We arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with just enough time to catch the end of the carnival celebrations. We packed a lot of activities into our five-day visit. Time zoomed by and before we knew it, we were leaving Rio having only eaten at one vegetarian restaurant. Initially, we’d planned to eat at Universo Organico. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it there before closing. Instead, we headed over to the nearby Vegetariano Social Clube, an all vegan restaurant with a diverse menu.
John and I were joined by our two travel companions and Rio host, which made for a table of five. I love dining in groups. It’s so much fun when everyone orders different things and you have a chance to sample multiple dishes. Keeping this in mind, John and I opted to share two antipasto plates and a soup, rather than pick one main course each. This worked out to be a great idea. Our food arrived fast, we saved a few pennies and had a chance to try bits and bites of numerous items.
The Couvert de Casa platter was the first to arrive. It consisted of small cubes of tofu with herbs, hummus, eggplant dip, crispy tempeh crackers and some other mixed crackers and veggies. The eggplant dip and tempeh crackers were my favourite. The tofu cubes were a neat idea but they didn’t have a lot of flavour and one of them was frozen solid with ice in the middle. We weren’t off to a great start.
Our second platter was supposed to be Mediterranean themed but it seemed a bit too eclectic to hold this title. The platter included small portions of white beans, grilled vegetables, pita bread, potatoes with a creamy sauce and some more eggplant dip. I liked everything on this platter, especially the potatoes and sauce. I’m not exactly sure what was in there but it had a nice creamy flavour and was well spiced. Each of the platters cost $14 Brazilian Real ($7.75 USD).
We were hesitant to order a soup because the price tag was abnormally high. Soups were priced at $14 Brazilian Real ($7.80 USD), which is more than we typically pay at vegetarian restaurants in Canada. However, we couldn’t resist the combination of pumpkin, ginger and coconut. Surprisingly, the soup was our favourite part of the meal. It was very rich, creamy, thick and flavourful. The croutons and spring onion topping were a nice touch. It was very filling. We were happy to be passing it back and forth in between spoonfuls.
Our dinner dates opted for main courses. Bobó de Shitake was one of their picks. Bobó is a Brazilian dish with African origins and typically includes a cream made of yam and vinegar. It’s often cooked and mixed with palm oil, pepper, salt and dried shrimp. This vegan version of bobó was made with shitake mushrooms and served with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and chestnut rice. The bobó received mediocre reviews and the portion wasn’t big enough to satisfy our friend. For $24 Brazilian Reals ($13.30 USD), it didn’t turn out to be good value for money.
Two of our friends ordered the stroganoff. They weren’t wowed. The menu description included heart of palm and shimeji mushrooms but our friends didn’t feel there were enough of these key ingredients to make it worth the $24 Brazilian Real price tag. The yam chips were a nice, crunchy addition but not enough to change their overall impression. I sampled both of the main courses. While they weren’t a total letdown, they definitely didn’t have me begging to try more.
As traveling vegans who sometimes go days without having a chance to chow down on something sweet, we can’t pass up the opportunity to order dessert. For our final course, we had the chocolate cake with homemade ginger ice cream. It arrived covered with chocolate sauce, peanuts and two big scoops of soy ice cream. The ice cream had a strong but pleasant ginger flavour and was the group’s favourite part. The cake itself was a bit dry and the texture was gritty. Once we manged to thoroughly mash and mix the ice cream, chocolate sauce, peanuts and cake, we had a nice chocolate ginger mess that was quickly devoured. We left with full, happy bellies.
Overall, our group had an okay experience at Vegetariano Social Clube. Some menu items went over better than others. Personally, I enjoyed eating there and would go back and recommend it to others. You should expect to pay a bit more than you would at other restaurants but you’ll get a good, hearty and organic vegan meal.
Conde de Bernadote 26, loja L (at Leblon)
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Phone number: 2294-5200
I’ll leave you with some photos from our visit to Rio. We left our cameras at home most days and didn’t take a lot of pictures of the city. We were repeatedly warned about how dangerous it is to carry valuables and decided not to take any unnecessary risks with our precious cameras.