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Opened in December 2011, the latest restaurant to take Humaitá's ever-morphing (and ever-improving) gastronomic quarter by storm is Irajá Gastrô, a contemporary Brazilian charmer set in a shabby-chic 1930s listed building on the road with which it shares its name.
After the ‘70s-inspired lounge-come-waiting area, complete with arty books and an almost poetic drinks menu, the brighter, palm-lined wall of the main room exudes a more typical, modern carioca warmth. Next door, the kitchen neighbours a 'chef's table', an eight-person dining experience that takes care of the serious business of bringing chef Pedro Artagão (formerly of MAM’s slick Laguiole restaurant) and diner closer together for those with the forward planning to book the popular spot.
All of which is important because it is the little touches that help set Irajá apart from the pack, be it for the flavoured ice in the cocktails or the sublime texture of the liquid buffalo mozarella in the caprese salad that sits on top of five different types of tomato. Beginning, therefore, with a Tropicalista (mini-cucumber, wasabi, basil coconut water and gin) or Sex on Ipanema Beach (cranberry ice cubes in vodka with a cloud of orange juice) to accompany the aforementioned salad is highly recommended.
The bulk of the menu is hearty and traditional, serving up dishes like the classic countryside special galinhada (R$18), a literal chickenfest using a poached free-range egg, a rich chicken sauce and corn puree to get the tastebuds dancing. The choice of main dishes is also nicely fuss-free, with a fish of the day and Risoto Primavera (R$42 and described on the menu as 'almost rice-free' for anyone worried about stodge) leading the way.
The Amazon receives its now customary nod, too, in the form of the pirarucu fish (one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, fact fans) served with sautéed banana and a palm heart ‘fondant’, all drizzled with a chilli-based vinaigrette.
In the land of desserts, meanwhile, the hot bolo de brigadeiro (R$22) couples an oozing version of the chocolate-strand covered truffle-y delight with a fluffy sponge and served with fresh vanilla cream.
11 Mar 2013.