Review: Olympe

20 July 2017

I woke up a little sore…that knee. But I headed out to explore the centre this morning, still being fuelled by that wonderful dinner at Lasai. It was rather warm and sunny, so I was a bit sweaty walking around… I wandered around Campo de Santana Park quite a bit, though there were too many unsavoury folks there to really enjoy all the birds, capybaras, cats and other happy animals there. Love seeing them tho!

Then I checked out the unique Cathedral, which had a rather interesting interior too. And after a bit more wandering I headed to lunch to a popular DT spot called Benedito. A nice bobó de camarão, but pretty small. But with all the tasting menus it’s probably good to have a light lunch…plus, knowing my next two destinations…my aorta thanks this kitchen!

I wandered a bit more before I headed back towards the south on the Metro. Didn’t want to push my knee much more so I headed back and did some packing as this was my last day in Rio and Brazil. Later I headed out and made the long, long, half-hour walk (including running thru traffic) to the Lagoa district for my final dinner in Brazil, Olympe.

Now of all 3 of my 1-Michelin dinners here, this one has me most worried. I’ve read some shockingly bad reviews about this place but it’s hard to believe a place could be so bad. Well, it’s been booked, so I went with it.

I got there and was sweating thanks to the long walk. I had to fan myself with the menu… But soon I cooled down and enjoyed a drink. I looked over the menu and went with the full tasting and pairing. It’ll be my last tasting menu for a few days…

I chilled out and finished my caipirinha before they poured a local sparkling and brought the first item — which was called a “mushroom cappuccino” by the linguistically-challenged server…

01-mushroom soup

It’s deep in flavour but was crazy salty. I needed to gulp down a lot of water just to be able to drink this. Too bad because the mushroom essence is good, but what’s with the crazy seasoning? Oh well, let’s hope things move upwards.

They topped off the bubbly and I sense my evening is not going upward from the next course…

02-ricotta pickled vegetables

Ricotta and pickled vegetables, though they couldn’t really describe it in English. I got a description in Portuguese and when I asked them to repeat it, they just said it LOUDER and FASTER. Great… Not really sure about this “ricotta” but it was no better than some store-bought “cheese spread” thing… At first I thought it looked like sick, but… The pickled vegetables were actually pretty sad. Honestly this is something you’d see in a wannabe place in the middle of nowhere, not a Michelin-starred restaurant in one of the world’s great (supposedly) cities…

My worries are starting to come true, though still nowhere as bad as those reviews I read. Then with a pour of an Argentinian white the next dish arrived based on shrimp…

03-shrimp

Not of very good quality, but still not as bad as that horrible died-of-old-age one at D.O.M. a few days ago… But this was now extremely bland — or has that soup destroyed my taste buds? These were really sad. I’ve seen better quality in a Chinese delivery place back home…

Now it’s starting to really worry me. The service has been slow, and it seems the kitchen is just bringing things out when some other tables are ready for their next dish. I asked them to move things faster for me since I am by myself. Not sure if they understood, but I tried saying it in English, Portuguese, and also Spanish just hoping to get the point across…

Then oddly a beer was poured and the next item arrived…

04-something weird

…and they described it and I have no idea what the hell they said. I asked to repeat but still couldn’t get it. And they made no effort to try to explain it further, just walking away. After tasting it I remained puzzled. All I could get out of it is that it is ridiculously acidic, there some bad pickled vegetables in this sour foam (or is it the acid bubbling up?), with a terrible poached egg that was under-cooked.

I’ve seen high school home economics cooking done better than this…

This is now as bad as some of the reviews I’ve read. Utterly shocked so far by all this, and contemplating abandoning this thing. Though things moved wee faster now, the quality is just shite…pure shite…

A pour of a pink grenache and we get a fish dish, a local whitefish from what I gathered…

05-white fish

If ever a plate was to be nicknamed DEEPWATER HORIZON this is it… Boring, the fish had almost no flavour. On the other hand, the palm heart was PICKLED TO DEATH and was inedible. I’m a guy who eats lemons fresh, and I couldn’t eat this thing… I had to abandon one of my favourite things to eat, that was how bad.

