Lisbon Restaurants Face Challenges in 2019, and Other Reviews from Richard Lachmann
Lisbon restaurateurs’ ambitions seem to have collided with a shortage of innovative and skilled chefs. While several wonderful new restaurants opened, and 100 Maneiras made a quantum leap in the ambition (and price) of their tasting menu several others showed a noticeable decline in the quality of their food. Most notably, Taberna da Rua das Flores, which has been lauded in various newspaper and magazine articles and on blogs, was notably less interesting and delicate than last year. Their principal chef opened Taberna Fina, an elegant restaurant with a tasting menu and perhaps his creativity and the most skilled of his sous chefs now work there, leaving the Rua das Flores location to his B Team. Tágide Restaurant and Wine and Tapas Bar, which also shares a chef and staff with a more ambitious and expensive restaurant, has so dropped in quality that we no longer can recommend it. Conversely, Jose Avillez and Kiko Martins seem to have the capacity to open new restaurants and find or train chefs able to maintain a consistently high quality.
While Lisbon and, to a lesser extent, Porto are the centers of Portuguese gastronomy, the Algarve has a number of outstanding restaurants. Most notably are two establishments, each with two Michelin stars, set in luxurious resorts: the Ocean Restaurant at Vila Vita Parc and Vila Joya at Hotel Vila Joya. The chefs of both those restaurants are Austrian by origin, illustrating the way in which Portugal both benefits from and contributes to the international flow of ideas about cooking. This year we ate at the former and review it below.
What follows are my evaluations of the places where we ate, organized by city, with the Lisbon restaurants grouped into categories. I hope you will find this helpful if you travel to Portugal, and that you will add your impressions of these and other eateries in the comment section. When we return to Portugal we will try your suggestions and incorporate them into the next edition of this listing.
Innovative restaurants (these seek to combine Portuguese ingredients and recipes with international contemporary cooking techniques and sensibilities):
Belcanto (Largo de São Carlos 10; phone 213-420-607). This is Lisbon’s most interesting and successful effort at molecular cuisine, making use of first class ingredients. Chef Jose Avillez richly deserves his two Michelin star rating. The menu is frequently updated, reflecting Avillez’s continuing experimentation.
Taberna Fina (Praca de Luis de Camoes 22- note the restaurant is one flight up from the reception of the Consulat Hotel. Phone 938-596-429; [email protected]). The 56-euro tasting menu at this restaurant is a dramatic leap forward for Andre Magalhães, the longtime chef of Taberna da Rua das Flores (the next entry). The dishes ranged from excellent to outstanding and were intelligently paired with interesting wines for each course (an additional 26 or 46 euros depending on whether you pick the regular or deluxe pairing). Many of the dishes were mainly vegetable with meat accents, like a wonderful slightly cooked carrot with ham shavings and celery root in three forms paired with a small piece of cod. Both the pork and veal dishes combined delicate sauces that accented the deeply flavorful meats. Desserts were fun and restrained at the same time. This is among the very best restaurants in Lisbon now, with polished service in a beautiful setting.
Taberna da Rua das Flores (Rua das Flores 103) has a double identity. From noon to 4 pm it is a pleasant, well-located restaurant that specializes in fresh fish. The dishes are mainly traditional and simply prepared. Starting at 5 pm it morphs into an innovative restaurant that serves small plates, although the variety and quality of dishes in 2019 were less outstanding and more traditional than in 2018, but still were of generally high quality. Their marquee dish of mackerel with seaweed is outstanding as were a soft shell crab bao and an oyster tartare. Their meat dishes are very good as well. The prices are amazingly low, 9 to 15 euros for each small plate. Their wines also are inexpensive. Note that this restaurant does not take reservations and only accepts cash. The wait for a table in the evening can be 1 to 2 hours and by 7 or 8 pm they often stop taking names for their waiting list that night. Time your evening accordingly.
Local (Rua O Século 204; phone 351-925-675-990). Diners at this new restaurant sit at a single table for 10. It is a fun way to experience a delicious and interesting tasting menu of 5 courses: 1 vegetable, 2 fish, 1 meat, and a dessert. The meal was 50 euros, a bargain for food of this quality. A short list of wines by the glass and bottle are very reasonably priced. The three chefs, who also act as servers, are skilled in using sous vide, slow cooking, and blow torches to coax deep flavors out of the pristine local ingredients they use. Three types of mushrooms, two lightly cooked the other marinated, were combined with a foam and dashi broth. A turbot fillet came with Jerusalem artichoke puree and a seafood foam, while black pork was cooked sous vide came with an acorn puree and a sauce of veal broth and champagne and a light orange jelly. The flavors came together in a fantastic way. The dessert combined banana puree, a meringue with a touch of curry and roasted peanuts and a bit of grated aged Portuguese cheese.
