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LISBON: 6 DAYS OF DINING

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We hit Lisbon in search of great meals during our week-long visit, armed with printouts of Chowhound reports and guidebooks from Time Out and Lonely Planet. I’m happy to report that almost all our meals were outstanding, and we fell in love with this beautiful city. Here are the details, with prices where I could find the receipts. After the addresses I’ve added the neighborhoods in parentheses.

BOMJARDIN
Travessa do Santo Antao (Baixa)
A big Chowhound favorite, and we immediately understood why as soon as our whole roast chicken arrived. It was one of the best we’ve had, second perhaps only to Zuni Café in San Francisco. With the creamed spinach as a side dish and a half-bottle of their house red wine, it was a perfect lunch for 25 euros.

PASTELERIA SUICA
Praca de Rossio 96 (right on the plaza in Baixa)
The outdoor seating provided some entertainment when a tourist asked a local resident to put out his cigar. The man with the cigar was hugely offended by that request and started yelling that he had a perfect right to smoke his cigar at an outdoor table. When the humbled tourist apologized, the man kept raging, “Apology NOT accepted, sir!” That said, the cappuccinos and pastels de nata (small pastries with a creamy custard filling) were excellent.

RESTAURANTE GRANJA VELHA
Rua dos Douradores 200 (Baixa)
Not exactly a disappointment, but nothing special. The bachalau (10 euros) and shrimp acorda (10 euros) were a bit gooey and bland. They were huge portions, and we could have easily had one of the dishes and shared it.

SOLAR DOS BICOS
Rua dos Douradores 8-A (Baixa, at the bottom of the hills of Alfama)
We had a wonderful meal on the outside patio. The grilled sardines (7.50 euros) and chicken/rice dish served in a clay pot (9.50 euros) were outstanding.

CANTINHO DO BEM ESTAR
Rua do Norte 46 (Bairro Alto)
I had read mixed reviews of this restaurant, but it was probably our favorite in Lisbon. We got there early and grabbed one of the few remaining tables (it only seats about 20). The owner recommended clams in garlic sauce, which was an outstanding dish. The giant prawns in garlic sauce were a lot of work to get out of their shells, but it was worth it. We ordered extra bread just to soak up the two sauces. Their gooey chocolate cake was as good as advertised. With wine and bottled water, the meal came to 40 euros total for the two of us.

ESTELA DE BELEM
Rua de Embaixdor 172 (Belem)
This was a Lonely Planet guidebook recommendation, and it was excellent. It was filled with locals for lunch, and the friendly waitress helped us order despite our non-existent Portuguese. We had a beef dish that reminded me of Argentinean bife de lomo and a fresh sausage that was like chorizo. With wine and water, the tab was only 11 euros.

CONFEITARIA DE BELEM
Rua de Belem 84-92 (Belem)
This place (and their pastels de nata) totally lived up to the hype. Fresh from the oven, they were wonderfully flaky, and the custard filling was decadently delicious. We ordered at the counter (along with half the tourists in Belem) and then decided that we wanted more, so we found a table in one of the many, many back rooms. Don’t give up if you can’t find a table. There must be a dozen or more rooms in the back.

TAMARIND
Rua da Gloria 43 (Baixa)
We were in the mood for Indian food and decided to try this Time Out recommendation. The owner Mardev Walia was very gracious, and when he discovered that we like spicy foods he served us two extra sauces with the extra light and flaky papadum. The paneer with chilis and prawns (peeled fortunately) with tomatoes and onions were both excellent.

PORT WINE INSTITUTE
Rua Sao Padre de Alcantra 45 (Bairro Alto)
At first, this place was a big disappointment. We settled into comfy chairs in the beautiful dark-paneled room (just like an old-fashioned men’s club) and waited for our waiter. And waited. He kept smiling at us and walking by, promising that he would be over soon, but he never made it. 15 minutes later I decided to go up to the bar and see if I could order our port wines myself, but he scurried over and said that he would be over to take our order soon. We waited 10 minutes more, and finally gave up. But three days later, we decided to give the place another try and (luckily) found a more efficient waiter who took our order right away. The prices are certainly reasonable (between 1 and 3 euros for most of the port wines) and the portions are certainly more than just a tasting.

