Our favorite restaurant in Évora

August 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

BotequimdaMouraria-Edit©

Our favorite restaurant in Évora, Botequim da Mouraria, seats only eight people and takes no reservations. There are no tables, everybody eats at the counter. Domingos Canelas, the restaurant’s owner, recites the menu, an endless list of delicacies that includes wild asparagus, eggs from blissful chicken, incredible prosciutto from Alentejo, luscious figs, briny clams, succulent fish and meat. In the kitchen, his wife Florbela cooks these ingredients with great skill and refinement. When Domingos brings the food he smiles, anticipating our enjoyment.

We asked him to select a wine from the restaurant’s amazing list. Instead of choosing an expensive bottle, he decided to impress us with a perfectly chilled white wine from Herdade Grande. “In Portugal,” he said, “you don’t need to spend much money to drink great wine.” And we agreed, marveling at the perfect harmony between the wine and the food.

During our leisurely lunch, many customers came to the door and left because there were no seats available. And yet, Domingos didn’t  try to rush us. “You need time to enjoy the food of Alentejo,” he said.

We asked whether he planed to expand the size of the restaurant. He answered without hesitation: “I can only maintain this quality if I stay small.” At Botequim da Mouraria small is wonderful.

Botequim da Mouraria is at Rua da Mouraria, 16-A in Evora, tel. 266-746-775, email: botequim.mouraria@sapo.pt.

The best of both worlds

June 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

Azeitonas Bel Canto-F

Portugal is a country with century-old traditions. But it is also a place where a new generation is creating the future.

Consider the fruits of the Olea europaea, commonly know as olives. If you visit a Portuguese farmers market, you’ll find delicious olives cured in traditional ways. But if you dine at Belcanto, José Avillez’s wonderful restaurant in Lisbon, you’ll be served three invented olives. The first, a spherical olive that explodes in the mouth, is an homage to Avillez’s apprenticeship at elBulli. The second is a delicious black olive in a light crunchy tempura. The third is an inverted dry martini: the liquid is olive juice and the “olive” is a sphere of gin.

Which do you prefer, tradition or modernity? In Portugal you don’t have to choose.

Belcanto is located at Largo do São Carlos in Lisbon, tel. 21-342-0607.

Boi-Cavalo

June 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Boi e Cavalo (composit)

One of the best-kept secrets in Lisbon is an amazing new restaurant in Alfama called Boi-Cavalo (wildebeest). In a renovated old butcher shop, two chefs, Hugo Brito and Pedro Duarte, place their prodigious technique at the service of Lisbon’s culinary tradition. The result is a dazzling array of delicious dishes, such as marinated mackerel with Alvarinho gel, clam soup with foie gras and grilled onions, cauliflower soup with requeijão (a Portuguese soft cheese), and peas with eggs in a dashi broth.

Luxury restaurants often employ pompous waiters who make clients feel they are not worthy of the food being served. At Boi-Cavalo, the service is orchestrated with such sympathy and grace that we feel right at home.

It takes great generosity to produce three-star food and serve it with such modesty in attitude and price. When the chefs came to our table, they didn’t brag about complex preparations or rare ingredients. Instead, they asked us: how did you like the food? We loved it!

 

Boi-Cavalo is at Rua Do Vigario, 70B, Lisbon, tel. 21-887-1653, email geral@boi-cavalo.pt.

 

A memorable sandwich

May 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

Sandes de leitão da Mealhada

The Earl of Sandwich is credited with the idea of placing food inside two slices of bread. But it was Portuguese peasants who turned this aristocratic whim into something sublime.

In ancient times, peasants in Mealhada, a town in the Bairrada region, used to offer their largest pigs to the nobles who owned the land. The peasants were left with small pigs called “leitão” (“laytaoum”).  They roasted them in wood ovens, seasoned with garlic, bay leaves, olive oil, and plenty of white pepper. The meat, cut into slices and served inside country bread, produced amazing sandwiches.

