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Oct 30, 2012 08:22 PM

Portugal Trip Report

We had a wonderful time in Portugal. The food was fabulous.

On Friday, after we arrived, we had lunch at Restaurant Estrela da Se in the Alfama. I had Bacalhan A Bras which is a traditional dish with bits of cod and eggs and my husband had Pasteis of Bacalhan Arroz Esalada which was cod balls with a salad.

We went to Assinatura on Friday night and had the 5 courses with wine pairings. The restaurant was very modern. The decor was very soothing and the service was great. I did not take alot of notes since the waiter promised to send me via email a menu. (My mistake since they have not responded to my emails) I will share my sketchy notes. We first had an amuse which was white asparagus soup with morels and oysters in a cream sauce with foam. It was wonderful. Our first course was a fish course which I did not write down but it was very good. Our second course was clams (coggles) with a tomato sauce with bread soaked in milk. It was exceptional. The third course was cod with shrimp and it was very good. The main course was pheasant in a red wine reduction. It was okay but not exeptional. The dessert was wonderful. It ws a pastry with lemon ice cream and a mango cookie. They served a sauterne with it that was wonderful. I also had a Post Script de Chrysera Savigonon Blanc 2010 (3 varieties) from the Doro that was excellent with some of the fish dishes. I also had a Malavesia which was also good.

On Saturday we went for breakfast to Confesitaria Nacional and had the Nate pastry and an almond pastry called an Empada. On Saturday afternoon we went to Belem and had the original Pastel de Nata, which was still warm. Wow!!!! Wish I lived in Belem. We also ate at Restaurante Os Jermimos which is on the main street.. I had clams which was so so but my husband had sea bass Nazare. He had two sea bass for lunch with the wonderful sauce of paprika and vinegar as well as vegetables. I helped him clean his plate.

On Saturday night, we went to Alma and had another wonderful meal. We had the 4 course meal with wine pairings. The amuse was a scallop with orange and mint with brocilli. It was very good. Our first appetizer was marinated horse mackerel filets in a rustic coriander sauce and lemon oil. It was fantastic. We had a 3B Rose Bairada with both of those. Then we had a roasted fillet of grouper with brown butter, white asparagus and mussel risotto secented with lemon. We had a Azeo 2011 Douro with that. The main entree was grilled iberian pork medallions with turnips, apple and potato puree, pear chutney and thyme juice. It was excellent. We had a Papa Figos 2010 Douro with that. We were then given a brazilian lime sorbet to clear our pallets. And the dessert was a white chocolate "pannacotta" with poached pineapple and almond foam. It was served with a Taylor Reserva Port 2005, The meal was fabulous. All of this for 47Euros without wine and 60 euros with wine pairings. I noticed through out the trip that wine is very reasonable (and good) in Portugal.

Sunday night we went to see Fado in the Alfama. We went to A Baiucca which was amateur Fado. It is a tiny little place in the Alfama. All the cooks also participate and one of them has a wonderful voice. It is quite an experience and lots of fun. I would recommend it. We had wonderful starters - tuna and bean and two different sheep cheeses. The sea bass was also very good.

On Monday night we ate at the 1 Michelin star Fortaleza do Guincho. We were staying there and our meal was included in our package but they let us choose items off of different menus. We had an amuse that included 3 items - Caulflower soup, oxtail with tomatoes and wine reduction and vegetable and a mousse with crab. We then had Crab scented with yuzu, fine jelly and small vegetables marinated with lemon zest. It was wonderful and the wine pairing was a Quinta de Sant" Ana Sauvignon Blanc, 2011. Our entree was roasted stone bass from the coast with girolles, small vegetables with colonnate bacon and a dark sauce. I had a Contraste Douro 2010 wtih that. We then moved on to our 3 desserts. First we had Mignardisdes - apple crumb with vanilla and chocolate. We then had the regular dessert which was grand cru Tainori chocolate mousse, grue chips and raspberry cream with blackcurrant and porto sherbert and fresh raspberries. That was served with Quinta da Alorna, Abafado 2005. We finished with a plate of pasteries including chocolate truffle, madeleine and other wonderful french pasteries. We waddled to our room after that meal and had to take some of the cookies with us since we were stuffed. The great thing about this restaurant was the view - the sunset over the ocean and the crashing waves. The service was impeccable and the restaurant was very quiet. We had a table by the window.
Tuesday night we ate at Porto de Santa Maria in Guincho. It was a mixed bag. The restaurant was very noisey since there were alot of large groups there. I had the stuffed spiny crab as an appetizer and a lobster. Both were excellent. My husband didn't like his fish soup which had very little fish in it and he said his cod which was cooked in the Portuguese manner was not that good. I think the problem with his meal was that we didn't order a fresh fish to share since I was having the lobster. He just ordered a meal. While my meal was very good, we thought the restuarant was over priced compared to all the other wonderful meals that we had in Portugal.
On Wednesday, we headed to Nazare and for lunch we ate at Resaurante A Tasquinha. We had an excellent fish soup with lots of fish in it and shared a sea bass with Nazare sauce (olives, vinegar, onion, paprika). It was wonderful. ( We had been eating alot since Fortaleza do Guincho had a wonderful breakfast buffet.) Wednesday night we ate at our hotel, Mestre Alfonso Domingue, and it was good,. The restaurant is called Vintage. I had veal steak and my husband had sea bass. (He likes sea bass.)