100 Maneiras Restaurant (Rua do Teixeira 39; phone 910-307-575; http://100maneiras.com). The restaurant moved in March 2019 into a beautiful new building and has significantly improved its tasting menu while doubling the cost. The menu now is 110 euros, with wine parings at 60 or 95 euros. The chef, Ljubomir Stanisic, grew up in Bosnia, although he has lived and worked as a chef in Portugal his entire adult life. He offers a delicious Bosnian bread with dips, cured meats, cheese and a deeply flavored clam broth to begin. A series of small bites followed all excellent, especially a prawn tartar served with the edible head, barnacles, and a raw shrimp bite with a delicious sauce. White asparagus and cured mackerel with leeks and real Beluga caviar, both outstanding, followed. The fish dishes, a red mullet in a smoked ham ‘tea’ and cod cheeks in a clam foam were much less interesting. The last main course, meat from a slow cooked cow’s head, which we could wrap in delicious bread along with greens, edible flowers, horseradish, and tiny fried onions, was powerfully flavorful. The desserts were mediocre except for what seemed to be a chocolate truffle that turned out to have been made with fermented black garlic. The wine pairings were extremely well considered and delicious. The service is highly professional. The chef adapts the men for pescatarian and vegetarian customers. The quality of the new 100 Manerias has made a great leap forward along with the price jump. This now is one of Lisbon’s top restaurants.
100 Maneiras Café (Largo da Trindade 9; phone 910-307-575; http://100maneiras.com).
The café revised its menu in the past year, adding some new dishes. Unfortunately, the quality has deteriorated. The chlorophyll broth that once made for an excellent off-menu soup special losses much of its taste when incorporated into their ‘Green Day’ risotto. Their ceviche is swimming in mayonnaise. Their potato skins remain outstanding. This is a good choice for groups of visitors with divergent tastes since the menu has a wide variety of dishes; however it no longer is a top-level choice in Lisbon. Most likely, the chef’s efforts and his most skilled staff now devote themselves to the restaurant’s tasting menu, leaving the cafe in less skilled hands.
Mini Bar (Rua Antonio Maria Cardoso 58; phone 211-305-393). Another restaurant from Jose Avillez, and next to Belcanto his best in Lisbon. He offers 39- and 48-euro tasting menus, but there also is a fabulous a la carte selection too. The prices are a bargain for cooking with this level of technical sophistication. This restaurant is a way to taste Avillez’s molecular dishes without committing to a set multi-course tasting menu, currently 125 or 165 euros, at Belcanto. Mini Bar offers some of his classics, like his exploding olives, along with new dishes. I was especially impressed with his “Ferrero Roche,” small bites that look like the candy but instead are a flavorful liver mousse surrounded by nuts, a low temperature poached egg with parmesan, prawns with a ceviche-style sauce, and wonderful barely cooked scallops with Thai seasonings. There also are excellent meat dishes, and fun desserts. The wine selection is very good and well priced, and they offer innovative cocktails.
Pesca (Rua da Escola Politécnica, 27; phone 351-213-460-633; https://restaurantepesca.pt/en/) is the new restaurant from Diogo Noronha, the chef of the dearly departed Pedro y o Lobo and Casa de Pasto. Their bar has interesting cocktails. We loved the banana walnut julep. A slightly marinated swordfish with lettuce was tasty as was a crab quenelle with various vegetable and fruit purees. A red shrimp main course was served with rice in a heady seafood broth. A turbot with a baked apple and celery root puree with walnut butter was a bit bland.
A Cevicheria (Rua dom Pedro V 129; phone 218-038-815). Excellent super fresh fish and seafood is used to make ceviches with combinations that are interesting, tasty and different from the standards found in many cities around the world. Their prawn gazpacho with tapioca is a great starter. I especially was impressed by a dish called Sea Quinoto in which quinoa that is deeply flavored with seafood broth is combined with various shellfish. The chef, Kiko Martins, also at times makes off the menu specials (that may then find themselves on the menu later). I especially enjoyed a plain white fish ceviche enlivened with chestnut cream and a powerful truffle oil. Note: A Cevicheria does not take reservations and there can be long waits at dinnertime and on weekends.
