What a busy weekend we had! We managed to visit no less than four of the bars participating in this year’s Comida di Buteco competition. I like this competition for a few reasons: it stimulates creativity and competition between bars; it encourages people to support these local small businesses; it’s a great way to discover new bars; it gives me an excuse to go out and eat, drink and be merry with Mrs Eat Rio in the name of ‘research’.
As I understand it, bars don’t just choose to participate in Comida di Buteco – they are invited – and it looks like it gives a serious boost to business. All the bars we visited were packed full of happy customers enthusiastically evaluating the petiscos, cervejas and caipirinhas on offer. Here’s a little taste of how things went…
Bar: This must be the perfect example of the ‘CdB Effect’ in terms of discovering new places. Botero opened last August but none of my fellow drinking companions had heard of it until it was listed in the competition. Clearly this place is no secret though as it was packed on Friday night. Even though it was really busy, the waitress brought our drinks quickly and even pulled over a beer crate so we had somewhere to put them while we waited for a table. MAP
Dish: Three pairs of bruschettas, one topped with shredded beef rib, one with linguiça and herbs and one with a tiny fried quail egg. Seriously delicious, I scored it 9 (out of 10).
Overall: I really liked this place – we tried a couple of other things from the menu and they were seriously good. This could be my new favourite local bar!
Bar: Just a short walk from Praça XV in Centro, Antigamente is situated on Rua do Ouvidor, a cosy little alleyway lined with a selection of bars which all setup chairs and tables outside. On weekends you can often hear live samba in the area. MAP
Dish: Antigamente went for a funny looking dish. The ‘blini’ was rather like a potato cake, though made out of aipim (mandioca) I think. It was topped with a kind of creamy, meaty mixture and although it does look a bit weird, it was really tasty. Score: 7.5
Overall: The bar staff were a bit chaotic and I felt a bit sorry for the owner who seemed to be losing his patience with the waiters! Nevertheless, the food was tasty, the drinks were great (including that caipirinha) and this whole area has a nice atmosphere. Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t made it out of Zona Sul recently.
Bar: Imaculada is in an amazing location – a picturesque narrow street that leads down from Morro da Conceição, one of the oldest parts of Rio. This was my first time at this bar and I liked it as soon as we walked in – it has a nice, airy feel with high ceilings and lots of interesting art on the walls. The owner greeted us and took our order and everything was going fine until the special Comida di Buteco dish arrived… MAP
Dish: This dish seemed like it was made by someone who had no interest in food – a big, boring linguiça (with added gristle), some fried onions (just friend onions, not even some garlic or anything else to make it interesting), some lame flat-bread and a pot of what appeared to be mayonnaise with some flavourless potato/aipim mixed through it. Either this was a real ‘last-minute’ job, or they just had no idea about flavour combinations. I’m not even going to include an image for this one (you can see a photo on the CdB website if you really want – even that looks like they rushed it or couldn’t be bothered). Score: 2
Overall: OK, I’ll stop my wannabe food critic act now. Overall this seems like a really nice bar and I’ll definitely go back when I’m in the area. Just a shame they missed this opportunity to do something interesting with their food (the other dishes I saw people ordering looked pretty good by the way).
Bar: If Botero is my new favourite local bar, Da Gema could well be the bar I’m willing to travel for. And in fact the journey from Glória isn’t even that bad – 9 stops on the metro to Saens Peña, which takes around 20 minutes, followed by a 10 minute walk. It’s probably quicker than getting to Leblon actually. Anyway, this place is a great example of a brilliant bar that keeps things simple. It’s basically just a largish open room filled with tables and chairs. There’s some nice, simple decoration and everything feels clean and comfortable. It was packed full of a cheery Sunday afternoon crowd, happily enjoying the great food and drinks.
Dish: For me, this was the best dish so far – soft, stewed chunks of beef, tender tangy bite-size pieces of linguiça, soft gooey pieces of aipim, all wallowing in an amazing pesto de agrião (watercress pesto). Wowsers! This was at least as good as it sounds – rich, tasty, satisfying, and really inventive. They served it on a nice wooden board surrounded by a great chilli oil in a shot glass and some pieces of bread which were perfect for mopping up the sauce left in the bottom of the pot. Score: 9.5
Overall: The CdB dish was so good, we tried some other things on the menu and they were also really delicious. A glance to the trophy plates on the wall shows that they are past winners (and finalists) of Comida di Buteco and on this evidence I can see why. The staff were friendly and efficient, the drinks were excellent and the other customers gave this bar a really warm, friendly atmosphere. We don’t often go out in Tijuca, but I think that is about to change – this place is worth the trip!
OK, so that’s my little run down of the 4 CdB bars I’ve sampled so far this year. If you’re considering a visit to Rio in the next year or two, you may well decide to time your trip to coincide with Carnival, the World Cup or the Olympics, but if you’re as greedy as me, you might just want to consider a visit during the month long Comida di Buteco competition – everyone’s a winner!
Comida di Buteco runs through til 12th May – more details here.