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Portugal March 2005

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I am leaving for Portugal on Thursday 3/17/05.

My wife and I have a religious zeal for chowhounds and test most of the listings all over the world.

I went on looking for posts regarding Portugal (a large country with at least three distinctive regions: Lisbon, Oporto and the Algarve not to mention the mountainous inland).

Other than an excellent post by garlic3453 (Tom Armitage) called Day 3 in Portugal, I couldnt find alot of meaningful listings. By the way, Tom where are your recomedations for days 1, 2, 4 etc...

I did not find a single listing in the Algarve. I am staying near Albufuera for sevaral days and love to explore the great fresh fish grills. Can any chowhounds out there send some ideas?

Lisbon has to be more than the Fine Hotel restaurants I read about in Fodors.

HELP...

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  1. Several recommendations, all in the Algarve.

    First, one of the best restaurants I have ever been to is at Vila Joya, a magical hotel near Albufeira. I have attached a link below. Words are inadequate to describe this place. Just go. Relax. And enjoy. I have attached a link below. If you can stay a night, do. We didn't, but wish we did.

    Second, less expensive, and more of a chowhound adventure is Vila Lisa. If you do a google search, you should find some info, including a review by Corby Kummer in The Atlantic (which requires a free trial membership). A remarkably good restaurant. Downscale. They just keep bringing you whatever they feel like bring you. And lots of it. Food. Wine. Whatever. Outstanding. Highly recommended.

    Third, along the same lines as Vila Lisa, and nearly as good, is O Charneco, in Estombar. I found the following review on a blog. Incidentally, if you do go, try not to be out off by an odd poster of a sailor serving food with the caption: "EAT YOU MOTHER_F---ERS!" Odd, yes. But, the food is excellent. And, again they just keep bringing it. No menu.

    O Charneco, Estombar €
    One of the best places to sample authentic Algarvean cooking in a setting that is delightfully rustic with jovial ambience, the restaurant is in the centre of Estombar near the church. Larger-than-life proprietor Joaquim Charneco and wife Marta have won numerous culinary awards for their efforts and the restaurant is a real favourite among locals and visitors alike.

    Link: http://www.vilajoya.de/

    4 Replies
    1. re: C. Simon

      I was going to recommend Vila Joya also...two well-deserved Michelin stars, and probably the best meal I've had in 5 trips to Portugal.

      But note that when you go there, you will be leaving Portugal and entering a little German enclave. The greeting they offer is Guten Tag rather than Bom dia! And I see that the Portuguese "Welcome" on their home page is even misspelled.

      1. re: C. Simon

        Many thanks. I have already sent my reservation request to Vila Joya. I very much appreciate the feedback. Any ideas for Porto or Lisbon?

        1. re: C. Simon

          Went to Vila Joya for Dinner with my family. Paulo is the waiter who along with Dieter the chef have been running things for the last 14 years. This place is special. This is not the best restaurant in Portugal, for me it ranks among the best I have been in the world. On a par with Guy Savoy in Paris, Bouley in New York, Charlie Trotter in Chicago, Chez Painise in California...the best of the best. By the way the location on a cliff over their own private beach is better than all the others as well. I called it hypnotic while there. Paulo explained that is why he had not left in 14 years.

          Dieter came out to meet everyone as well. Very friendly people.

          By the way, the amusee is the best meal I have had in years. I had people who wouldnt normally try exotic asking for extra sweetbreads and mash potatoes.

          GREAT RECOMENDATION

          P.S. We liked it so much we went back again for lunch before leaving the area.

          1. re: bmohen

            Sounds fab. Could you give me a clue as to price range?

        2. I spent a couple of weeks in Lisbon last summer, and was not particularly impressed with the food. I met some locals who had lived their all their life, and they took me to a couple of their favorite restaurants, and even then I was not thrilled.

          One of the better meals I had was in Cascais. The restaurant was on Rua das Flores, I forget the name of the restaurant now (there's quite a few on that street). The dish that had been recommended to me by my local friends was Arroz de Mariscos, which is sort of a seafood risotto for two, and it was quite good.

          In Lisbon itself, I had a very good Goan style Indian meal at Cantinho da Paz (in Barrio Alto, at Rua da Paz 4 near Rua dos Poiais de São Bento). I also had good grilled chicken with piri-piri (a hot sauce made from tiny chili peppers) at places like Bonjardim in the city center. I only tried one higher end meal at a restaurant called Conventual, and it was good but not particularly remarkable.

