Lisbon and Alentejo Report -- longish
A BIG thank you to everyone on Chowhound who helped make our trip to Portugal such an eating success. Here is our report.
Largo. Our first meal in Portugal was at Largo, right around the corner from our apartment in Chaido/Baixa. What a gorgeous restaurant! Beautiful table setting, gracious, friendly service, amazing and unusual décor (if you go, take a close look at the back wall) and inspired cooking. What an introduction to Portuguese cuisine and wine! We loved it; among the best food we have ever eaten.
Ibo. When our reservations at Assintura got mixed up (see below), we had to improvise. Ibo was on our list, we called, and they could take us that evening. Great restaurant on the water near the bustling train station, Cais Sodre. Again, interesting décor, friendly service, delicious food – with some inspiration from Angola and Mozambique – fabulous wine. More relaxed then Largo or Assintura, but still classy.
Cervejaria Ramiro. What an experience! The line out the front door was a bit intimidating, but we had reservations, so we found the maitre d’ who suggested we wait inside by the counter. We watched in fascination as the waiters scurried between the counter and the countless tables filled with diners. We also watched one of the counter men cut thin slices of presunto (cured pork, like Iberian from Spain) for the traditional starter of presunto and toasted bread/butter. We shared some with another couple waiting for their table – the Portuguese are very friendly and warm – and it was just delicious and a perfect way to start our meal of crabs and shrimp cooked in lots of garlic and olive oil. This time it was good Portuguese beer to accompany the simple, well cooked meal. Others on Chowhound had mentioned that the neighborhood was a bit “iffy”, but we felt safe walking to and from the Metro (which is also safe, clean, fast, and efficient).
Assintura. An amazing meal. We had the five course tasting menu with accompany wines and found the food and wine to be just outstanding. Again, excellent, warm, attentive, professional service, and interesting décor (although nothing could compare to Largo).
For our last night in Lisbon, we once again relied on the good advice of the Chowhoud folks and ate in Salsa e Coentros. We didn't have reservations -- and it was almost filled. It is located in a residential neighborhood not too far from the airport. A relaxed, family restaurant, with English speaking waiters, the usual warm attentive service, delicious food, and excellent wine. Great orange pudding. My husband had the grilled octopus which was delicious. Quite reasonable meal at 55E.
A Cadeia Quinhentista, Estremoz. Gorgeous restaurant with delicious food located in an interestingly renovated 15th century former jail. At our first dinner there (we had two) we ordered the cover, two appetizers, two main dishes, a delicious desert, a bottle of wonderful Alentejo wine from their extensive wine list, two coffees, and a liquor called Poejo made from pennyroyal. Wonderful service (with an English speaking waiter and a translated menu), delicious food, gracious owners who gave us good advice about things to do in Estremoz (i.e., the Saturday market), and a lovely setting. As with many restaurants in the Alentejo, it is in a town with a castle – in this case, almost at the top. Good hike up and back which helped us work off some of the calories. The entire meal (which includes the VAT) was 93E for the two of us. Well worth every penny.
In fact, we loved it so much, we came back for a second meal, but since the portions are quite large in Portugal, we did not order quite as much. As delicious the second time as the first.
Sao Rosas Estremoz. For another meal while we were in the Alentejo, we returned to Estremoz. Sao Rosas is an even further climb then A Cadeia! More traditional looking and feeling that A Cadeia, but equally delicious, if a bit less "modern".. We had learned not to order as much – just the cover, two entrees, a shared dessert, wine and water. A bit less expensive at 77E.
Fialho. Fialho in Evora is a classic, traditional Portuguese restaurant. The food is more traditional than A Cadeia or even Sao Rosas, but delicious and well prepared. As usual, the service was outstanding and helpful as we interpreted the menu. More fabulous wine (we never had a bad wine in all our time in Portugal) – and great food.
In short, we never had a bad meal, poor service, or poor wine our entire time in Portugal. Even in the little out of the way restaurant near the Water Pump Museum in Lisbon where we had a lunch of delicious grilled salmon or the tiny café in Porto Covo where we had tasty fish soup and excellent house wine. Portugal is a great destination for those of us who love food and wine.
Antonia, thank you for your interesting report. I will have to go back to Sao Rosas, have not been for a long time...
Thanks very much! I know what a meal costs at Ibo, but could you fill in the blanks in terms of price (exclusive of wine) for your other Lisbon meals?
Every time we ordered grilled octopus in Lisbon it was terrific, and we next went to Galicia in Spain, so we know our octopus. Although we rated some of our dishes at some eateries less thrilling than others, we came away from Portugal with the firm belief that the chances getting a delightful eating experience in Portugal are extremely favorable in all price categories, and the cuisine is quite varied, offering something for every palate. That the service was always terrifically kind and friendly and correct (not a single botched order) is especially noteworthy, since our attempts to pronounce Portuguese were wildly off the mark.
Thanks for your great report on the restaurants. We didn't get to Estremoz when we were in Evora but I wish we had gone there. Sao Rosa sounded wonderful. We went to a hill town near the Spainish border called Monsaroz and toured Herdade Do Esporao winery and had a wonderful lunch there. It is always good to want to go back and see and eat more.