Thursday we moved over to Tomar. We had lunch at a local restaurant Restaurant O Tabuleiro. I had Bean stew with squid (Ensopado de Borrego) and Pat had prork and potato cubes and clams(Carne de Porco Alentenja). Both were excellent. I think both of them were specialities of the region.

Thursday night we went to Chico Elias in Tomar which was one of the reaons we went to Tomar (the Knight Templars were very interesting but the restaurant is a MUST. ) We had to order our meal a few days ahead of time since it is slow cooked in a wood burning oven. We started with grilled sardines with onions. We also had beans with snails and tomatoes. They were excellent. The main courses were rabbit roasted in a pumpkin with onions and mushrooms. Since eels were out of season, we also had pork and cod with corn. These were huge meals but they also served a salad, creamed spinach, rice and french fries. Since the main courses were so wonderful, we didn't eat the sides. We had a very nice house wine. For dessert we had creme brulee and a yolk cake (Tatia de Toluar). The creme brulee was great but the waitress said that the yolk cake was a speciality of Tomar so I ordered it. She said she liked it but a lot of people didn't like it. She was right.
The restaurant is quite an experience. The owner/chef is a short plumb mid aged woman who has won accalades from the press and food writers for her return to tradional slow cooked recipes. The walls are filled with articles (all in Portuguese) about the restaurant). The restaurant is very low keyed and sort of rustic. After the meal, I looked in the kitchen and Maria came out. I told her through the waitress how wonderful the meal was. She hugged me and we got our picture taken with her. All in all a wonderful evening and also very reasonable.

On Friday night we were in Evora and we ate at Vinho e Nos. It was okay but nothing spectacular. I had the black wild pork with chestnuts and it as very good. My husband had pork with bread sauce and it was dry.

On Saturday we took a tour of the Exporao vineyard and winery and had a luncheon there. We tasted 4 olive oils and a number of wines. The lunch was wonderful. We first tasted the four oil oils. We then had a chestnut soup. We also had scrambled eggs with ham and parsley. We were served a white Verdelho 2011 with those courses. We then had cod with pureed potatoes that was served on top of spinach with fancy garlic threads on top. We had an Espora Reserva 2010 (white) with that. Our main course was a lamb stew with potatoes, parsley and juice. It was delicious and was served with a Petit Verdot 2008. For dessert we had a cheese torte with rasberry sorbet. They served a late harest Colheita Tar Dia 2011 with that. It was wonderful but not as sweet as an ice wine. All in all a very memorable meal. And we bought wine and olive oil to take home in our suitcases. Luckily this was near the end of our trip. y

Saturday evening we were back in Evora and ate at Taberna Tipica Quarta Feira. The father cooks one meal and that is what you eat. The son served it. Everything was great and it was great people watching. We had as appetizers stuffed hot muchrooms, hot sheep cheese with oregano, and black porc sausage. For our main course we had black porc that was so tender with spinach, carrot rice and potatoes. For dessert we had quince with walnuts and a local cake with a egg and sugar filling. It was called Melenoz Encharcada. They had a house wine that was very good.

