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Sep 7, 2012 03:51 PM

Any new thoughts on Porto, Peso da Regua and Chaves?

I've mined all the recent threads on Porto, but wondering if anybody has anything to add for 2012?

Also, I've not been able to dig up anything on the Douro river valley or Chaves? Any assistance regarding food or wine is welcome.


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  1. I posted last night on a similar question:
    Nothing on Chaves except what's on Tripadvisor (with its well known limitations):

    5 Replies
    1. re: monchique

      Thanks very much. I'm eating at Foz Velha tonight, having just enjoyed a really delicious white port cocktail at the beautiful Yeatman.

      If we get to either Pesa da Regua or Vila Real, I'll eat at places recommended by your "expert" and report back. As of this moment, a transportation strike lurks, and we may end up renting a car and heading straight to Chaves instead.

      1. re: barberinibee

        I woud be interested by your opinion on Foz Velha. It was my favorite place in Porto, but I have not been for a while, and have had mixed reports.

        1. re: monchique

          Will try to write up a full report when I am back home. Brief preview for the benefit of current travelers is that Foz Velha has some delicious plates, and imagination and quality of ingredients is high at the restaurant. But there are slip ups in service -- which is more earnest than precise, that should lower expectations and demands a forgiving attitude when it comes to comparing it with other "top" restaurants for international city-hopping gourmands. More later...

          1. re: barberinibee

            Thks for that. Glad to know Chef Marco Gomes is still performing! The service has always been more friendly than efficient...

            1. re: monchique

              Problem is, with a tasting menu -- which are practically the only options at Foz Velha -- timing and pacing are really an important part of making the menus work. Our meal dragged on, unnecessarily, I think, and sometimes matched wines outpaced the arrival of dishes. Most deflating was that the wait staff let us hanging for what felt like forever, looking for the check so we could leave.

              Foz Velha raises expectations high by being so far from the center, and then offering mainly tasting menus at prices that are noticeably high for Porto. I found myself thinking I wish the chef didn't have such an expansive, formal operation. He's in control of individual dishes, but not the dining experience. Some details: A window near the diners was left open, presumably to cool the room on a warm night, but it also allowed a noticeable amount of motor exhaust and noise to enter the dining room. And maybe I'm the only one who doesn't want to eat fine food listing to Michael Bolton and other schlock, but it was distracting, as was the constant clomping of the waiter staff's shoes across that uncarpeted, hollow old wood floor. I also thought diners who opted for the tasting menu should be given more guidance about the desserts. The meal came to a thud-finish. Tightening up those sort of details would be my advice, because many of the dishes we had were really fresh and bright.

    2. My fiancé and I spent 3 days in Porto, and struggled to find a reputable restaurant that prohibited smoking (note to travelers in Portugal, this was a real struggle. Even the most highly rated restaurants usually permitted smoking somewhere in the restaurant, which, for non-smokers, essentially means everywhere. And after visiting numerous restaurants recommended on trip advisor and chowhound, we found this to be consistently true). We passed a hotel restaurant at Hotel Carris Porto Ribeira, and found the menu to be enticing...sort of a modern take on some classic Portuguese dishes. This ended up being the best restaurant we frequented in Porto. All of our dishes were exceptional, and the service was excellent. The servers were both attentive and knowledgeable without being overbearing. If you’re in Porto and looking for a reasonably priced, exceptional meal in a non-smoking environment, check this place out. And post your comments…I’d be interest to see if others had as positive of an experience as us.

      6 Replies
      1. re: BillUbell

        Even though my trip is over, I'd be interested to know what you ate, drank and roughly the cost per person. Where else did you eat in Porto and Portugal? Did you write up a trip report I could read?

        I also don't iike restaurants that permit smoking (even outside), but I can tolerate it. My main problem was locating any restaurant in Porto that really appealed. Since I was only there for a few days, I imagine there surely are some, but I didn't feel I was surrounded by an abundance of them.

        1. re: barberinibee

          We had close to 3 weeks in Portugal, so we were able to sample a lot of regional dishes. I probably preferred the Douro wines over the Dao and Alentejo, but all were good and reasonably priced (8-12 dollars per bottle). All in all the food was kind of hit or miss, but in Viseau we had quite possibly the best meal ever. It was a regional veal stew at a restaurant named O Cortico. Divine! Starter, bottle of wine, and two courses was something like 25 dollars per person. Very reasonable. Prices were similar in Evora. We had a fantastic lunch at Dom Joaquim, but nothing else to really speak of. Both Porto and Lisbon were a bit more expensive, where prices ranged from 25 to 50 per person. By far our favorite dinner in Lisbon was at Alma. That was closer to 60 per person, but we did it up that night. I wrote up a short piece on Olivier Café because it was very disappointing (although it seems to receive good reviews overall). Link to that below.

          I completely agree with you on Porto. Overall, we were very disappointed in the food there. On our last night we randomly stumbled upon a restaurant named Forno Velho in the Carris Hoteles. I’ve yet to write a review on it, but certainly will…it was very delightful! Great food, service, and very reasonably priced. I think we paid 40 a person.

          If you ever return, you must go to O Cortico! In retrospect, we wished we had stayed in Viseau for one more day, just to have another dinner there!

          1. re: BillUbell

            By the way, it is Viseu. Glad to here it is still good,funky and just a fun place!

            1. re: BillUbell

              Thanks BillUbell,

              I do hope to return to Portugal and see more of it, so thanks for the tip about O Cortico and Dom Joaquim. (Overall, I think I had my best meal in Portugal in Guimaraes at Historico). I look forward to your review of Forno Velho.

