On a recent night in Rio de Janeiro I went to the restaurants Carlota without a reservation. There were people milling around outside and when I asked the waitress if there was a table, she replied with a wait time that was well beyond my hunger limit. Carlota would have to wait. I wandered around the Leblon neighborhood looking for somewhere simple. The neon light Koni store appeared before me like a mirage in the desert.
The Leblon location was the first Koni store, opening in late 2006. Nwo with more than 20 locations sprinkled all around Rio and Brazil, this fast casual sushi chain is hard to avoid even if you want to. The menu, designed by a famed Japanese-Brazilian chef Nao Hara, focuses on hand rolls, here called Konis. Each seaweed wrapped cone is filled with rice and dozens of other fillings such as tempura, Patagonia salmon, fried leeks, or wasabi peas. You can hold one in your hand and eat as you walk, or sit at their sidewalk tables and dress it up with the collection of sauces (Soy, Soy+Wasabi, Teriyaki). There are regular rolls, bento boxes, and even desert cones with banana and nutella. The price in notoriously expensive Rio was quite nice. Stores are open until the wee hours of the morning.
Locations in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Buzios, and Brasilia
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.