We were staying at Hotel Albergaria do Calvario. The breakfasts were all organic and they had eggs anyway you wanted them, wonderful cakes, honey, wheat germ, quince, different fruits, etc. It was lovely.

For our last evening in Lisbon, we ate at Santa Antonio de Alfama in the Alfama. the walls are covered with photos of famous people who have dined there. We had wonderful sheep cheese, potato skins and olives And we had our last seabass with herbs. All in all a wonderful way to end our trip to Lisbon and Portugal.

We had a wonderful 10 days in Portugal. The weather was great, the people friendly, the roads easy to navigate and not that crowded. Overall our food was fabulous. I hope you enjoyed our comments and they give you some ideas for your trip to Portugal in the near future. It really is a nice place to visit and not that hard on the budget.

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  1. PS- I want to thank everyone on Chowhound for their recommendations and suggestions. It was so much fun eating at such a variety of restasurants and we got to sample so many different types of Portuguese cuisine.

    1. Thanks for reporting! Would it be too much trouble to report what you paid for your meals per person, exclusive of wine?

      1 Reply
      1. re: barberinibee

        Sure, let me dig out my receipts tonight and add that info.

      2. Fantastic report suzie - thanks so much. Chico Elias sounds amazing, cant wait to return to portugal to try it out.

        Portugal needs more restaurants reviving its varied and delicious traditional cuisine.

        6 Replies
        1. re: themiguel

          Here are the costs for most of the meals.

          Friday - Restaurant Estrela da Se - lunch 15 Euros
          Assinatura - 5 course tasting menu - 102 Euros for the food The wine pairing was 24 Euros
          Alma- 4 course tasting menu was 47 euros but you also had the sorbet and amuse. Wine pairing was 13 euros.
          Restaurante Os Jeromimos - we paid cash - I think it was about 18 euros.
          A Baiuca - 52 Euros. It also included the Fado.
          Fortaleza do Guincho - it was part of our package since we stayed there but you can check on line to find out the cost of the meal. We had the three course menu but there was an amuse and 3 desserts so it was alot to eat. From what I remember, I think the meal was about 50 Euros per person.
          Restaurante Porto Santa Maria - 130 euros for the food. The reason it was so expensive was the lobster cost 66 euros since it was based on its weight. I thought the lobster was not worth the price. The cod cakes and the other appetizers were wonderful as was the spiny stuffed crab that I had.
          Nazare - Restaurante A Tasquinha - 20 euros.
          Tomar - Restaurant O Tabuleiro - 20 euros.
          Tomar - Chico Elias - 56 euros but that included a half carafe of house wine, a soft drink and bottled water. Nothing was itemized. We ordered alot of appetizers and the two desserts which was way too much food.
          Evora - Vinho e Nos - 37 euros
          Taberna Tipica Quarta Feira- 50 euros - it was 25 euros a person and included the wine, soda and bottled water, etc.
          Herade Do Esporao was 120 euros. It included the vineyard tour, the tour of the cellar and plant, the tastings of 4 olive oils, 4 wines and the gourmet lunch that was described earlier. There were people who just ate at the restaurant but I don't know what the actual restaurant cost was.
          Lisbon- Restaurante St Antonio Alfama- 65 euros.

          I hope this helps.

          1. re: suzieq4

            Yes, it does help very much. Thank you. I'm sure future readers will appreciate it too.

            1. re: suzieq4

              Thanks for all the details - just goes to show how your can sample great food in Portugal without breaking the bank! I took a group to O Tabuleiro this summer & we had a 3 course meal & wine & coffee for 12 euros per person.

              1. re: suzieq4

                Here are some costs for our meals while in Portugal. And, as yourlisbonguide says, it is definitely true that you can have some great food and great wine without breaking the bank.

                Fialho in Evora: 82 euros for two including a bottle of wine,bottle of water, appetizers, main course, one dessert, two coffees and the cover.

                A Cadeia in Estremoz: 93euros for cover, water, appetizer, main dish, one dessert, two coffees, and a bottle of the fabulous licor de poejo (pennyroyal) which cost 16euros which we brought home.

                We also ate lunch in Herdade do Esporao and recommend it highly. Food is quite good, the tour was very interesting, and the winery is great looking. We had two wines and tasted 3 olive oils, plus a light lunch for 37.50 euros for two.

