Telephone (21) 2512 8623
Metrô bus Baixo Leblon
Seemingly as likely to be found buzzing between tables in the elegant dining room of the Leblon branch of his Rio brasserie as toiling behind the scenes, you get the feeling that Parisian chef and Chez L'Ami Martin owner Pascal Jolly lives every dish that his kitchen serves. The menu positively glows with simple passion for the cuisine (and wines) of his native France and its delicious follies, the tone of which is set nicely by the arrival of a pot of perfectly salty French fries and an immaculate Terra Amata rosé apparently discovered from just off the Mediterranean coast.
Adding to the air of an authentic (albeit with some unmistakably Leblon touches) French bistrô, regulars come and go, hugs are dished out and wines discussed at length throughout the evening. The pursuit of a refined liveliness and the desire for a familial air has led to the welcome introduction of a three-course set menu in mid-2013, featuring imaginative soups, succulent lamb and coq-au-vin that won't break the bank (R$69, Mon-Thu), nicely removing the shackles of formality and expense in one fell swoop.
As for the menu proper, the classics are left reassuringly untouched. Eggs Bearnaise are served on house waffles with rocket (R$38), there is a Couper Minute steak tartare (R$40) and a fully fledged steak haché coming with brie and gruyere, fries and everything else that a good burger should (R$42).
As for the wines, only the occasional Super Toscana or Rioja veer from the valleys of Jolly's homeland. The Picpoul de Pinet from Bourdeaux is a triumph of dry clarity best enjoyed alongside the La Brochette de coeur de palmier - large, juicy shrimp on a 'skewer' of pumpunha palm and served with a rich shrimp bisk and lime risotto (R$86). Each day the sommelier serves a specific red by the glass (white, sparkling and champagne are also available), and Cognac fans will find a ready knowledge and keen recommendations awaiting.
Chez L'Ami Martin can also be found at:
Fashion Mall, Estrada da Gávea 899 (shop 304), São Conrado (21 3322 2005). Open Daily 12.30pm-midnight.