RIO, York – Restaurant Review
By Roger Crow, October 2023
It’s the end of September, which for me these days usually means hunkering down for a few months of flicking through 100 channels to find anything worthy watching. And as much as I love cooking, I’ll admit the world’s smallest kitchen is not conducive to crafting culinary masterpieces.
When offered the chance to try out the new branch of RIO’s Brazilian Steakhouse, I don’t have to think twice. I just need to go hungry.
There’s now only seven of them in the country, so while it is a chain, you’ll not see one on every street in the UK.
From the moment I stepped through the door, I knew I was in for a treat. The restaurant boasts a tasteful and inviting decor that sets the stage for a memorable evening.
My culinary odyssey began with a trip to the gourmet salad bar. How many times have we seen ‘gourmet’ added to anything and it turns out to be wide of the mark? But this is the real deal.
“Love at first bite”
Just the delightful appetiser of garlic mushrooms alone was love at first bite. They were perfectly seasoned and had just the right amount of garlic, creating a burst of flavour with every mouthful. It set the bar high, and the other delectable sides from that help-yourself buffet included perfectly roasted potatoes and a coleslaw that was both fresh and creamy.
Oh, and don’t get me started on the delicious sushi, olives, chips, imported cheeses, and cured meats. It was like something from Lionel Bart’s Oliver! in buffet form.
All of the above provided a wonderful balance to the hearty meats that were the true stars of the evening. There was so much tasty choice on that buffet, I’d have been happy if that’s all there was, while the bread and US-style biscuits were also to die for.
In case you didn’t know it, RIO is famous for its all-you-can-eat style service where a variety of meats are brought directly to your table, sliced to perfection. You just need to be ready with your tongs as those slivers and hunks of meat unfurl.
The range of meats on offer is extensive, and each cut is cooked to perfection. The peppercorn sauce in a mini saucepan is especially good. There’s something to satisfy every palate, though you may soon find yourself overloaded with meat if not careful.
The red and green place mats on the table indicate whether you’d like more meat or if you need a moment to savour your current selection. It’s a simple yet effective system that ensures you’re in control of your dining pace. And while my default setting on an empty stomach is to rush, thankfully the meat is so melt-in-the-mouth delicious, I also savour every mouthful.
One standout aspect of my experience was the exceptional service provided by Adriane, our waitress. She was not only attentive but also incredibly knowledgeable about the menu, offering recommendations and ensuring our dining experience was second to none. All of the staff’s warm and friendly demeanour added to the overall enjoyment of the evening.
After indulging in the meaty extravaganza, it was time to explore the dessert menu, and RIO doesn’t disappoint in this department either. I couldn’t resist ordering the churros, which arrived hot and perfectly crispy. The accompanying caramel and chocolate dipping sauce was a revelation – a rich, moreish concoction that perfectly complemented the sweet churros. It was the ideal way to conclude a fantastic meal. (I wrapped a couple in a napkin for later, and they didn’t disappoint either). I also had a mouthful of the panna cotta, which was equally delicious, not least because of the coconut crumb and prune syrup.
In addition to the fantastic food and service, the atmosphere is another reason why I can’t wait to return. The tasteful decor, combined with the energetic ambience created by the sizzling meats being carved table-side, makes for an unforgettable dining experience.
York’s high street dining scene has gone through a seismic shift with the mix of pandemic, recession and other forces pulling punters away from one of my favourite city’s streets, so it’s heartening to see an establishment thriving on a Saturday night.
Exceptional food, outstanding service, and a vibrant atmosphere made it a magnet for me and one of my oldest friends on a rain-lashed evening.
The menu blurb includes the line ‘Let us take you on a culinary journey you won’t soon forget,’ and for once you can believe the hype.
We left RIO with full stomachs and a promise that we would return soon. We only scraped the surface of the range of meats on offer. They also do spicy chicken wings, and linguica (Brazillian pork sausages), as well as plenty of other mouthwatering goodies.
And next time I can go with Mrs C as there’s vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian selections too. Even the unlimited use of the salad bar with 40-plus hot and cold items is enough to tempt me.
I really hope RIO York thrives in the coming months, because like some carnivorous Terminator, I’ll definitely be back.
RIO Brazilian Steakhouse
18 Bride St, York, YO1 6DA
Opening Hours – Monday to Sunday:
Lunch: 12pm – 3pm
Evening: 4.45pm – Late