I was fortunate enough to attend a party this weekend with a great spread of food. The family is Portuguese and this was my first experience with that type of cuisine. Tons of seafood - mussels, clams, scallops, crab, haddock, smelts (or similar), and some kind of cubed pork with potato in a red wine sauce that was amazing.
Now I'm feeling the urge to try more Portuguese food. I see lots of posts here about O Cantinho, Atasca, Muqueca, Sunset, etc, but I'm wondering if people could toss out their favorite dishes at these places. Just looking for a place to start so I can get a better feel for the food. Thanks.
A couple of comments about "Muqueca." The restaurant name is Muqueca (used to be ponto de encontro) and the dish is usually spelled Moqueca as it is on their menu, although muqueca is an alternate spelling.
There are two different Moqueca styles in Brazil, Capixaba from Espirito Santo and Baiana from Bahia. Each claim to be the true Moqueca, although the Baiana is better known.
The Moqueca Capixaba is made with fish, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, coloring (urucum/achiote or colorau/paprika) and is cooked down in a black clay pot made with local mud and sap. Dishes based on mussels are also common. Lighter vegetable oils are generally used, particularly some olive oil.
The Moqueca Baiana uses coconut milk and palm oil, so has a strong west african influence, and it usually spicier.
Both are usually served with a "pirao" a porridge made using broth made with fish heads and ground yucca flour.
Bahia could be considered the seat of West African Culture in Brazil, whereas Espirito Santo is quite different (has a lot of native influnce, portuguese, groups from the azores and there are large german and italian colonies... as well as african influence).
At Muqueca their house special is the moqueca capixaba, which uses traditional cooking techniques and indigenous ingredients (urucum instead of dende), and the two owners are from Espirito Santo. So while they do offer the Moqueca Baiana as on option, I would not overall distinguish them as having a West African influence (its a Brazilian restaurant with some portuguese specialties). I also have not heard of the "moqueca region."
I also recommend O Cantinho a great place to get a good meal.I can only speak to the seafood menu which is done very well. The mussels appetizer alone is worth the trip, but good seafood dishes down the line. Muqueca is Brazilizn, so of course it has Portuguese influences. This place is terrific too. They do meat and some veggie plates (good salads) but their forte (IMHO) is the Moquecas, the clay pot fish stews that are from the Moqueca region. Wonderful spices (but not hot/spicey as you might think) that bring out and underscore the seafood flavor. They are definitly worth the trip. Skip the calamari app's though, not done well. The next time I go I have to try the deep fried whole red snapper. It always looks great.
My intro to Portuguese food was kale soup which is pretty much the staple and can be found at any Portuguese resturant. Good luck.
I'm so glad to hear that this is a traditional dish and not something his family made up. The pork and potatoes did have little necks on top. I'm wondering if the other chafing dish that had the assorted seafood in the spicy broth would have been a moqueca as described below. Sounds similar.
re: Ali G
Was the chafing dish actually a copper clam-shaped dish with a domed top? If so, this is a Portuguese "Cataplana." Both the server and the dish is called Cataplana. When I spent time in Portugal, I found that a common and delicious dish was "Cataplana Alentejano" -- cataplana in-the-style-of Alentejano (a region of Portugal) it's the clams, potatoes and pork (llinguica) steam cooked in the cooper pot. Delicious, huh?
re: Ali G
There are a number of mixed seafood dishes. Arroz de marisco (rice with seafood) comes to mind. Several variants are cooked in cataplanas (a southern Portuguese thing). Salt cod fritters (pasteis or rissois) are a good starting point for that.
Check out the kale soup and 1/2 grilled chicken at J&J for a low-cost, low-risk starting point. Chicken served authentically with potatoes and rice. If there are 2 of you, split it. I like their pork & clams but it's a bit eccentric--pickled vegetables instead of the more common cilantro garnish.
Moqueca has a heavy West African influence and is quite different (and good).
O'Cantinho is excellent, and you should definitely give it a try.
When I eat Portuguese, I usually get the pork and little neck clams dish, which may be similar to the one you had. It's cubed pork, with clams in the shell, in a wine sauce, or adobo sauce..I'm not sure, but whatever it is, is delicious.
If you like beans at all, try the fava bean appetizer there as well. Big meaty fava beans in a delicious sauce, with bacon or linguica. Really tasty.
I also happen to like the dishes with the Salt Cod (Baccala??). But I have found that people either hate the stuff or love it, so that might not be a good choice for a first timer.