When summer really arrives, the idea of feijoada, steak and all the greats of Brazilian cooking suddenly seem a little too much to handle. For a city still not so big on light bites, it can take a bit of a hunt to find what you’re looking for, though, and while dependable restaurants such as Market and Celeiro come to the rescue with their sheer breadth of choice, and Gula Gula has always offered something mais leve (lighter) for the after-beach crowd, some more unlikely places are also popping up with their own heat-beaters this season.
For starters, the enduring Ipanema classic Garden has introduced a wonderfully light seafood ceviche in avocado sauce (R$25). Plus, as part of their Chilean-inspired summer menu, the wine list includes a Cordilera Chardonnay (R$79) and Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc (R$44.60) from the country that make for a perfect splash of post-beach refreshment.
Even Bibi Sucos have got in on the act, adding the exotic lychee juice (R$8.60) and a rather too healthy-sounding orange, aubergine and linseed combo (R$6.40) to their boards. Following the shop’s recent facelift a new health regime seems to have been enforced to follow suit, with salads like the Caprese (R$16.50) and Caesar (R$14.90) arriving, along with quiches, to at last offer tempting alternatives to the legendary steak sandwiches and burgers.
2012 could in fact be the summer of the little furry fruit what with those saviours of summer Mil Frutas adding a strawberry, lychee and mint variety to their list of over 200 different flavours of top-notch ice cream. Not to mention the fact that Sushi Leblon’s Caipisake com lichia – a Japanese take on the classic caipirinha – has been a bit of a must for some time, and remains the best in the city. Keeping this both oriental and ice cream-y, Mekong has a totally fresh tea-based ice cream with subtle Indian spices to take the edge off their recently added Chicken Tikka Massala.
Fratelli (Avenida General San Martin 983, Leblon, 21 2259 6699/fratellirestaurante.com.br) marks the season with some summer goodness in the form of a warm duck salad with asparagus (R$49), several mains including wholewheat penne in the lightest of cherry tomato and basil sauces (R$49), and red fruit tart with sour cream (R$22) for anyone after dessert. On a more oriental tip, Sawasdee quite possibly takes the prize with its mouth-watering thai gazpacho soup (R$19) and grilled octopus with curried mango and cucumber (R$23), all of which can be washed down with, you guessed it, a lychee margherita (R$18).
For its part, Gula Gula has introduced a curried quinoa salad (R$19) and a goats cheese terrine with toast (R$18) to add to their already decidedly summery menu, and half the people in there will have sand in their toes and a soggy bikini on underneath their clothes whatever the time of year as if to underline their seasonal credentials. As indeed they do at Delírio Tropical, where the salads come fast and fresh, but arriving like a thunderbolt from Barra is Balada Mix, managing to combine the best of Bibi (you get a complete choice of juices and açaí) with Delírio’s choice of salads and grilled and meaty mains.
As for summery settings, you would be hard pushed to beat the beachside glory of Copacabana’s Tres, where crepes and seafood vie with the platter of exquisite cold meats and cheeses for your attentions and the mojitos and daquiris encourage an afternoon linger. If it is unusual outdoor locations that are required, then the terrace at Gávea’s Prado, literally next door to the thundering hooves of the Jockey Club’s racetrack, is hard to outdo on a balmy evening. Equally the varanda at Ipanema’s Via Sete on bustling Garcia de Ávila, where options like the couscous salad help lighten things up, makes for a great late afternoon sun-down dinner, before the important business of the evening’s entertainment takes over proceedings.