O Asiático (Rua da Rosa 317; phone: 211-319-369). From Kiko Martins, the same chef as A Cevicheria, this is an outstanding addition to Lisbon’s restaurant scene. The setting is beautiful, with garden seating as well. From the short but changing menu, we loved the horse mackerel sashimi with tiny dabs of horseradish and light jellies on top of delicate macarons, Pani Puri (thin, light crusts surrounding salmon tartare with tamarind), an amazing raw scallop appetizer in a bracing complex broth, two different ceviches- a Thai and a Laotian, a tasty barbeque octopus with a mix of vegetables in a fusion Chinese-Portuguese sauce, and a deeply flavorful cooked turbot with bits of pork belly skin, seaweed and thin strings of calamari and tiny bivalves in another wonderful sauce. Service is professional. The menu changes frequently; about half the dishes on the menu in 2018 weren’t there the previous year.
Bairro do Avillez (Rua Nova da Trindade, 18; phone: 351-215-830-290). The newest José Avillez restaurant expanded into three sections in 2018, each with its own menu. The two new ones, Pateo and Cantina Peruana, are excellent while the original section, the Taberna, is the least impressive. Cantina Peruana moved into its own storefront in Corpo Santo in 2019, ceding its balcony space to Páteo.
Páteo specializes in seafood and serves the best version of seafood rice I’ve ever eaten. The rice was perfectly cooked, the fish tasty, and the broth incredible. Páteo also has an excellent array of seafood cooked in a variety of ways. The service is somewhat amateurish.
Cantina Peruana moved in 2019 from the balcony of Bairro do Avillez to its own location (Rua de Sao Paulo 32, phone 351-215-842-002). The menu was developed by Diego Muñoz, an acclaimed chef from Peru who left his restaurant Astrid y Gaston in Lima to open a series of restaurants in Copenhagan, Miami, Bali, and now Lisbon. The ceviches and tirados are delicious and original. The octopus tentacles are excellent as are the various classic and unusual pisco cocktails.
Cantinho do Avillez (Rua dos Duques de Braganca 7; phone: 351-211-992-369; and also at Rua Bojador, 55; phone: 351-218-700-365). An informal restaurant from José Avillez, the chef of the wonderful Belcanto. The menu is meat-heavy, but the appetizers and fish dishes are tastier.
Chefe Cordeiro (Praca Comercio 20/23; phone 216-080-090) A less formal restaurant from the chef José Cordeiro of Feitori, which has a Michelin star. The food at this restaurant is pleasant but far from Michelin quality. The room is gorgeous and has a view of the beautiful Praça do Comercio. If you want to eat on the Praça this is the place to go, but it is not a destination.
Gastro Bar by Eleven (Rua da Misericordia 78; phone 919-835-036). A stylish bar with unique and unusual cocktails and a small but delicious menu. Their egg yolk ravioli with creamy mushrooms, nori seaweed and truffle oil is addictive. Shrimp gratin gnocchi were excellent and a cold cantaloupe soup with shrimp and mint was tasty. A creamy corn porridge with clams and coriander was bland. They also have a ceviche and various meat dishes. Their desserts are nice but nothing special. Prices are somewhat higher than comparable Lisbon restaurants. Service is very friendly.
Infame (in Hotel 1908 Lisboa, Largo do Intendente Pina Manique n.6, Arroios, phone 218-804-008, https://infame.pt/en.html). A beautiful space near the Infame metro stop. The food is uneven. “Shrimply the best” is an excellent starter with a wonderful coriander sauce. Main courses were heavier on the protein with less exciting sauces.
Cafe Lisboa. Largo de S. Carlos, nº23; phone: 211 914 498) A bistro with Portuguese influence from José Avillez, the chef of the wonderful Belcanto. The café has a room inside the theater and also tables in the plaza in front of the Sao Carlos Theater, a beautiful setting for tasty food.
Tágide Restaurant and Wine and Tapas Bar (Largo da Academia Nacional de Belas Artes 18 and 20, Chiado; phone 213-404-010, restaurantetagide.com; closed Sundays. This restaurant has beautiful views of the river, the Cathedral, and Castelo St. Jorge. The restaurant is an elegant setting. Their soups and appetizers are especially good; the main courses are fine but less inspired. Their lobster bisque is wonderfully tasty and aromatic, and the broth that accompanies their clam appetizer is one of the most flavorful I have had anywhere in the world. The Wine and Tapas Bar cannot be recommended. The quality of the Wine Bar’s food has deteriorated significantly and the service is amateurish.
