Portuguese gastronomy is at the core of Rio’s botequins, the small, often family-run gastrobars spread all over the city. Traditional botequins offer European food and some unique aspects of Brazilian culture – mix you’ll find only in Rio.
That being said, it’s hard to say whether Tasca Carvalho, the brand new Portuguese gastrobar in Copacabana, is a typical botequim. Run by two young Portuguese friends newly arrived from Porto, Tasca Carvalho is not a mix, but 100 percent Portuguese. And that makes it unique in Rio’s street food landscape.
Perhaps the only indication of Brazilian influence you might find at Tasca Carvalho is in the ambience. The tables and benches, spread all over the sidewalk, follow the carioca rules of informality. OK, there’s also the icy-cold beer, and the huge TV, both of which also make clear that yes, this is Rio. But that’s it. The food Pedro and Marcos serve is strictly Portuguese, a blend of traditional and modern flavors.
First things first: the bar is a great place to enjoy delicious Serra da Estrela – not just the best Portuguese cheese, but one of the best cheeses in the world. Served in huge half-kilo portions accompanied by fresh bread, the cheese offers hours of pure delight for up to five people and is worth the price. Also worth every real are the pataniscas, an unusual version of Rio’s beloved cod balls. Unlike those, however, these pataniscas are made with only shredded cod and eggs – no potatoes in sight. We highly recommend the polvo à lisboeta (Lisbon-style octopus), as well as the tremoços beans and the black olives from Alto Minho, one of the finest olive regions in the world. All of these are classic Portuguese offerings – but rare finds in Rio’s botequins.
Then there’s Tasca Carvalho modern side. Its morcelas, a traditional Portuguese blood sausage, is ingeniously paired with pineapples here, and the sardines are served with red and yellow pepper and bread. In a display of pyrotechnic bravado, chouriço is torched by the waiter at the table, to the delight of customers.
The owners serve daily specials in the form of simple, yet excellent small plates, such as the manchego cheese canapés. To wash down all these delectable dishes, there are vinhos verdes, traditional Portuguese green wine, as well as wines from Alentejo. For those who don’t feel quite comfortable having wine at a botequim, the beer here is the 90-year-old brand Super Bock. It’s not going to knock your socks off, but it’s stuck around this long for a reason.
Even though it hasn’t been open very long, the bar has already conquered the hearts of many cariocas, tourists and, of course, members of the sizeable population of Portuguese expats. On Portuguese soccer teams’ game days, the bar is packed and the beer runs like the Tejo river through it.