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Lisbon Report - Jan 2009

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In a follow-up to the previous thread on Lisbon Authentic and Local, I thought that I would report back on my recent "viagem" to Lisbon earlier this month.

Let me preface by saying that I've been to Portugal and Lisbon numerous times and truly appreciate the regional varieties of cuisine and wine that the country/city has to offer at excellent prices.

Bonjardim (Restauradores) - Continues to be the old standby and the first place I go to upon arrival. Nothing special, but the chicken and fries are pure comfort food and the the Casalheiro tinto or branco always goes nicely!

João do Grão (Baixa) - Many people rave about this place near the Praça da Figueira for good bacalhau. I went on a Sunday where many local families were enjoying a meal. The classic Bacalhau with Grão (Chickpeas) was very good and a hearty portion. Nothing special, but like Bonjardim, it hit the spot.

Tasquinha d'Adelaide (Campo Ourique) - I'm sorry to report that this establishment - which receives tons of exposure internationally - is overrated, pricey (for Lisbon), and chaotic. A few observations: one of the servers was a bit too helpful and huddled over the table while trying to read the menu and such. Furthermore, he did not speak Portuguese and very little English which made ordering complicated. Additionally, the small space allows smoking which can ruin the meal and the evening (at least from my point of view). Lastly, and most importantly, the food and dish that I ordered was lackluster, sloppy, and not up to standards. I had the chance to speak with the chef and owner afterwards and expressed my disappointment. While she was gracious and offered her apologies, I think this place either had an off night or simply has been hyped.

Chafariz do Vinho (Liberdade/Praça da Alegria) - A wonderful place where you can try tons of wine by the glass or bottle for great prices along with some tasty dishes and dessert. I recommend the duck salad as well as the lulas (squid or calamari) in a grain mustard sauce. The plate of national cheeses is fantastic as well. Lastly, the prices are fantastic and the ambience is very cool.

Senhora Mãe (Alfama) - I ended up here by accident one evening. The service was good and laid back. The menu has a Portuguese/international touch with some creative dishes. I ordered a beef filet with a double Portuguese cabra sauce (Goat Cheese) which didn't quite deliver for me. The ambience and wine list is very good. Prices are a bit above average but not terrible. I would give this another shot but try another dish.

Lisboa à Noite (Bairro Alto) - This slick place on the Rua das Gáveas has an upscale look but the service is friendly and laid back. Since it was January, the bulk of the crowd was international, but still plenty of locals. The menu is fantastic with a range of the regional varieties of Portugal. Evidently, the owners and chefs are from the Alentejo and Tras-os-Montes respectively which adds to the dynamics of the menu. The wine list and dessert cart are phenomenal. Worth a visit as the prices are fantastic. They also have a restaurant next door, O Ponto Vermelho, which is more of a Portuguese bistro menu and equally as good.

Futhermore, I must have stopped for at least 30 bicas (espressos) at various pastelarias and cafes throughout Lisbon. I continuously argue that the espresso in Portugal is the best in the world.

I also had the chance to eat at A Taberna in Coimbra which I highly recommend if you visit this university city which is known as a mini-Lisbon. I had to go there for work one day and really enjoyed my Chanfana (baby goat) in a red wine sauce with great batatas and killer bottle of Bairrada red.

Please do not hesitate to write if you have any questions or input. Saude!

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  1. thank you for sharing your knowledge. That espresso you love is probably a direct result from their intimate understanding of Brazilian coffees and how to roast and prepare them for that distinctive style you love--some of the mega Italian brands like Illy use a lot of Brasilian in their house espresso blends but who but the Portuguese could have better access? Then again, the best espresso we had on our visit to L.A. was from a Portuguese bakery, prepared by a young Belgian baker who learned how to make the natas and other wonderful pastries from the shop's owner. salud

    3 Replies
    1. re: moto

      Moto - Yes there is indeed a connection between the espresso made in Portugal and the coffee culture and history of Brazil. I've spent quite a bit of my life in Brazil and Portugal over the past twenty years and have noticed a bit of difference in coffee culture between the two countries. Over the past 15 years or so, more Brazilian cafes and restaurants have started serving espresso rather than "cafezinho" which is more like an intense non-crema strong coffee. The two main brands for coffee in Brazil, Pilão and Palheta, are rarely seen in Portugal. To me, Delta and Nicola (the main Portuguese brands) have a wonderful finish similar to say Illy or Lavazza. I should look into the origins of the beans (Brazil, South/Central America, Africa). It very well could be possible that Portuguese coffee comes more from Africa due to their colonial presence in Southern Africa until the 1970s (that is a story for another time...).

      The espresso that you had in LA was from Natas Pastries in Sherman Oaks? I've been dying to go their somtime and would love if she did mail order!

      Saude!

      1. re: vinhotinto75

        vinhotinto, the former Portuguese colonies in Africa produce neither the quantity or quality of coffees Brazil. The premium house blends like Illy have pipelines to top estates or coops, and there are considerable differences between estates and regions within Brazil (I roast at home, blending single estate or cooperative coffees). Yes, we had those great pastries in Sherman Oaks, that young Belgian baker puts out a huge variety, including French/Belgian and american style pastries and cookies, and everything we had was good to excellent. We hope to visit Portugal before too long, everything we've learned from the people and culture is very positive and inviting. salud

        1. re: moto

          It is true that in quantity, nobody beats Brazil. But as for quality, I think African cofee (S. Tomé, for example) was considered better. And even better, Timor coffee.

    2. Muito obrigado for your postings. I am preparing to travel to Portugal (Porto, Coimbra, Lisboa) and anticipating many good meals. You seem to think as I do: that smaller, family-run, local and traditional places are the best. Thank you for your tip on A Taberna in Coimbra. I will definitely go there. Bonjardim and João do Grão also sound great. Meanwhile, I must learn some Portuguese (beyond the lyrics to Mariza songs) and read more about the cuisine, especially the pasteis and cheeses.

      1. Cervejaria Trindade is a beer hall/restaurant in Barriro Alto and was highly recommended by my friend who lives there. I've go the name tucked away for our next visit. Do you know this place? He said the food was wonderful.

        1. Cervajaria Trinidade is one of Lisbon's most popular/traditional places which is popular among locals and tourists alike. Similar to Restô Chapitô in the Alfama/Castelo region, the ambience and architecture often is better than the food (which can be very good at both places!). I would suggest going there at least once since it is a Lisbon institution for food and historical purposes much like say the Carnegie Deli in NYC, etc.

          They have a website in construction:

          http://www.cervejariatrindade.pt/

          This site has some photos and additional detail as well:

          http://www.golisbon.com/food/restaura...

          Saúde!

          1. Great post!

            1 Reply
            1. re: phoenikia

              Thanks very much!

              I've been going to Lisbon for years and over the last year and until 2011 I will be going on a regular basis due to work obligations.

              I can think of worse places to be...