                We didn't collect information on all of our restaurants on the spot, but can get more info once the credit card bill arrives (sigh).

                When you remember that the VAT is included in all these costs, plus tipping is not like in the US, these meals truly become "bargains".

                1. re: antonia2

                  Thank you for the added details on cost. Not only did we find Portugal a great destination for truly cheap and delicious meals. we also found it to be a place where experimenting with high-end restaurants doesn't break the bank. Even the most chattered about restaurants with award winning chefs had prices that were a fraction of what you find elsewhere in Europe.

                2. re: suzieq4

                  Very good report with some of the best Lisbon restaurants (at least to me). Just to clarify i think that the food prices are for one person (like alma) and in other cases are for two persons (like Assinatura or Porto de Santa aria) The five course menu at Assinatura cost 51€ lastt time i waas there)
                  WE hope to see you again in Lisbon and Portugal to taste our good restaurants

              2. When we first started planning this trip, over a year ago, I had some trepidation about going to Portugal. We are big foodies (and getting bigger, if you know what I mean) and based on all the posts on Chowhound, there were about 10 posts about Spain to 1 for Portugal. May 10 just for Barcelona!

                But we had heard so many good things from friends and I had always wanted to go.

                As this thread demonstrates, Portugal is truly the unsung "foodie heaven" of Europe. Not just because the food and wine are so good and relatively inexpensive, but for that unseen, but sincerely felt "something" that characterizes the Portuguese people: their friendliness, their love and pride in their country and their language without being chauvenistic (sp?), something I think we in the US could have more of, and their distinctive history and culture while being sophisticated and modern.

                We are now part of the Portugal cheering section and I hope more Chowhounders take the opportunity to visit. A short 6 hour trip from NY and you are in magical Lisbon.

                4 Replies
                1. re: antonia2

                  Bimbog, thanks for correcting me re Alma. Yes that was for one person - 47 euros. I have to echo what Bimbog and Antonia 2 have both said. If you are selective, you can find wonderful high end food served in lovely surroundings at places such as Alma or Assinatura and wine pairings for a fraction of the cost in other European countries. But in almost all the restaurants we went to whether they were high end, a neighborhood restaurant, or regional favorites such as Chico Elias, the restaurants were proud of what they were offering you and wanted you to have a good experience and enjoy their heritage. It was such a wonderful experience to enjoy the variety of Portugese cuisine.

                  I too hope there are more posts about Portugal on Chowhound,.

                  1. re: suzieq4

                    I want to add that we had some delightful meals in very simple restaurants in both Lisbon and the Alentejo. In Lisbon, we stumbled on a neighborhood restaurant near the Water Pump Museum which was filled with locals. The only thing we were sure of on the menu was grilled salmon. Great choice, perfectly cooked (not too rare; not too well done) the plain boiled potatoes that are so common in Portugal and a delicious salad. Owned by a couple, they too were proud of their food, proud of their wine, and proud of their very local establishment. It set a tone that echoed in every place we ate, whether high end or neighborhood.

                    1. re: antonia2

                      A PS - I just heard back from Assinatura and this is what we had to eat
                      1) Amuse- White asparagus soup with morels and oysters in a foamy cream sauce.
                      2) Pan fried cod fish tongues, in a Tomato Migas (tomato soaked in bread) with cockles.
                      3)Smoked Octopus, sweet potato puree and dehydrated apple.
                      4) Atlantic Grouper, shrimp, corn bread curst and topinambour
                      5) Roasted Partridge, Chestnuts, turnips and pears
                      Dessert 6) Toucinho de ceu - bacon on top of lemon ice crea, almond biscuit and mango culie - wonderful!!!

                      The Portuguese wines were also wonderful!!!

                      1. re: suzieq4

                        Sounds good! I had some chestnut dishes in Portugal and they were quite tasty. (I'm something of a chestnut freak.) Smoked octopus sounds really good.

                2. Thanks you -- this was exceptionally helpful and I look forward to our upcoming trip.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Caponata

                    You will have a great time in Portugal. We just loved it. In fact, we are going back; just for a day and night on our way to Marseille in June 2014. But we are so excited to do just that. Not the least because the Lisbon airport is so easy to use and flying into Lisbon shortens the trip from the east coast to Europe.