One of our favorite side trips from Lisbon is to drive the 90 km to Mealhada to enjoy a freshly-made “leitão” sandwich, accompanied with local sparkling wine. On the way there, we visit the beautiful Batalha monastery. On the return, we stop by the enchanting Bussaco Palace for coffee and pastry. The delicious food and beautiful scenery always make for memorable trips.

There are many good restaurants in Mealhada serving “leitão à moda da Bairrada” (leitão Bairrada style). Two of our favorites are Meta dos Leitões (IC2, Estrada Nacional 1, Sernadelo, Mealhada, tel. 231 209 540, email: casadesarmento@gmail.com) and Pedro dos Leitões (Rua Alvaro Pedro no 1 Sernadelo, Mealhada, tel. 231 209 950).

Taberna da Rua das Flores

May 22, 2014 § 2 Comments

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The name of this restaurant on Rua das Flores (flower street) combines the Portuguese word for tavern with the title of a famous novel: Tragedy on Rua das Flores, by the great 19th-century writer Eça de Queiroz.

The Taberna serves traditional home cooking. If you’re adventurous, try the excellent “iscas” (marinated liver).  Otherwise, you’ll find many other great choices, such as carrot and coriander soup, pork with sweet potato and zucchini, duck rice, and roasted codfish. The quirky antique furniture helps create an unpretentious atmosphere. Prices are modest, so every meal has an happy ending.

Eça de Queiroz complained, through the words of one of his characters, that Lisbon lacked a fun place to eat supper after the Opera. One century later, this place exists: Taberna da Rua das Flores.

The Taberna is located on Rua das Flores 103, tel. 351 21 347 9418, email: tabernadasflores@gmail.com. 

Claro!

February 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

Restaurante %22Claro%22-1

Claro means “of course” in Portuguese. It is also the family name of Vitor Claro, the chef of a remarkable new restaurant in the seaside town of Paço d’Arcos, 20 km west of Lisbon. Everything about this restaurant is enticing: the gracious service, the location with its expansive ocean view, and, of course, the food.

Some chefs are slaves of the past, others are slaves of the future. Vitor Claro is a free man. He seeks great ingredients and asks: which preparation will make them shine? In some cases, the answer is to follow a traditional recipe with care and refinement. In other cases, the answer is to embrace the thrill of the new, to cook what no one has cooked before. This attitude makes the modestly-priced prix fix an exhilarating ride. Our senses are stimulated by dishes such as codfish brandade with fresh tomatoes, partridge soup with foie gras, cauliflower with parmesan, sole in a chickpea broth, shrimp ravioli with mushrooms, steak with wine reduction sauce, fried dough with chickpea puree.

At the end, when the genial waiter asks: did you enjoy the meal? it’s easy to answer in Portuguese: Claro!

Claro! is located inside the Solar das Palmeiras Hotel in Avenida Marginal, Curva dos Pinheiros, Paço de Arcos, Oeiras. Tel. 21 441 4231. Click here for the restaurant’s web site.

Smart dining

January 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

Raposo

Do you want to know a secret?  Do you promise not to tell? Raposo, a neighborhood restaurant in Lisbon, serves wonderful food for a modest price. They use the freshest ingredients prepared with no shortcuts and offer a wine list that perfectly complements the flavors of Portuguese cuisine. You can dine on delicious prosciutto, fragrant clams, cuttlefish with ink, fish rice with monk fish liver, and many other delicacies.

Raposo means fox, an animal with a reputation for being smart. A female fox is the hero of the popular book “The Romance of the Fox,” written by author Aquilino Ribeiro in 1924 as a Christmas gift for his son. It chronicles the adventures of a fox who always ends up feeling happy with her choices. And that’s very much how we feel dining at Raposo.

Raposo is on Rua Passos Manuel, 60, Lisbon, tel. 21-353-1059. It closes on Sundays.

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