Moqueca de camarão at Bira
R$135 serves 3-4. Guaratiba
Cariocas stream westwards at weekends to sample the seafood menu at Bira, up in the hills of Guaratiba and possibly the hardest-to-find restaurant in the state. Unsignposted and down a sharp hill, the rustic spot is an absolute treat thanks to incredible views across the mangroves and a nice line in laidback Rio dining. The shrimp moqueca is a coconut milk-based stew full of palm oil, peppers and huge shrimps perched on top, best enjoyed with a little glug of chilli sauce for those who like it hot.
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Rabado at Irajá Gastrô
To give the dish its full name, the Rabado como se fosse ossobuco, suppli de açafrão is the best thing on an extremely inviting menu at the contemporary Irajá Gastrô. Slow-cooking oxtail meat over several hours and then reforming it to resemble ossobuco, the chef creates a depth of flavour that is hard to beat, even before the açafrão is broken into, a creamy Italian rice ball made with turmeric. Just the kind of dish that you never want to end.
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Ojo de bife at Porcão
R$97 buffet. Flamengo
The original and best all-you-can-eat buffet is found on the edge of Flamengo Park, from where Porcão looks out across the bay to Sugarloaf Mountain and Urca. The building may be something of an eyesore, but once inside the skewers of juicy filé just keep coming, interspersed with everything from chicken hearts to ostrich steak. Before the slices of cheese-injected sirloin and picanha get a little too much, make a special request for the ultra-succulent ojo de bife (rib-eye steak). It may take a few extra minutes, but a break from all the eating is probably a good idea.
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Feijoada at Bar do Mineiro
R$30 per person. Santa Teresa
You never forget your first seriously long, lazy weekend feijoada. The full production includes slices of orange, a mountain of kale, pig's ear, and not forgetting that all important caipirinha sidekick. Mineiro's down-to-earth version of the national dish is of the perfect flavour and consistency, combining with the convivial setting of this Santa Teresa bar to make it worth the occasional wait for a table on a Sunday afternoon.
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Cabrito at Nova Capela
R$84 serves 2. Lapa
A little bit dingy, a little bit unwelcoming, the crumbly exterior of this famous Lapa bar is worrying, then the bright lights inside prove equally so. Settle in to an excellent draught chopp or two, though, and the atmosphere slowly seeps under the skin. A similar tale can be told of the signature goat dish, where the crunchy exterior seems off-putting, but the tenderness of what lies within rapidly dispels any doubts. Traditional, rich and served with broccoli rice, potatoes and a dollop of old-school Lapa.
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Picanha na Brasa at Braseiro
R$60 serves 2-3. Gávea
As the name suggests, Braseiro serves up classic Brazilian food to hoards of hungry locals every day of the week in the heart of hip Baixo Gávea. Of all the city's DIY, grill-at-your-table picanhas, this one has the most buttery layer of this particular cut's signature fat, and a good manioc farofa to mop up the juices as well as the ever present carb-hit of a pile of fries and rice.
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Ika Sautée at Azumi
The hidden treasures of Japanese cooking are allowed to roam free behind the unimposing façade of Azumi on this quiet Copacabana back street. Forget the likes of Sushi Leblon and Manekineko, this is the real deal, where customers have to take their shoes off before entering the private, screened-off rooms upstairs and generations of Japanese chefs command the kitchens. The Ika Sautée is proof, were it needed, that the flavours of Japan don’t have to start and finish with a razor-sharp knife and still-breathing fish, the tender squid arriving in a sizzling pan filled with chunks of asparagus and shiitake mushrooms.
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Diavola pizza at Luigi's
In the land of the heavily-cheesed slice, Luigi's pizza is an absolute joy. This old house in Laranjeiras serves up a dependable selection from the huge wood-fired oven, never scrimping on the toppings nor, just as crucially, the tomato sauce - a home-made rich and tangy delight. Pepperoni-lovers should look no further than the Diavola, where the meat is of above-average quality but it's the slithers of dedo de moça chilli pepper scattered on top that really make it zip.
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Lamb Rogan Josh at Mekong
Beyond the decent Thai efforts of nearby Sawasdee and Nam Thai, curry options are extremely limited in Rio, so it's well worth knowing that there is an English (second best to Indian?) owner behind Mekong. Offering a selection of flavours from the regions that bank the Mekong River, it's the lamb rogan josh that hits the mark, served up with a decent kick (ask for extra spice if you are more used to a vindaloo than korma), basmati rice and a great view out onto the bustle of Rua Dias Fereira.
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Classic Burger at Via Sete
The quality of the organic meat in Via Sete’s burger is such that it's possible to convince yourself this is actually a healthy option. Shattering the illusion, a hefty side of fries comes with a choice of dips and in the gloam of the house's dim lighting, it all makes for a perfect plate of pure comfort food pleasure.
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