Decadente (Rua de São Pedro de Alcantara 81, Bairro Alto, phone 213-461-381, theindependente.pt). A fun but noisy restaurant. The décor and waiters have adopted the Brooklyn look. The service unfortunately is very inattentive. The appetizers were interesting but somewhat lacking in flavor. The main courses were tastier, and dessert excellent. Prices are extremely reasonable. A good, but not great addition to Lisbon’s food scene.
Pharmacia (rua Marechal Saldanha 1; phone 213 462 146). A beautiful funky room inside the Museum of Pharmacy furnished with tables and other antique hospital equipment. The 28 euros tasting menu is a steal and the a la carte menu also is a bargain. The tapas portions are almost entree sized and most are 10 euros or under. Dishes are traditional Portuguese reimagined with contemporary techniques. Not all the dishes are successes, but overall a meal here is fun, with friendly service and great views of the Santa Catarina miradouro. The majority of dinners were locals when we ate there.
XL (Calcada da Estrela 57; phone 213-956-118) This elegant restaurant with excellent service sits across from the National Assembly. The style and menu seem designed to appeal to legislators and lobbyists, with many old-style, French-influenced dishes. Their savory soufflés are expertly prepared. The fish soufflé was light and the mainly egg filling was perfectly fluffy, but it also was almost tasteless. Their fried egg with foie gras sauce is wonderful, while their foie gras on brioche with a sherry sauce was less interesting.
1300 Taverna (Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103; phone 213-649-170) Located in LX Factory, a fun complex of stores and restaurants. Beautiful décor but mediocre food.
Malaca Too: A better and much less expensive choice in LX Factory (phone 967-104-142) with a Pan-Asian menu. Their curries are especially good, and so are the prices. This is our go-to place for lunch at LX Factory, in a building shared with the standout bookstore Ler Devagar.
Seafood restaurants (these take advantage of Portugal’s outstanding fish and seafood):
Peixeria da Esquina (Rua Correia Teles, 56; phone 213-874-644; peixeriadaesquina.com). This restaurant reworked its menu and redesigned its space. It now is less a neighborhood place and instead appeals to the international audience they have attracted thanks to recognition by travel magazines, newspapers, and blogs (like this one). In addition to their always excellent super-fresh seafood and whole fish, they have added marinated fish appetizers that are tasty. Their “prepared edible crab” appetizer remains outstanding. Their shrimp soup has a richly flavorful stock with tasty fresh shrimp. This chef also runs Balção da Esquina in the Time Out Market and Tasca da Esquina at Rua Domingos Sequeira 41 C nearby.
Largo (Rua Serpa Pinto, 10A; phone 213-477-225) An excellent seafood restaurant with always-fresh ingredients carefully prepared. Their fish and seafood soup is outstanding. Main courses are more traditional, well-prepared but sometimes boring. The restaurant is in a beautiful space and the service is friendly if not entirely polished.
Gambrinus (Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 23; phone 213-421- 466) Fresh seafood, good service, very old style in preparation, e.g. Crepes Suzette made at tableside.
Ramiro (Av. Almirante Reis nº1; phone 218-851-024) fresh seafood, but way overcooked. This restaurant has a place on many Top 10 Lisbon lists and often has a line out the door, but its reputation is totally undeserved.
Lisboa a Noite (Rua das Gáveas 69/71; phone 213-468-557)
Fresh seafood, boring preparations.
Time Out Mercado da Ribeira (Avenida 24 de Julho, Cais do Sodré). Half of the building housing the old food market remains a series of stalls with fish, meat, produce and flowers open only in daytime. The other half has been turned into a market with stands from a variety of Lisbon restaurateurs. Some are famous and mediocre such as the steaks and steak sandwiches at Café de São Bento and the ice cream of Santini. Others are very good: the black (squid ink) rice with scallops and seaweed of Alexandre Silve, the fish carpaccio of Henrique Sá Passoa, and the tartars, both fish and meat, at Tartar-Ia. (The wonderful fish soup of Cozinha da Felicidade went off the menu in May 2016 and still has not returned). The small dishes of Marlene Vieira are good but not great. There also are stands where you can get cheeses, cured meats, cookies, chocolates, and more to eat there or to go. In any case, it is a fun experience to see and taste multiple small dishes and to see the crowds of happy local and foreign eaters and drinkers. At the most crowded times it can be difficult to find a seat and too many of the patrons hog seats or hold them for friends arriving later. The stands then are overwhelmed and it can take 20+ minutes to get your food and sometimes the preparation is rushed and sloppy. For example, the peixinos (Portuguese tempura) at Marlene Vieira were overly doughy and therefore almost tasteless. The market is open 7 days a week: from 10am to midnight (Sunday to Wednesday), and 10am to 2am (Thursday to Saturday).