          1. Hi
            I was just in Lisbon last week and I loved it I can't say enough good things about the food !!!
            If your not there that long focus all your dinner time attention on the Barrio Alto area the later you dine the better!!! Firstly you may have heard about Pap Acorda on Rua du Italia beleive the hype its great !I had their Acorda the first time I went there which I liked but not as much as other things on the menu . An acorda is a seafood stew thickened with bread very tasty but a bit pasty very filling. Lisbon seafood is always a good bet.There is also a restaurant called Sul argentinian inspired lots of meet served a pedras. Basically a super heated slab of marble on which you cook your selected meat then dip into assorted mayonaises really good. If your up for huge $$$ go to Gambrinus just off the Rossio. Its in a super touristy area but this place is super old school and worth every penny....I ate at the bar alone and it was 100 euro. Its like a portuguese 21 club or Musso and Franks but I swear it was money well spent. I could watch the kitchen from the bar and it was incredible everything by hand to order. I only ever had lunch in the Alfama district- go to any number of places tucked below the Castello Sao George and have the grilled sardines or a frango de piri piri though I hear the Algarves are the real place for frango. Also the same people that own Pap Acorda own a restaurant near the Santa Apolonia train station called Bica do Sapato its super chic I mean stunning ask to sit in the coffee shop it would be as good for lunch since its on the waterfront. I had a stunning meal my last night in town the went to its sister club Lux across the parking lot. But Bica do Sapato had a beautiful salad of super tender "poultry livers" that was great and a "fresh cod" Bachalau that was equally great. All right I'll shut up now . I hope you enjoy be sure to drink lots of Bica (coffee) and eat lots of the local pastries in between meals there's tons of things to try enjoy !
            Oh and a shot of Gingha before dinner a berry brandy its yummy.

            1 Reply
            1. re: matt

              try "olivier" in bairro alto for their 9 course prix fixe!!!

            2. Just returned from three nights in Lisbon. Great city, and great food. We also were in Madrid and Sevilla on this trip, and we found the food in Portugal to be infinitely better. If you're on the peninsula and want to eat well then make sure you fit Portugal into your plans.

              Some highlights:

              We drove from Madrid and targeted Mealhada in mid-northern Portugal as our stop for lunch. The scenic drive alone is worth the trip, but this is the epicenter of leitoa - roast suckling pig. We ate at "Pedro de Leitoes", which is on N-1 just north of N-234. I guess the restaurant has a menu, but I didn't see anyone bother with it - you just order the leitao and some wine. Spectacular pork, a thing of beauty. The skin is roasted to a golden brown crackly crust like a good roast duck, and the meat is garlicky/peppery savory, juicy and delicious. Served with a spicy molho (sauce) on the side which is a great complement. Comes with a better than average tossed salad, good fresh fried potato chips, some bread and that's it - simple and perfect.

              Would be tough to top this meal, but "Tasquinha de Adelaide" in the Campo de Ourique barrio of Lisbon did. The place is tiny, maybe ten tables so make sure you make a reservation. They have a rather extensive menu, but you come here for the roasted leg of lamb. This is a remarkably good dish - maybe the finest red meat I've ever eaten. It only comes as a portion for two, so if you come with your spouse beg/plead/bribe them into agreeing to split this dish. My wife doesn't like lamb but she loved this, they won't regret it. Comes to the table served in its roasting pan, and the meat has a crunchy deep dark addictive crust. The meat is juicy, garlicky and herby, sweet and tender without a hint of gaminess. A sneakily major amount of garlic is used in the rub, along with fresh herbs dominated by rosemary and some mint. Accompanied in the roasting pan by superb portuguese yellow potatoes and a generous portion of what I think were braised dandelion greens, everything swimming in the pan juices. Really nice wine list with some great and very reasonably priced reserva Douro's. Just an awesome meal. The kitchen is the size of a pantry, I popped in after dinner to thank the chef and she showed me where all this magic takes place - an old cast iron oven maybe the size of what you find in a home. Amazing. I have no idea how they fit all these pans in the oven, it's a loaves and fishes thing.

              We arrived on May Day, so three of our planned dining choices went out the window because they were closed due to the holiday. Concierge finally got us a reservation at "Lisboa a Noite" in the Bairro Alto. I'd heard it was touristy, but it was a pleasant surprise. Not nearly as good as Tasquinha de Adelaide, but it was a very decent meal and a huge wine list - plus you're surrounded by lots of eye candy, plenty of model types accompanied by their "uncles". We ordered pork, which was ok but I saw a lot of people ordering the roast leg of lamb - which came to the tablesides looking suspiciously like a copy of Tasquinha de Adelaide's. The couple at the table next to us were eating it and they said it was pretty tasty. By the looks of it I believed them.

              If your wife wants to shop, the "Cafe a Brasileira" on Rua Garrett is a great place to while away the time as she hits the stores. This is in the middle of the Chiado shopping district, and if Hemingway would have made it to Lisbon this is where he would have drank. Great people watching on the outdoor terrace, bring your mirrored wraparound shades. The "pasteis de bacalhau" (deep fried cod fritter) is a tasty snack, even though they served it cold. I had to ask the waitress three times for some piri-piri sauce, but do NOT eat these without it.

