and included in the rotating buffet. Weight watchers coordinate the light menu.
These restaurants I recommend for those who likes to eat a lot. Its very good.