This now is just a comedy of errors, a joke upon a joke. I’ve never seen such rubbish at any restaurant in my life, not to mention one that supposed to have earned a Michelin star. This makes D.O.M. look like a treat… I’m sorry, there must be graft involved in the Brazil Michelin assessment, or the assessor(s) have had their tongues removed. This is now beyond stupid…

After a bit a Chilean red was poured, and a single raviolo was presented…

06-raviolo

Again, what is with the ridiculous acid? The filling, which I think is sweet potato, is just again ridiculously acidic for NO REASON. Drizzled with honey and drief beef, this is one of the most incongruent dishes I’ve seen. It’s one thing to challenge someone’s palate with conflicting flavours, but this is like asking John Lennon to run the hurdles while clipping his nails while wearing Henry Kissinger’s glasses…

That’s it, meal abandoned. I told them that’s enough. They came with the bill and offered to drum it down to a smaller menu price, so that’s fine. I paid and just got the hell out of there.

My goodness, how in the world could they have a restaurant that have such ridiculous service? Even if no one spoke any English, why do they think if they talk louder and faster in Portuguese that I would understand the local ingredients? Just shambolic. Not even in Japan would they contemplate being so unyielding even without language ability. Poor food, crap service. Sadly, all those scary reviews I mentioned? They were dead on. I saw so many “never been to a place so bad in my life” reviews, as well as “Michelin is a joke” pieces. I won’t mention which South American chef I mentioned my experience to later on, but this person laughed…like it’s a well-known regional joke…

Oh, this is such a crappy way to end my Brazil stay. Something tells me I will not be returning here… As much as Lasai and Tuju (and Eleven Rio and especially A Casa do Porco) were excellent, there’s too many other places to go to deal with so much BS. I can’t wait to get out of here…

WORST DINNER EVER.

Olympe
Rua Custódio Serrão 62, Lagoa
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

PS: I actually ended up in a beer bar drinking off this awful dinner later on, enjoying a plate of grilled sausages.

sausage

Frankly this was the best food I had all evening…

Review: Lasai

19 July 2017

The next day I got up after a pretty good rest and headed out, with umbrella in hand. The weather was actually far worse and was raining and misting on and off. I headed to the nearby Cemitério de São João Batista, which was a pretty good reflection of the city. Parts of the cemetery had a favela-like feel, and it was just way overcrowded. Amazing some illustrious individuals had such plain tombs, though many had more interesting ones. But this is one of the less visually interesting cemeteries in the region to be honest…

Afterwards I headed to have lunch at the venerable 143-year-old Café Lamas, which wasn’t bad. Old school in the extreme, and a nice plate of tongue — tho nowhere as good (or voluminous) as Santiago. I wandered around a bit before I headed back to the hotel, my knee bothering me quite a bit again…

After taking some meds and staying off it for a few hours while trying to sort out some stuff for my next destination, I headed back out to wander around. Eventually I also headed out to dinner. Tonight’s destination is Lasai.

Lasai is on the other side of Botafogo, so a nice 15min walk. Botafogo is an up-and-coming area and I enjoy being here far more than the beach. I got to Lasai and was led to the rooftop bar as they offered me a drink. And now I see why they do that…

A brilliant view of the Cristo Redentor, tonight shouded by the fog. After a little bit they were ready, so brought me down and sat me at the kitchen counter. This should be far more fun! And the hostess/sommelier was originally from the US, so certainly no language issues! But I heard some of the staff staging, so I think everyone functions well here in English.