Gourmet Experience (El Corte Inglés, 7th Floor, Av. António Augusto de Aguiar 31) opens at 10 am daily and closes at 11 each day except Fridays and Saturdays when it is open to midnight This is a wonderful addition to Lisbon. It is less crowded and much quieter than the Time Out market and the food is of higher quality. This market has gathered stands and restaurants planned by some of Lisbon’s top chefs. The best is Kiko Martins’ O Poké. His pokés are very fresh, lightly marinated fish with interesting vegetable-based sauces. They are served without the mound of bland rice that forms the base of most poké in the US. Jose Avillez’s Tasca Chic is uninspired. Atlántico served delicious fresh fish and seafood simply prepared. Balção has very good fish and mediocre meat dishes. Cascabel is Mexican food with a Portuguese twist. If you are dying for Mexican food in Lisbon go here, but don’t expect quality that equals the best in Mexico or the US. Nanarella, the best ice cream maker in Lisbon, has a stand here. This is a way to avoid the often-long lines at their original store. There also is a branch of Alcoa, the mediocre Portuguese pastry shop, and of Landeau, which serves only their excellent chocolate cake.
Palácio Chiado (Rua Alecrim 70; 351-21-010-1184) palaciochiado.pt. noon to midnight 7 days. This 2017 addition to the Lisbon dining scene is set in a beautiful rehabilitated eighteenth century palace. None of the food is groundbreaking, but most of it is very good. Both downstairs and upstairs now, you can order from a diverse menu of meat, including an excellent beef tartare, fresh oysters, and various prepared fish dishes. There is a codfish section with the usual old style dishes, boring but well prepared. In a nod to the new US fad there is poke, with an especially good vegetarian poke along with fish ones. Other options include Italian and for dessert, ice-cream and pastries.
Tapas (less formal restaurants that are best for small dishes
Tapisco (Rua D. Pedro V, 81; phone 213-420-681) is in an elegant room but the food, even though the menu was developed by local celebrity chef Henrique Sá Pessoa, is mediocre at best. What the menu called grilled vegetables with romesco sauce were boiled vegetables. The patatas bravas were covered with what tasted like bottled barbeque sauce from an American supermarket. Fried cuttlefish were bland but at least not overcooked. Preserved fish roe with a pepper vinaigrette sauce was ok. This restaurant cannot be recommended unless you want to know what the food at a Spanish summer camp might taste like.
El Gordo (Rua de S. Boaventura 16; phone 213-424-266) nice wine bar with generally decent tapas
Chafariz do Vinho (Rua da Mãe de Água; phone 213-422-079) beautiful space with good wine and ok tapas
Antigo 1 de Maio (Rua da Atalaia 8; phone 213-426-840). Traditional Portuguese dishes, extremely friendly service in a pretty room. Prices are very reasonable.
Zaafran (Largo Dona Estefânia, nº7; Metro Picoas; phone 213-558-894). Closed Sundays. This would be a top Indian restaurant in any US or European city, and well-regarded in London. The owners are Indians who lived in Mozambique, and there are subtle African elements in some of the dishes. Be aware: Thursday nights they have belly dancing and a set menu.
Delicias de Goa (Rua Conde Redondo, 2a; phone 961-491-521). Goa was Portugal’s colony in India and this restaurant presents delicious renditions of Goan dishes, featuring extremely fresh seafood. Goan spices are somewhat different from those you will find in most Indian restaurants in the US or Europe, so this is an opportunity to taste dishes that are hard to find beyond Goa. Note: this restaurant does not accept credit cards; you must pay in cash.
Lapa Restaurant (in Lapa Palace hotel, Rua Pau da Bandeira 4; phone 213-949-494). If you are dying for Italian food this is good though way overpriced, but in any city with excellent Italian food, this would be considered mediocre.
Pizzaria Lisboa (Rua dos Duques de Braganca 5H; 1200-162 Lisboa; phone 351-211-554-945). A pizza restaurant from star chef Jose Avillez. The best pizza I’ve found in Lisbon. The crusts are good but not outstanding, but the toppings are varied and excellent. There are more than twenty choices. I especially liked the one topped with truffled mortadella and the mushroom.