              The restaurant in the Castelo Sao Jorge is also surprisingly good for a tourist place. The view is incomparable, you sit on the castle ramparts and have a remarkable vista of the entire downtown of Lisboa and the Tejo river. The clay-tiled roofs of the old whitewashed houses sweep out below you on the hillside, and you can sit there for hours mesmerized by the beauty of this city. Oh yeah, they have a pretty ambitious menu too with some nice fresh fish simply prepared. Expensive and I'm sure there's better fish to be had in Lisbon, but given that view I think it was fairly priced.

              We tried making it across the river to Cacilhas for lunch. Our hotel gave us a map that showed two ferry boat routes going to Cacilhas - one from Praca de Comercio and the other from Cais de Sodre. I mentally flipped a coin and went to the port at Praca de Comercio...wrong. The watefront is under construction at that point and the only ferry to Cacilhas leaves from Cais de Sodre. So if you want to combine a trip to Belem with lunch across the river, make sure you get off the electric tram at Cais de Sodre before you get all the way back to Baixa.

              Memorable place, great good.

              1 Reply
              1. re: fast eddie

                We went to Lisboa Al Note, and thought it was excellent. The space is very modern, and stylish. The food was excellent, and the service was spot on (much better than when we ate at the restaurant in our Hotel - Lapa Palace, which is was a great hotel, but the restaurant didn't live up to the hype).

                My wife got the Lamb, and it was wonderful. I ate most of it. I got Salmon, and it was good, but nothing special.

                Barrio Alta is a fun area. There are tons of great places to go, and it was very lively.

                The portions were huge, and our total bill was quite reasonable (less than $100 Eur) with a bottle of Vihno Verde, apps and desert.

                Get reservations at Lisboa, somehow we were able to get in without them (we were there when the doors opened), but we saw a ton of people being turned away.

                Lisbon is a great city.

              2. I'm bumping this thread just because I was surfing and came across it -- Vila Joya is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. I probably had one of the three or four best meals of my life there and the view and surroundings are just magical. Anyone going to the Algarve needs to check this place out.

                1 Reply
                1. re: whiner

                  We are going to the Algarve in mid March and it would be nice to try Vila Joya. Can you tell me what you had for dinner and what the prices were like. You certainly must have given it 4 stars +

                2. If I can recall correctly the chef was in an Asian inspired mood that night...

                  4 amuse bouche including 2 or 3 different pate and a mini spiced veal burger

                  Hake with summer vegetables (forget the preperation)

                  A wonton soup of sorts with crispy fried shrimp

                  John Dory springroll with tamarind

                  Duck breast with some sort of berries

                  Forget the desserts

                  Petit fours

                  There was also a sorbet course and salad course in there. Sorry, it has been a few years since I ate there. Prices were high for Portugal but quite low/reasonable within the context of the quality of the restaurant (2 Michelin stars, often cited as the best restaurant in the country). If I had to bet at what it is now, I would guess it is probably around $80/person for the food, but I'm not the right person to ask.

                  The menu was pre fixe with at most 3 options for any one course but it seemed like they did a really thoughtful job of making sure that any reasonable diet preferences (other than vegetarian) were thought of in advance. For example, other than the amuse bouche, it was easy to stay away from any sort of organ meat. It was easy to stay away from shellfish. It was easy to stay away from mamals...

                  1. thanks Winer,
                    It sounds wonderful. If your 80 figure is in euros this is a bit steep for me. We would be converting from Canadian dollars and it would correspond to $121.00. I guess I will just dream about it.

                    1. It was pure guess, but I was putting it in USD. I think it was about $60USD right when the ratio between dollars and Euros was about 1:1 so I was betting on a little inflation and the worse convertion rate now...

                      1. I liked Bica do Sapato in Lisbon.

                        1. Hello from Lisbon! :)
                          Pastéis de Belém...you have to try them, really it's the best "cake" ever! It's in Belém, just ask anyone for directions it's very easy to get there. http://www.pasteisdebelem.pt

                          About the restaurants...dont know.. everyone is saying Bica do Sapato etc, but those are expensive ones. Just ask someone in a shop, a local person.. i bet they indicate you the very best in every town, don't go just for the "known" ones -- Portugueses just adore tasty food, even if the rest is not "beatiful", the food must be.

                          Have a good stay, hope you enjoy it :)

                           
                          1 Reply
                          1. re: IHeartMuffins

                            No mention of Alentejo yet... If you find yourself in Evora (neat World Heritage site, a few hours from Lisbon), O Fialho is a MUST. We were told it was considered one of the best restaurants in Portugal, so we thought it was worth a try. One of the best meals I've ever eaten. Emphasis on regional specialties...I had an absolutely succulent lamb stew; my husband had wild boar. When we sat down, our table was covered with wonderful little appetizers...we ended up devouring them all, which really jacked up our bill (but still very reasonable, in comparison to fine restaurants in the US and elsewhere in Europe). In fact, everywhere we ate in the Alentejo region was fantastic-- look out for the "black pork" (even better than regular pork--I don't know why) and the delicious local cheese (serpa) served in a semi-melted state and slathered on bread.