Rio de Janeiro Favorites of Jean Michel Ruis

Our “The Master’s Voice” interview series brings you the insider secrets from Latin American capitals. Jean Michel Ruis, the owner of the boutique hotel Mama Ruisa secluded upon the hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa, talks about how to enjoy life as Cariocas do, as well as his passion of Brazilian modernism.

“I am indeed very interested in Brazilian Modernism. All the furniture in the hotel is from this period and most of them have been restored by me. The decor of the hotel is always changing, as I sell hotel furniture to the guests.”

What is the best thing about living in Rio de Janeiro as a Frenchman?
I moved to Rio de Janeiro 15 years ago which is also the age of the hotel. Nowadays, it feels like I am a Carioca too, as much as everyone else. In my early days here, what really made an impact is the way that people have received me, always so warmly, even though I was a total stranger!

What would make the visitors feel the true Carioca spirit?

I believe that a true Carioca experience would be to do an improvisational tour, walk around the city and experience what you see along the way. Here, people don’t do much planning. They just go and do whatever pleases them along the way. Improvisation would be a very good way of knowing the city and having loads of fun!


May I have a shortlist of your favorite places and experiences in and around the city?
Santa Teresa is a very unique neighborhood. It stands on a hill in the central zone. We have everything here: very good restaurants and several souvenir shops. It is the only place in Rio where you have an old tram line, which adds to the charm to the place enormously. At night, the main streets are lively with bars and restaurants. My favorite one is Paschoal Carlos Magno. It is a very beautiful street with the old tram passing by, and with loads of restaurants and shops. It is an accurate representation of what the neighborhood is all about! Santa Teresa has a residential area with some ancient houses built during the colonial period, which are very beautiful. The hotel itself is one of them. All of this creates a very unique scene.


Where is the best place to taste Amazonian food which is on the rise lately?
Personally, I don’t know many places where you can taste food with Amazonian ingredients. Unfortunately, Amazonian culture is not spread across the country. The Amazonian fruit açai has been introduced to Rio for the last 6 or 7 years, though. This fruit can’t be eaten fresh, but it is consumed in the form of “açai cream”, which is delicious. I can’t imagine coming to Brazil and not tasting something with açai cream.

What is the best cocktail to try in Rio?
“Caipirinha” is the most traditional Brazilian cocktail. It is made with cachaça, a variant of rum produced here in Brazil, and served with lemon macerated on it. The place to try it is Aprazivel restaurant in Santa Teresa. It has one of the best panoramic views of Rio and they also excel in the food and drinks served.


You have a special interest in Brazilian design, don’t you?
I am indeed very interested in Brazilian Modernism. All the furniture in the hotel is from this period and most of them have been restored by me. I usually find these beautiful sofas, tables, etc. in very poor shape; then I fix and put them in the hotel. I also sell furniture from the hotel to the guests. The decor of the hotel is always changing. I also have a separate business selling Brazilian modernist pieces of furniture.

Who are your favorite designers?
Jorge Zalzsupin, a Polish designer who came to Brazil after the persecution of Jews in Poland by the Nazis. He has a modernist style that pleases me a lot. There is also Joaquim Tenreiro, a Portuguese designer who lived in Brazil for the most of his life. I have chosen these two, as they were very important in the wave of modernism that happened during the fifties and sixties in Brazil. I also like very much what they have accomplished during their careers.

IN A NUTSHELL: MAMA RUISA >> This sumptuous mansion with a colonial feel is the perfect showroom for elegant pieces of furniture reflecting the modernist movement that took place in Brazil during the sixties. The house is at the secluded hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa, at a point with amazing city views. Hotel management offers guests homemade maps showing a shortlist of touristic attractions of Rio and suggesting an itinerary to see them.

WE LIKED The private artist studio visits the hotel can organize and the tranquil pool in a tropical garden.

To contact Mama Ruisa Boutique Hotel located in Santa Teresa neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro:

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