ATANVA
Rua da Pimenta 43 (Parque das Nacoes)
About a 15-minute walk from the aquarium (which is amazing), this is a great restaurant right on the river. The prices are a bit higher, but the quality was worth it. We had cod tempura (14 euros) and hank in mango sauce (17 euros).

AESQUINA DA FE
Ava da Fe 60 (Baixa)
A family-run restaurant with great food and a cozy ambience. I was having a hard time with the Portuguese-only menu, but the owner and I were able to communicate with animal sounds. I was hoping for roast suckling pig, so I made some oinking sounds. He shook his head to say no and instead put his hands on his head to show me that they had roast goat. The half-servings of roast goat and a pork dish (6.50 euros each) were terrific, just the sort of dishes I would imagine a Portuguese grandmother would serve. And the chocolate mousse was one of the best we’ve ever had, very rich and velvety.

VERSAILLES
Avenida da Republica 15A (near Parque Eduardo VII, which has a great greenhouse)
The pastels de nata were almost as good at the ones in Belem. This is gorgeous Art Noveau pasteleria.

CERVEJARIA RIBADOURO
Rua do Salitre 2 (Baixa)
This place is a bit pricey, but since we weren’t as hungry we decided to share the shrimp in garlic (15 euros) with rice as a side dish. The flan was nothing special.

RESTAURANTE FIDALGO
Rua da Barroca 57 (Bairro Alto)
This small restaurant served some of the best sausages we’ve had: farnheira (sausage with bread crumbs) and linguica (5.50 euros). The duck and rice dish (9.50) and grilled pork with potatoes and cilantro (9.50) were pretty good.

1 DE MAIO
Rua da Atalaia 8 (Bairro Alto)
This was a Time Out recommendation, and it was a bit of a disappointment. The staff was friendly, and the atmosphere was festive, but the food wasn’t as good as we had hoped. The clams with wine and garlic (10.50 euros) didn’t make much of an impression, and the pepper steak (14.90) was kind of rubbery. Maybe we just ordered the wrong items.

SACRAMENTO DO CHIADO
Caltada do Sacramento 40 (Baixa)
Probably the fanciest (and hippest) restaurant that we tried in Lisbon. The staff was very friendly, and the food was excellent. The house wine was a bargain at 12 euros for a bottle. The appetizer of baked goat cheese with jam (7 euros) was wonderful. The bacalhau (16 euros) was the best we had in Lisbon, and the grilled tuna steak (11 euros) was superb.

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  1. Wonderful report and I'm glad to see that you went to A Esquina da Fé! The owner is a really nice guy and the chocolate mouse is fantastic! I'm not sure which cabrito (goat) that you had, but they often make one in Red Wine that is fantastic. They also have a simple roasted one served with rice, fries, and green salad that is also delicious. Also, he is always willing to make a half-portion of anything on the menu too which is accomodating indeed.

    I've never been to the Sacramento do Chiado, however I will make a point to go there soon.

    You are also spot-on regarding the Port Wine Institute. I have been going there for years and service has never been their forté. Yet some of the servers are more attentive and hospitable than others. I often go there because they have some producers that you cannot find at many establishments both in and out of Portugal. One of these is Krohn which is tough to find on the international market.

    I cannot say enough good things about ViniPortugal in the Praça do Comercio which is a free wine tasting institute that offers the chance to taste amazing wines from the various regions of Portugal.

    Thanks again for the post.

    1. Thanks for this report. My wife and I are planning a return trip to Portugal for 2010 — our first in 10 years, this time armed with infinitely more food and wine knowledge and a bigger budget. I've already cribbed your report and tucked it inside my Rough Guide to Portugal.

      1. Thanks for this great list! I'm off to Lisbon in early September and bringing it with me!

        1. Wonderful report! It makes me long for a return trip. What I wouldn't give for a pastel de nata right now. If you are interested, I was to Lisbon, Porto, and several other towns in between back in Sept. '08 and I blogged about it extensively (complete with photos). Here's a link: http://mamaliciouseats.wordpress.com/... (this is a link to the first of 3 entries).

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