In the streets of Brazil’s bustling capital city, visitors will find an overwhelming number dining options. There’s seemingly no limit to the varieties of Brasilia’s gastronomy, but these restaurants represent some of the best on offer.
The Fasano franchise is renowned across the country for their gourmet Italian cuisine, and their Gero branch in Brasilia’s Iguatemi mall lives up to the high expectations. Taste reigns supreme here, with the slick yet casual decor channeling something of a rustic Mediterranean ambiance. It is completed by low lighting, simple furnishings, and indoor plants carefully placed around tables adorned with pristine white tablecloths. The menu includes a range of pasta and seafood, and artfully constructed desserts, as pleasurable to behold as they are to taste.
Endorsed by the Peruvian government,Taypá restaurant, has certainly pulled out all the stops to impress with traditional Peruvian cuisine. While the food is traditional and sophisticated, the ambiance is a somewhat eclectic fusion between rustic, with wooden-paneled walls and muted earthy colors, garishly modern, with stark bulbs hanging directly from the ceiling, and timeless sophistication, with marble and granite furnishings. The dishes are simple but presented as works of art, for example the lomo saltado, which sees potato and vegetable batons cooked to perfection and balanced carefully atop tender spiced steak. Peruvian fish dishes also live up to expectation, whether you opt for cooked or ceviche varieties.
Celebrating the culture of the historic Minas Gerais state, including art, music and of course, gastronomy, Feitiço Mineiro seems as though it has been transplanted straight from the south eastern state into the city just over the border. The restaurant was founded by Jorge Ferreira, a popular culture figure who dedicated himself to music, literature, fine art and dining. His values are now embedded and preserved in the high-quality food and cultural events the restaurant offers. The menu provides traditional delights such as mexido a mineira, a typical dish made of white rice, tutu (creamy spiced beans), smoked lard, shredded beef, cabbage, scrambled eggs and sausage, and surubim a pirapora, a traditional fish stew. Visitors revel not only in the staggering range of hearty meals, but also the communal ambiance and the vibrant program of live music concerts.
Restaurant, Salad Bar, Seafood, Brazilian, American, Contemporary, $$$
Carpe Diem is a hot spot for Brasilia’s metropolitan community of thinkers, writers, artists and intellectuals. It often plays host to bustling cultural events, including book launches, discussion groups, art exhibitions and music nights. The restaurant is deservedly proud of its fixture on the cultural scene, but during the day it is the food that really draws in the crowds. The lunchtime buffet is a hearty and popular option, serving guests inside the long and bright dining hall or outside on the lush veranda. The chefs offer a wonderful weekend feijoada – traditional pork and bean stew – and a shrimp risotto that is a regular favorite most days of the week.
The award-winning Universal Diner by Chef Mara Alcamim is more a retro cafe than a traditional American diner. It features enough razzle dazzle to satisfy anyone’s fair share of kitsch. The decor is fun and eccentric; modern antiques adorn the restaurant, including miniature dolls, vinyl records and an array of kitschy pieces. The food is just as surprising, including a wide range of succulent meat and fish dishes. Unusual combinations include ‘aphrodisiac shrimp’ with brie and champagne sauce, caviar and strawberry and sage risotto, and rack of lamb with honey and pepper, lady’s finger, corn couscous, almonds and homemade boursin of feta cheese.
On the edge of Brasilia’s expansive artificial lake, Lago Paranoá, Restaurante Aquavit is one of the best places for fine dining, enhanced by the spectacular location. Chef Simon Lau Cederholm, originally from Denmark, serves up sophisticated dishes that play on traditional and contemporary cuisines. Guests are encouraged to opt for the innovative five-course monthly taster menu, which uses seasonal and regional produce to create inspired seafood dishes with delicate sauces. These include marinated and grilled tuna with tomatoes, honey jataí, ginger and vanilla cerrado, and inventive meat plates with fresh vegetable sides, such as rack of lamb with eryngui mushrooms, grilled okra and a wine reduction. The style is elegant, and each course is complemented by a carefully chosen wine-pairing, for a comprehensive gastronomical experience on the shore.
On the opposite shore of the lake, Mangai restaurant, with its impressive architecture, located just by the JK Bridge, provides a distinctively less intimate experience. Seating 900 patrons at capacity, the vast venue is a monument to its success. It has developed and expanded from a family farmhouse offering fresh bread, cheese and vegetables into a giant buffet restaurant, serving food by the kilo and customers by the hundreds. In spite of the accelerated growth, the restaurant remains committed to sustainable and ethical values, with dedicated programs for recycling and food for the poor. The most popular specialties are the Carne de sol com nata, shredded beef strips in a creamy stew, and the Baião de Dois traditional pot from the north eastern country, comprising two types of rice, green beans, melted cheese, vegetables and beef jerky.
One of the only places to sample fine French cuisine in the city, La Chaumiere has been delighting guests for more than 45 years. A charming anecdote reveals how current chef and owner Severino was compelled to unintentionally tour across France for four months, sampling every type of cuisine and each and every wine he could, before the owners were comfortable handing their pioneering restaurant into his hands. Both decor and food is traditional and impressive not for being experimental or outlandish but rather for its calibre. The menu ranges from the humble omelette Roquefort to the tantalizing chicken gabriela, with orange sauce, mustard and pineapple. Just in case the Brazilian rodizios don’t quite hit the carnivorous cravings, La Chaumiere’s 11 different types of French-style steak will be sure to satisfy.
No list of the capital’s restaurants could be complete without a mention of Brazil’s famous gastronomical genre – the traditional rodizio continuous meal service. Fogo de Chão, the churrascaria steakhouse restaurant, takes fine-dining consumption to the extreme; slick waiters are always on hand at your table to serve up to 18 different cuts of meat, including the Southern Brazilian specialities picanha –top sirloin, seasoned two different ways, fraldinha –grilled bottom sirloin, and lombo –pork loin roasted in a parmesan cheese coating. While the meat is the main affair, the meal starts with a visit (or many visits) to the deliciously fresh salad bar, and the meat courses are complemented by traditional side dishes such as warm cheese bread, crispy polenta cakes, and caramelized bananas. With their attentive service, sleek decor, and wealth of experience serving the best cuts of Brazilian meats all over the world, it is no surprise that the Brasilia branch of the Fogo de Chão franchise is one of the most successful restaurants in the city.