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.

Belcanto’s philosophy

December 1, 2013 § 1 Comment

Belcanto2

Georg Friedrich Hegel described the evolution of human ideas as involving a thesis, followed by an antithesis, and then by a synthesis that reconciles the two. Believe it or not, these concepts are useful to explain the cuisine of Belcanto, a fantastic Lisbon restaurant owned by chef José Avillez.

The modernist cuisine of restaurants like elBulli is the antithesis of traditional Portuguese cooking. Avillez combines the two in a delicious synthesis that is both familiar and surprising. He serves olives bursting with flavor, golden eggs, seafood immersed in the smell of the sea, manta rays transformed into Pollock paintings.

The Michelin inspectors were so impressed with Avillez’s culinary dialectic that they awarded Belcanto a star. We suspect Hegel would agree.

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

Decadente

September 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Decadent

One of the best ways to spend a late afternoon in Lisbon, is to seat in the esplanade at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara, drinking an aperitif and enjoying the view. From this lookout point, you see St. Jorge’s castle and the Tagus river amidst the swatches of white and orange that color the city canvas.

Once the sun gets tired, it’s time to head across the street to a restaurant called Decadente. There, you find an inviting atmosphere and a menu full of delicious offerings, such as watercress soup, fish rice, and braised pork cheeks. The food is carefully prepared and beautifully presented. And the restaurant’s great vibe makes the dining experience a wonderful finale for a day in Lisbon.

The Decadente is located at Rua de São Pedro de Alcântara 81, in Bairro Alto. Tel. 21 346 13 81, email reservas@thedecadente.pt. Reservations are highly recommended. Click here for the restaurant’s web site. 

Pap’Açorda

September 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Pap'açordaThere are restaurants that keep changing their menus, wines, décor, and service. They want to keep up with the times, be modern, innovate. There’s nothing wrong with that.  But it’s great when a restaurant finds its stride and keeps serving great food, decade after decade. One of these restaurants is Pap’Açorda, located in Bairro Alto, one of Lisbon’s bohemian neighborhoods.

The restaurant’s name merges two words, papa and açorda. Papa is baby talk for “eat.” Açorda is the name of a recipe that makes great use of stale bread by combining it with olive oil, garlic and eggs. Pap’Açorda serves a refined version of this peasant dish that includes shrimp and lobster. The other offerings on menu are designed with the same strategy: use great ingredients and follow traditional recipes without being afraid to improve on them.

We love to return to Pap’Açorda to eat standards like fried fish or breaded lamb chops.  We find the same wonderful tastes and aromas we enjoyed in the past and leave reassured that some good things in life endure.

Pap’Açorda is at Rua da Atalaia, 57, Lisbon. Tel. 213-464-811, 213-423-765.

A fisherman’s place

August 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tasca do Joel-F

Fishermen have a hard life. They go out in the dark, defying the waves to cast their nets on a uncertain sea. On good nights, their boats return full of fish, pursued by seagulls looking for a free meal.

In Peniche, fishermen used to celebrate a good catch in a shack where they cooked fish and vegetables in a makeshift oven. Their food was better than anything served in a royal banquet because it was prepared with the freshest, greatest ingredients that nature has to offer. So, every meal turned into a celebration.

Over time, this shack was renovated and converted into a restaurant called Tasca do Joel. Gourmets flock to its out-of-the-way location, knowing that they’ll find something special: great ingredients that shine through simple, traditional preparations paired with the best Portuguese wines. And the same feeling of celebration that once gathered Peniche fishermen around a rustic oven.

Tasca do Joel is located on Rua do Lapadusso, 73, Peniche. Tel. 262 782 945. Email: tascadojoel@gmail.com. Click here for their web site.

Pizzaria Lisboa

July 22, 2013 § 3 Comments

Pizzaria LisboaChef José Avillez can do it all. At Belcanto he showcases avant-garde cuisine that is deliciously original. At Cantinho do Avillez he serves inventive bistro food. Now he opened a pizzeria!

At Pizzaria Lisboa Avillez uses the Italian pizza as a canvas to showcase ingredients and inspiration that are Portuguese. The restaurant feels as if it’s always been there, serving as meeting point for groups of friends.

The service is great. We asked for a pizza degustacion, a sequence of different pizzas cut into slices. Our server replied: what a great idea, of course we’ll do it! And so we tried pizza Chiado, Figueira, 28, Comércio, and Caravela. Not once did we wish we were in Naples or Rome. Instead, we went out into the warm night feeling lucky to be in Lisbon.

Pizzaria Lisboa is located at Rua dos Duques de Bragança, 5H, tel. 21-155-4945. Reservations are a must. Click here for their web site.

DOC & DOP

June 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

DOP

The rustic food of Portugal is made of elemental aromas and deeply satisfying flavors. It is a cuisine of humble people; fishermen, shepherds, and farmers, who liked food that nourishes the body. In contrast, the French culinary tradition pioneered by Marie-Antoine Carême is all refinement and beauty. It is a cuisine of kings and queens who loved to feast their eyes as much as feed their belly.

Rui Paula, a Portuguese chef, spent two decades marrying these two traditions. At DOP, his restaurant in Oporto, he serves country food cooked with palatial elegance. DOC, his restaurant in Amarante, offers a similar menu. Here, the dining experience is heightened by the serene beauty of the location, on the margins of the Douro river.

If you’re traveling in the north of Portugal, don’t miss the opportunity to try these restaurants. They’ll satisfy your body and soul.

Click here for Rui Paula’s website. DOP is located at Palácio das Artes, Largo de S. Domingos, 18, Porto, tel. 22 20 14 313, email dop@ruipaula.com. DOC is located at Estrada Nacional 222, Folgosa, Armamar, tel. 254 858 123, email doc@ruipaula.com.

Royal treats

May 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

Empadaria_do_chefe

The Portuguese love eating “empadas,” small pies that are perfect for a light dinner or a mid-afternoon nibble. The art of making these treats reached great heights in the court of Dom Pedro II. The court’s chef, Domingos Rodrigues, regaled the royal guests with a wide variety of empadas made with fillings that ranged from wild boar to lamprey. His recipes are collected in The Art of Cooking, published in 1680.

Three centuries later, another great chef, José Avillez, turned his attention to the art of making empadas. His “Empadaria do Chef,” serves freshly-made empadas with fillings that would make Domingos Rodrigues proud. And we can enjoy these majestic treats without worrying about court intrigues.

Click here to see all the Empadaria do Chef locations.

Why the British don’t eat salted cod

May 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

CodfishCarpaccioF

Some British guidebooks tell their readers that eating salted cod is a strange Portuguese custom that they should avoid. There’s an historical reason for this point of view.  When Henry V married Catherine de Valois in 1420, England was in the midst of the One Hundred Years’ War. Perhaps for this reason, the royal couple had a frugal wedding feast. The 600 guests ate boiled salted cod served on slices of stale bread. The meal was so bad that the British have avoided salted cod ever since.

Portuguese restaurants offer many codfish preparations. If you’re a salted cod neophyte, we suggest that you start with something simple: codfish carpaccio. The codfish is sliced razor thin and combined with an infusion of garlic and olive oil.

You can taste a great version of this preparation at Mãe d’Água, a wonderful restaurant in Bombarral near Lisbon. Imagine how different British cuisine would be if Mãe d’Água had catered Henry V’s wedding.

Mãe d’Água is in Sobral do Parelhão, Bombarral, Rua 13 de Maio 26, 2540-467 Carvalhal, tel.262 605 408, email geral@restaurantemaedagua.com. Click here for their website and here for our post on the restaurant.

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