Telephone (21) 2249 3055
Metrô Afrânio de Melo Franco
Leblon has no shortage of refined dining experiences, but few of them can be found very close to Giuseppe Grill, occupying as it does an awkward place on Rua Bartholomew Mitre, home to little more than bus stops and building sites aplenty. The glow of golden lights snaking up the trees outside by a large fish tank do their best to make up for all that, incongruous touches but ones that immediately suggest that inside lurks a superior purveyor of meat.
Which isn’t easy when you are pitching yourselves as a glorified ‘grill’, a genre that still conjures up images of American diners more than upmarket elegance. Opened in 2007, the interior is a carefully considered rehash of the quintessential '90s New York style, all appealing wooden panels, orange glows and dim lighting. Downstairs a huge table caters for large groups and the wine cellar overflows with dusty labels from Europe, Latin America and the New World. Meat may be their star turn, but the wine comes a very close second.
The couvert (R$16 per person) arrives without warning or request, but is ample enough to almost negate the need for an appetiser. Three dips – cheese, sun-dried tomato and herb – fresh dippers, onion relish and a bean salad all arrive and are reloaded before the bread basket even has time to cool down, but with a wine list twenty pages deep to peruse that is certainly no bad thing.
A fairly standard array of whites (starting at R$48) from Argentina and Chile are complemented by more unusual Portuguese and Spanish offerings, but it is red wine for which they clearly have a passion here. Page after page and shelf after shelf of the stuff, with something for all persuasions and pockets from Argentinian Malbecs to several offerings from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Treasured bottles among the 600 on offer include a Cheval Blanc '59 and a Pétrus '81 for those who take their drop very seriously.
The handsome fish perched atop the ice tray in front of the kitchen are unlikely to put off many carnivores, but their beady eyes were enough to keep us on the red meat. Sold by the kilo, the seafood options include giant shrimp (R$180), lobster, octopus and the ever-present, invariably excellent Pargo, Robalo and Badejo fish – all grilled and served with the side order of your choice.
Which is where the disappointment lurks. Newer establishments such as CT Boucherie have shown the way with slightly unusual or at the very least more carefully considered side orders, but Giuseppe’s list lacks inspiration. Four types of potato look like they have come from a frozen packet, eight styles of rice bring in things like coconut and egg but none really deliver any magic and the steamed vegetables crunched like they had been cooked with a hairdryer. The classic feijão beans even lacked any kind of punch, which frankly borders on the unforgiveable.
Which brings us, last but not least, to the meat. Three different cuts of steak were ordered, the Bife de chourizo proving the standout, a thick, juicy slab of steak that looked sumptuous from twenty yards and just got better the closer it came. The picanha was the most flavoursome, the jacket of fat locking in the richness, and the Ojo de bife was marginally less exciting. The problem lay in the Brazilian grilling style, with unnecessary chunks of rock salt plaguing the mouthfuls of meat and masking the genuine flavour.
It was a similar story with the organic chicken. Halved, splayed out and then clearly rubbed all over with the crystals, the actual flavour of chicken was in there somewhere but some forkfuls were rendered inedible such was the concentration lurking under the breast.
- Complexo Lagoon, Avenida Borges de Medeiros 1424, Lagoa (21 2239 1503)
- Rua da Quitanda 49, Centro (21 2507 6740)
22 Aug 2013.