A friendly restaurant

January 14, 2013 § 2 Comments

Salsa&Coentros

The Portuguese do not like to divulge their favorite neighborhood restaurants, so we’re violating social norms by telling you about Salsa & Coentros (parsley and coriander). It is a delightful restaurant in Lisbon’s Alvalade neighborhood which serves food from the Alentejo and Trás-os-Montes provinces.

Dining at Salsa & Coentros is like visiting a friend who makes wonderful meals with local ingredients such as míscaros (wild mushrooms), cação (dogfish), partridges, wild asparagus, black pig, and fresh octopus.

If you become a regular visitor to Portugal, you’re likely to meet friends who are great home cooks. Until then, you can enjoy the traditional cuisine of Portugal at Salsa & Coentros.

Salsa e Coentros is located at Rua Coronel Marques Leitão, n. 12, Lisbon. Tel. 218410990. 

Tea and scones at the Vicentinas

March 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

Nuvens, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2011.

Clouds also deserve a break and, on their day off, they occasionally travel to Lisbon. Mostly, it’s the cirrus and stratus, the pretty, socialite clouds that come looking for a good time. But, sometimes, they let the nimbus clouds tag along and then it rains.

These rainy days are a blessing to the ancient trees scattered throughout the city, fruits of the seeds that Portuguese sailors brought from all over the world. For the tourist, a rainy day is an opportunity to try some of the best tea and scones in Lisbon. These have been served for more than 30 years at the Vicentinas, a tea shop in Rua de São Bento. The proceeds go to charity, which makes these wonderful scones taste even better.

As Vicentinas, Rua de São Bento, 700
, Lisboa

, Tel: 213 887040.

The world’s best chocolate cake

February 12, 2012 § 3 Comments

Who created the world’s best chocolate cake?  Gaston Lenôtre? Pierre Hermé? Jacques Torres? Guess again. The cake is made with French chocolate but the name of the chef is Portuguese: Carlos Braz Lopes. His cake has three chocolate merengue disks layered with chocolate mousse and toped with a chocolate ganache. He started selling it in a tiny store located in an obscure corner of Lisbon’s Campo d’Ourique neighborhood. But the cake is so good that word of mouth attracted chocolate lovers from all over the world. The French gourmet Brillat-Savarin wrote that the discovery of a new recipe brings more happiness than the discovery of a new star. There is no better way to savor the truth in this aphorism than to taste a slice of Carlos Braz Lopes’ wondrous cake.

O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo by Carlos Braz Lopes, Rua Coelho da Rocha 99, Campo de Ourique, Lisboa, tel. 21 396 53 72, email: geral@omelhorbolodechocolatedomundobycbl.com. Click here for the website.

O Cantinho do Avillez

February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

This small restaurant near Chiado has a funky, bohemian décor that makes it look like a theater set. The servers, all implausibly good looking and articulate, are clearly trained actors. Chef José Avillez directs this food theater. He has great credentials, having apprenticed with Alain Ducasse and Ferran Adrià. Here he cooks traditional fare with original variations that create new layers of taste. It is difficult to choose from the menu because everything is so delicious. There is vegetable tempura that is crunchy and crisp, savory partridge turnovers with an intense, gamey flavor, homemade canned tuna with a pungent mayonnaise of ginger and lime, sautéed chicken liver and grapes perfumed with Port wine, and so much more. When you leave O Cantinho you feel like you’ve just seen a wonderful play that you would like to see again.

Rua dos Duques de Bragança, 7, Lisboa, tel. 21-199-2369. Click here for the restaurant’s website. Reservations are a must.

Pasteis de Belém

December 26, 2011 § 6 Comments

When you land in the Lisbon airport, there’s a heightened anticipation for what comes next. There’s the usual ritual of waiting in line, searching for your luggage, going through customs, all transforming you from in transit to landed. But here, arriving isn’t the best part. You drive out of the airport towards the river Tagus. As you get close, you first see the seagulls. Then, you see the Tower of Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery, monuments to the many “caravelas” that departed from a nearby dock. A marble Henry the Navigator leads a pack of explorers, pointing the way to the new world. But that’s not why you came here. You came here for a small pastry shop just down the road.

In 1834, the government closed down all Portuguese convents and monasteries. The friars of the Jerónimos Monastery needed a source of income. So, like other religious orders in Portugal, they used their ancient recipes to make pastries for sale. The Jerónimos monks made little cups of flaky pastry dough filled with custard and topped with cinnamon. All monastery pastries are delicious, but these “pasteis de Belém” are a piece of heaven. The recipe hasn’t changed since the pastry shop opened in 1837, and everything about it is shrouded in mystery. Only three master patissiers, who prepare the cream and dough in the “Oficina do Segredo” (secret workshop), know the recipe.

These pastries are ephemeral bites of cinnamon and warmth. They must be eaten right away, never saved for later. Every coffee shop in Portugal produces an imitation, but none quite captures the lightness of the dough, the creaminess of the filling. These imitations even bear a different name: “pasteis de nata.” Because there is only one place in the world where you can get “pasteis de Belém.”

Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, Rua de Belém, 84-92, Lisbon. Tel. 21-363-7423. Email: pasteisdebelem@pasteisdebelem.pt. Click here for website.

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