A nice pour of a rare local wine as we started off with a quartet of vegetables…

01a-vegetables

The tempura bean was nice, the okra tasty, the squash crips nice, and the frisee sandwich solid — didn’t flake, made very well. Nice showcase of vegetables. In fact that’s a central core of the food here, showcasing the surprisingly good produce here in the Rio region. Next up more snacks.

02a-carrot bread daikon

On the right side was first a really tasty piece of daikon cooked in dashi, flanked by an interesting “carrot bread”. On the left side a tasty langostine and a nice broccolini.

02b-broccolini langostine

Good snacks! Again, I like the use of vegetables. Not the most exotic things, but it shows off good, clean produce. A good start! Then next up was something that’s more unique…

03-papaya cauliflower

A snack based on papaya and cauliflower, which surprisingly worked. Nice stuff. This is followed by a bit of a piss-take on eggs and toast…

04a-eggs beans

A nice poached egg with beans and some bread to nicely mop up the yolk as the egg was done perfectly.

Really nice so far! Now a nice light Chilean red and we move into larger items. This first one is a local sole in marrow sauce…

05-sole

Mmm, a lovely sauce, liking the sea parsley and chicory too. That small-batch Chilean pipeño was an excellent pair. In fact, the wine service has been amazingly good. If anything tonight’s service has been at a level consistent with Michelin places in Europe. And Chef Rafael Costa e Silva has also been good at describing the dishes with a detail that only the Chef would know, and that is much appreciated after that D.O.M. disaster!

Then a nice red is poured and we move into the next dish, pork belly…

06a-belly

Excellent, lovely and rich. The sauce was made from the head and is one of the most intense things I’ve had all trip. Lovely, pushes the limits. Wow… Fabulous!

I was a bit sad that this was the last savoury course, as it’s been an excellent evening — solid cooking, top service, friendly chatty folks. First up in this last segment is the cheese course.

07a-cheese

A nice combination of locals, including an excellent goat. Then to the first dessert, a kumquat sorbet. Tasty.

08-kumquat sorbet

Then the main dessert…

09a-chocolate

Mmm, a choco-tastic finish. From 70% cocoa stuff, with fennel sorbet and banana. This may be the best dessert of the year…just delicious!

Then some fabulous coffee and nibbles and I ended the wonderful evening tasting various infused cachaça that Chef Costa e Silva brought out. We had a great time chatting too, which is such a nice thing to do at the counter with a chef — the way these counters are designed to create interaction.

Wow, this was excellent. Fabulous service, solid kitchen, good ingredients, and a wonderful view upstairs! This is exactly what I wanted to get in a restaurant experience when I travel! And a tasting menu that’s not overwhelming, a perfect one for this evening. After a meal like this you have to ask… WTF is wrong with D.O.M.?

Very, very recommended!

Lasai
Rua Conde de Irajá 191, Botafogo
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

Review: Eleven Rio

18 July 2017

The next day, still ticked off at that ridiculously crappy evening at D.O.M., I was counting the hours to getting out of São Paulo. Don’t need this BS. Thank goodness my flight out was at CGH Airport instead, so the traffic was nowhere as stupid.

Got there and thank goodness not much drama on the short flight to Rio de Janeiro. But once again ripped off by the taxi cartel because they don’t allow Cabify to pick up there. Ugh…total rip-off… But it got me to my hotel in the Botafogo area and I checked in. Chilled out and ran a few errands, like getting a Metro card and buying water. The weather was turning quite awful…

I just relaxed the afternoon before heading to dinner down in Ipanema. I fought the rush-hour commute on the Metro, which was extremely unpleasant…and got down to a stormy Ipanema. Walked along the beach and it was…well, there was no girl from Ipanema walking around there that’s for sure.

I got to my dinner destination, Eleven Rio, at 7pm. They were not ready…seems they got the time mixed up and was opening at 7.30pm…but they quickly got their act together after some idiocy, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. But after the service hell last night at D.O.M., it’s making me worried already…another Michelin (1*) mess here?

