Questionable foods and pricey meals
Inspections in Brazil ahead of the World Cup and Olympics.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Tucked on a leafy street in Leblon, the seaside bastion of this city’s elite, Antiquarius ranks among Brazil’s most exclusive restaurants. Wellheeled regulars frequent Antiquarius, which charges $68 for a stew of codfish in coconut-tomato sauce.
But when inspectors raided it in early August, they found more than 20 kilograms of expired food like ham, endive and beef tripe in its kitchen, including about 5 kilograms of snails with an expiration date of July 2012.
The inspection of Antiquarius was one of several raids this year as officials seek to improve the city’s restaurant standards as more visitors flock to Rio ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
“Some restaurants think they will never be inspected, just because they are so chic and expensive,” said Cidinha Campos, director of Rio’s consumer protection agency, singling out an item on Antiquarius’s menu, grilled slipper lobster in beurre d’escargots, which costs about $78. The restaurant’s snail butter used in the recipe was also found to have expired, she said.
She added that the restaurant, which serves dishes largely inspired by the cuisine of Portugal, could face a fine from about $200 all the way up to $3 million.
Many people have welcomed the raids of restaurants in Rio, where visitors are often wowed by the natural beauty and the cultural offerings, but often lament the soaring prices and lackadaisical or dismissive service in the city’s restaurants.
In another raid, inspectors found rotting fish and expired beef in the kitchen of the Copacabana Palace, the Art Deco gem on Copacabana Beach. Ms. Campos said the hotel paid a fine of more than $100,000.
An array of other high-end spots here have also been found to have expired food in their kitchens, including Quadrifoglio, an Italian restaurant in the Jardim Botânico district, and Brigete’s, a bistro in Leblon.
A few high-end restaurants were found to have no expired food at all, including Gero and Zuka.
Taylor Barnes contributed reporting.
The food inspectors have also focused on cheaper restaurants, supermarkets and the kitchens found in Rio’s love hotels, its famed short-stay establishments.
Pedro Mello, a spokesman for Antiquarius, said the expired food found by inspectors was “unjustifiable.” He said personnel responsible for the expired food were facing disciplinary action.
The raid is just one problem for Antiquarius, which is on the same block in Leblon where Sérgio Cabral, Rio’s unpopular governor, lives. Mr. Cabral has been besieged since June by protesters fuming about police brutality and abuses of power by the authorities. Antiquarius’s customer traffic has fallen steeply in recent weeks, said Mr. Mello.
Protesters were not sympathetic. “The city is full of these contrasts,” said Ernesto Brito, 36. “We think there is a double standard; if someone came here and said, ‘I got poisoned by them,’ we’d go to jail for years,” he said. “They don’t,” he said, pointing toward Antiquarius. Inspectors who recently raided Antiquarius — where the codfish stew costs $68 — found more than 20 kilograms of expired food.