              1. re: barberinibee

                Hello all -- I know this thread is a bit old now, but I thought I'd inquire here before starting a new one. We're planning an 8-day loop (I know -- not enough time! there never is!) from Porto up to the Ribeira Sacra and back through the Douro. I'd love to hear of can't-miss eateries and wineries, especially if you all have been back, or have acquired new intel in the meantime! Thanks in advance for any time and thoughts!

                1. re: uberslop

                  Sometimes you need to embrace regional food for what it is. We just spent two weeks in Porto and loved it. The following is from two posts I've recently written for my blog:

                  Grills grace the sidewalks in front of many mom-and-pop restaurants throughout Porto, filling the air with the aroma of smoking fresh dorado and sardines, a flavorful distance from oily canned ones. Porto is heavenly for seafood lovers.

                  Our introduction to food in Porto was a basic riverside café, perfect for the jet-weary travelers. We opted for the classic starters – pastel balcahau, or codfish balls – surprisingly good. The garbanzo salad was great, and the seafood stew was flavorful. Can’t remember the restaurant name; the inclusion of krab in the stew seemed absurd in a port city and made the spot memorable only for its view.

                  At first I thought the owner of Adega Vila Mela disliked tourists, but, as regulars continued to pour in for lunch, I realize he was a tiny gruff with everyone. As observations continued throughout our stay in Porto, I realized increasingly why: often owners are the sole person managing the front of the house. Owners are seating patrons, taking orders, busing tables, cashing out customers and keeping an eye on how things emerge from the kitchen. Waiters make their money primarily from salary in Portugal; tips are meager. This means few are hired to cover the tables, which leads to stretched-to-the-max owners. But owners make sure everything is right.

                  Adega Vila Mela restaurant is tricky to find, so most of the customers are regulars – always a welcome sign. An abundance of flavorful olive oil was wonderful on the swordfish and the grilled calamari served with generous helpings of vegetables, but a couple of the squid were extremely sand-filled, ruining that dish. Reading reviews by others, I think that was a fluke. So I still would recommend Adega Vila Mela.

                  We were owner-served again, more cheerfully though, at Papavinhos, with large windows overlooking the Douro River. Here, we enjoyed a traditional vegetable soup and an artfully presented beet soup. The mussels topped with cheese and drenched in olive oil were a little rich for our taste, the cheese overwhelming the flavor of the underlying mussels. The grilled pork tenderloin was perfect. And, again, we would recommend this restaurant for traditional fare.

                  Located on a picturesque street that angles directly off the riverfront, Cozzza Rio looks appears way too touristy but we had surprisingly good meals there – grilled dorado, grilled sardines and a goat cheese and tomato salad. The Mister thought the dorado the best he tried anywhere, and the house green wine was refreshing and better than elsewhere. It’s best to steer clear of the frozen desserts, though.

                  We crossed the river via a one-euro ferry boat to sample the grilled seafood of Casa do Pescador in Afurada. Tasted my first barnacle here, salty and tender. My father grew up on the Chesapeake Bay and the ocean and never could believe people ate mussels; can’t imagine what his disgust would have been over barnacles. A cup of seafood stew was mildly spicy and good; the bones were easy to avoid. We went again with the sweet, white dorado, surrounded by mountains of vegetables.

                  The ultimate bargain seafood was right in our neighborhood – about 15 euros for a dinner for two of vegetable soup, a huge serving dish of octopus rice and a liter of house wine at Tia Aninhas. The octopus was perfectly tender at this spot filled with locals.


                  Pizza always beckons us at some point no matter where we roam. And, perched over the Douro River, the glass-walled Casa d’Oro boasts both a wood-burning oven and almost the best view in town. The pizzas were pretty good, and the arancini made up for missing Central Market’s Passaporto Italia. The arugula and parmigiano salad was perfect, and even better when combined with the pear and goat cheese salad – a mountain of cubes of both those key ingredients.

                  With almost an equally prime view on the opposite side of the river from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia, Real Indiana gave us a burst of flavors totally different from the traditional dishes of Porto. Texas tastebuds had begun yearning for an infusion of spicy flavors, so the sauces were welcome. The mixed grilled meats as an appetizer were plentiful; each one – chicken, lamb, beef, gyro – had such wonderfully distinctive seasoning. The vegetable biryani was pleasing as well, and all the dishes seemed to pack more punch than Indian restaurants at home.

                  Book Restaurante is among the restaurants updating traditional Portuguese dishes well. Located in a former book store in a downtown neighborhood with several others still surviving, the restaurant keeps shelves of books on the wall and delivers menus and checks in pages of (seemingly) random books. We ate there twice, our first experience being so positive – a lunch special of luscious carrot soup followed by a large timbal of potatoes, greens and crusty codfish. Our second visit was minus the lunch special, so had a painful pinch to it. But, aside from that, the tender tentacle of octopus twisted into a pot layered with roasted slices of sweet potatoes and greens was truly a remarkable dish.

                  Amazingly, our other contemporary-take experiences were right in our neighborhood. This past March, an enthusiastic new manager making a career change took over a traditional restaurant located in an old post office – O Carteiro. The results were both pleasing and geographically convenient. He introduced us to the refreshing drink of white port, tonic and mint. The kitchen makes a wonderful mixed-game sausage, which was a flavorful appetizer and wonderful as a stuffing for chicken, and the grilled sardines were the best we have had so far….


                  More photos can be found on the actual blog posts.