It sometimes happens in restaurants, that the choicest cuisine is completely undone by poor service, unpleasant surroundings, or a dull atmosphere. But sometimes too, the fare is completely outdone by exceptional service, fascinating surroundings or a fabulous atmosphere. And so it happened, at Rio’s Zozo, that the most succulent churrasco and the ultimate caipirinha were almost totally eclipsed by the service, the décor and the ambiance.
The front windows and veranda of Zozô look out across a busy square at Praia Vermelha into the majestic profile of Pao d’Acucar. On one side is the Naval Academy and on the other the cable car station. The restaurant’s back windows and roof stare straight into a massive rock of the same rounded shape, without foothold, as Uluru and of the same grainy, grey hue as Pao d’Acucar. From the floor a tree spreads giant limbs out and up, through the roof. It pushes against the rock and throws constantly shifting shadows on the floor.
Torn between the amazing setting and the stunning view, it’s difficult to give due attention to the impeccable dishes of churrasco that appear on the table and to the team of Latin Lotharios in suits who deliver them. But it’s worth wresting the eyes away from the cinema outside the front window, the waiters, the tree and the overhanging rock to browse at the buffet which offers everything from sushi to acai na tigela. It’s worthwhile, too taking a stroll past the great tree to see the row of recessed “altars” with their statues of the Holy Family and the saints all dressed in luxurious cloth and surrounded by candles and votive offerings.