In our quest for the best, we scouted out restaurants all over Brazil, compiling a list of finalists to narrow them down to just 17 of the best of the best. It wasn’t easy. As we believe that a beachside seafood shack can be just as good, in its own way, as a sleek Michelin-starred establishment, we included restaurants of all types and size, excluding, sometimes reluctantly, only food stalls and street stands.
Our list comes from The Daily Meal’s recently published 101 Best Restaurants in Latin America and the Caribbean. In order to find the best, we consulted industry experts, local food guides, reviews, and listings, and compiled our own knowledge from experiences at restaurants in the different regions. What we ended up with was a short list of 214 restaurants from 25 different countries and regions. This list was then shared with our illustrious panel of judges (comprised primarily of restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and assorted bloggers from across the globe), who undertook the tough task of voting for their favorites across a broad geographical area. In the interests of accuracy and fairness, panelists were asked only to vote for restaurants where they had eaten within the past 12 months.
The voting — based on region, cuisine, and the style of the restaurant (budget, casual/neighborhood, and serious dining/special occasion) — narrowed the list to an honored group of 101. The final list includes a versatile mix of restaurants from all the 25 different countries nominated.
Brazil — where the remarkable Alex Atala of D.O.M. in São Paulo has galvanized the food scene over the past decade — had the second largest number of restaurants, 17. At Olympe in Rio de Janeiro, French-born father-and-son duo Claude and Thomas Troisgros, of the famous Burgundian restaurant dynasty, focus on Brazilian ingredients — think yucca, tucupi juice, and açai — incorporating them into classic European dishes. Sushi Leblon’s vast menu goes far beyond sushi to include Latin-infused Japanese fare like sake-marinated foie gras brûlée with mango, and sea urchin ceviche with lime, onion, ginger, and ground pepper. And some diners grow tired of a menu that never changes, so the restaurant at Brazil's Ponta Dos Ganchos makes sure that its guests are never bored, by "astonishing" them with a menu that changes daily — incorporating local fish, prawns, oysters, and mussels freshly caught on the island, as well as ingredients grown in the restaurant’s organic kitchen garden.
As you click through our list, reflect on your own opinions and thoughts on our selections — how did your favorite restaurant rank, and what do you think should have been numero uno? In the end, we all have our own opinions on what is "best," and as we can attest from past experience, any list like this one is bound to stir up disagreements among discerning diners; even our own staff was divided on which restaurants should make the final cut.
Haley Willard (@haleywillrd) is the Assistant Editor at The Daily Meal. Special contributors Elsa Saatela (@elsamaija), Lauren Mack (@lmack), editorial director Colman Andrews (@Colmanandrews), executive editor Arthur Bovino (@Arthur_Bovino), and contributor and blogger The Foodish Boy (@foodishboy), contributed to 17 Best Restaurants in Brazil.