As I was enjoying my martini they said I can go to my table, so I did. Finished my drink there as I looked over the menu. Things started to move well now, so I was happy to go with a full tasting and wine pairing. Let’s hope this goes better than last night’s clusterf**k

Service is already moving better than last night, done with care and courtesy. A nice pink bubbly is poured and with some bread the snacks begin to appear.

01a-snacks

A nice selection of items focused on seafood, from the ceviche to the spring roll-like cone. A nice start. Then some jamon…

02-jamon_edited

Not bad, with some goat cheese and pumpkin jam. The server also mentioned that it’s the chef’s trademark to have a wee piece of tomato on each dish, and I appropriately finished each dish from this point on with that tomato. Then we started into the larger courses once a nice Argentinian pinot grigio was poured…

03-langostine_edited

Oh, this langostine was divine. Such beautiful flavours of quality ingredient. Compared to that horribly stringy thing at D.O.M. last night, this was perfection. Wow… The crayfish salad was also fantastic. An excellent dish to say the least, blew away last night already!

I breathed a sigh of relief sensing tonight was going to go well, from the solid service to the excellent food. I was starting to smile. I had worried that Rio was going to be worse than SP, but it’s not proving to be the case at all so far. Then the next dish was tuna.

04-tuna

In various preparations, but the seared pieces were excellent. Avocado was nice addition. Another good dish! Another good pour of a Portuguese alvarinho and we shifted to the next item.

05-seafood stew

This was another excellent dish, a seafood stew with another good prawn. But the base of the stew was foie gras! Fabulous aroma and flavour. The cabbage tho got stuck together, but another excellent dish!

I was really enjoying this dinner so far, and it’s helping me block out last night’s nightmare — which I will likely revisit when I see my credit card statement. But nevertheless, another white is poured and we moved into a fish dish.

06-mullet-squid_edited

A local red mullet, very tasty. The mushroom sauce was fabulous, and so was the baby squid on top. An excellent dish overall! I’m saying that quite a lot tonight! Then another floral white from Portugal is poured and I assume we’re still with seafoods — and that’s perfectly awesome as it’s been excellent tonight! They need to give D.O.M. a lesson in sourcing!

07-rock lobster

Next up was rock lobster, which was fabulous. Full of rich natural flavour that was extremely intense. Unfortunately the risotto was a bit mixed, parts were good but parts weren’t…a bit of a cooking blunder here. But still that rock lobster was just stunning…

Then a pour of a shiraz signals a change, and I chuckled to myself when this dish was presented and described…

08-chicken

Free-range chicken. Lovely taste here, but I couldn’t help myself but laugh as I had a flashback to the film Cidade de Deus (City of God) and the chasing of that poor “free-range” chicken in the favela… But it did taste good! Tonight is a masterclass of good cooking and good service that D.O.M. ought to learn, if they get off their high horse… A pour of a Portuguese red and we have the last savoury course.

09-filet mignon_edited

Filet mignon. Not my favourite cut, and was probably the weakest dish of the night, sadly. In any case, the seafood procession has been fantastic, one of the best series of seafood dishes I’ve had in ages. An excellent night. A quick pre-dessert puff and then a very cute item…

10a-tree

The dessert tree! I picked the fruit happily and enjoyed it. Then we had the next, main dessert item based on chocolate and beets.

11-chocolate beets_edited

Not bad, a good closing number — though I did remove that annoying edible gold to the side…

Then I had another drink and coffee and enjoyed some closing nibbles, and chatted with the server for a little, talking about Portugal and SP and things. Really nice evening overall. That opening mishap was quickly sorted, which is a sign of a good FoH. My complements to the management here.

Overall this was a rather excellent dinner, the procession of seafood dishes were spectacular. For one thing, I feel far more confident about Rio’s dining scene now, which puts me at more of a rest for the next few nights. I headed out into the stormy night very happy.

Eleven Rio
Avenida Vieira Souto 234, Ipanema
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil