December 1, 2013 § 1 Comment
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.
September 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
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 email@example.com. Reservations are highly recommended. Click here for the restaurant’s web site.
September 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
There 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.
August 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for their web site.
July 22, 2013 § 3 Comments
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.
June 2, 2013 § Leave a Comment
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 email@example.com. DOC is located at Estrada Nacional 222, Folgosa, Armamar, tel. 254 858 123, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 26, 2013 § 1 Comment
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.
May 16, 2013 § Leave a Comment
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.
May 5, 2013 § 1 Comment
We get asked this question all the time: I was in Lisbon once but didn’t have a chance to go to the Algarve; is it worthwhile going? Of course it is!
You can get a taste of the Algarve in Lisbon. Faz Gostos, a restaurant from Olhão, has an outpost in the capital that offers a wide array of delicious southern food: clam soup, seafood rice, grilled razor clams, and roasted octopus. They have inexpensive special menus and a list of wines that are great values.
There’s only one downside of dining at Faz Gostos. You might get a sudden, irresistible urge to change your travel plans and head to the south of Portugal!
Faz Gostos is on Rua Nova da Trindade 11 H/K, Lisbon, tel. 213 472 249 . Click here for the restaurant’s website.
March 11, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Fernand Point’s famous cookbook, Ma Gastronomie, includes two mackerel recipes. But in Portugal this fish, known as “cavala,” has never been popular. When fish mongers find mackerel mixed with other fish, they often give it away.
We worry that our national indifference toward the mackerel might make it swim to France in search of recognition. Luckily, chef José Avillez decided to pay tribute to this wonderful fish at his restaurant, Belcanto. His recipe starts with a traditional “salmoura”: the fish is soaked in water, salt and sugar. It is then sliced and marinated in an infusion of rice vinegar and green apples. Finally, the mackerel is seared and served with delicately pickled vegetables.
If you go to Belcanto, please order this delicious dish. Help us keep the mackerel on the Portuguese coast!
Belcanto is located at Largo de S. Carlos, 10 in Lisbon. Tel. 213-420-607.