This restaurant at Sofitel Rio – a smart hotel anchoring the western end of Copacabana Beach – is one of the most respected in the city.
Head Chef Roland Villard has picked up no end of awards during his two decades at the helm, with the local foodie press raving about the skilled pairing of French culinary traditions with fresh, local ingredients.
Le Pre Catelan is one of the best regarded restaurants in Rio — Photo courtesy of Sofitel Luxury Hotels
Villard takes an inventive approach to his menu creation, and he comes up with completely new dishes every season.
The shared history between Brazil and France is a key inspiration for Villard, who gives traditional French dishes a shot of Brazilian panache by making use of tropical fruits, fish and vegetables in his dishes.
And he's even created an Amazon-inspired menu using ingredients native to the world's largest jungle.
Seafood is a strong suit, too, and it suits the setting, with its dramatic views over Copacabana Beach.
There are a la carte options available, but most diners choose one of the taster menus of up to 10 courses, which begin with a different amuse bouche each day and end with immaculately presented desserts.
With its Swarovski crystal chandeliers, rococo decor and predictably high prices, Le Pre Catelan is very much a "special occasion" restaurant, and diners wishing to up the wow factor even further may wish to investigate the possibility of booking the chefs' table.
There are long waiting lists for this sought-after arrangement, whereby diners sit at the side of the kitchen and get treated to a seemingly endless parade of dishes, each explained by Villard in person and accompanied by the sommelier's ideal wine pairing.
But while the chef's table would be a budget-buster for many visitors to Rio, there are more affordable options available, with a la carte options and set lunch menus coming in under $50 USD a head. It's not cheap, by any means, but fine dining in Rio rarely is.
The knowledgeable sommeliers, super-attentive staff and occasional appearance of Villard himself all imbue a meal at Le Pre Catelan with a sense of occasion. And while the rather ostentatious décor may not be to everyone's taste, it certainly fits with the lavish gastronomic creations that pour forth from the kitchen.
The restaurant is open to non-guests of the hotel, and it's worth taking the time for a pre-meal at Horse's Neck Bar; the hotel bar is regularly cited as one of the best in the city, and it serves expertly mixed cocktails.