Casanova (Av. Infante D. Henrique 7 Loja B; phone 218-877-532) good pizza. This place is very popular and most evening there is a line, but the many tables and fast service usually keeps waits to under 30 minutes.
Nannarella (Rua Nova da Piedade 68; phone 916-302-201; open noon to 7:30 pm every day except Sunday; the also have a stand in Gourmet Experience- see above). The best ice cream in Lisbon. Their chocolate ice cream is outstanding, rich with just the right touch of bitterness to cut the heavy creaminess. The cream overwhelms the fruit flavors, but mint, amaretto, and other non-fruit flavors and sorbets are excellent.
Sorbettino (Rua da Mesericordia 23) This new addition to Lisbon opened in May 2017. They make only sorbets, no ice cream. Their sorbets are world class, as good as Nannarella’s. The fruit flavors are not overly sweet and have powerful fruit flavor. Their dark chocolate sorbet is fabulous.
Note: The best chocolate sorbet in Lisbon, and perhaps in the world, is at Claudio Corallo Chocolate in Principe Real (see below).
Artisani (various locations in Lisbon and also in Cascais). Rich, flavorful ice cream, almost as good as Nannarella.
Fragoleto (Rua da Prata 61; phone: 213-479-472; open noon to 8pm daily). Numerous flavors with original combinations, all made with organic ingredients only. Unfortunately, the flavors often are weak. Quality is less than Nannarella or the multi-location Artisani.
Santini (various locations in Lisbon). This is the well-known, tourist-clogged ice cream place. They are good but their ice cream is clearly several notches below Nannarella and Artisani, and their sorbets seem to decline significantly in quality year by year.
Mu (Campo Martires de Latria 50). Mu has improved its offerings by hiring a new ice cream maker. They now are on the level of Santini. Their most interesting flavor is kiwi-banana.
Bettina & Niccola Corallo Chocolate (Rua da Escola Polytecnica 4; phone 213-862-158). Outstanding hot chocolate (a bargain at 1 Euro for a small cup) and excellent chocolates, albeit at high prices, now 90-100 euros a kilo, $45-50 a pound. Their chocolate sorbet is 5.50 euro a cup and unbelievably good. They make it fresh for each customer with powerfully flavorful dark chocolate. This is perhaps the best chocolate sorbet I have had anywhere in the world.
Chocolataria Equador (Rua da Misericordia 72; phone 213-471-229). Dark, milk and white chocolates with a variety of flavorings from fruits to curry. As good as Claudio Corallo but at half the price.
Nata: There are three outstanding makers of natas. The most famous is Pasteis de Belem (R. de Belém 84-92).
Manteigaria (Rua do Loreto 2) also has a store in the Time out Market. (Pro-tip: while the line is very long inside Time Out, they have a small shop that fronts on the street, to the left of the main entrance to the Market. There is no line for that shop and they have outside tables where you can sit and enjoy your anta along with coffee or other drinks that they sell.
A chain, simply named Nata has a shop near São Jorge castle in Lisbon, in numerous other locations in Portugal, elsewhere in Western Europe and in the United Arab Emirates. They also serve soups, salads and sandwiches, which makes Nata a reasonably priced and reliable lunch spot. You can find the addresses and hours of their shops at https://www.natalisboa.com/moradas-pt.
Tartine (Rua Serpa Pinto 15A) is a good, but not great, French bakery. Alcoa, which opened in 2017 (Rua Garrett 37 and now also is in Gourmet Experience), has French and Portuguese pastries and like Tartine is good but not outstanding.
O Watt, Casa de Pasto, O Prego da Peixaria, O Atlántico in Gourmet Experience
Cantinho do Avillez (Rua Mouzinha da Silveira, 166; phone: 351-223-227-879). Chef José Avillez has expanded his small, and uniformly excellent, restaurant empire to Porto. This restaurant shares some of the dishes from the Cantinho do Avillez in Lisbon, but has other dishes that are special to Porto. The Porto dishes draw on influences from the Middle East and South Asia. Their vegetarian tagine is wonderful, as are the giant shrimp with Thai spices. Their two veal dishes, veal risotto and veal cheeks with curry, are very good.
Minibar (Rua da Licaria, 12; phone 351-221-129-729) has almost the same menu as the one in Lisbon. The décor is extremely stylish and the service is highly polished. This is a top choice for Porto.
Restaurante DOP (Largo Santo Domingos 18; phone: 222-014-3130. This modern restaurant is in the beautiful 19th century Palácio das Artes. Like the setting, the menu offers modern interpretations of classical Portuguese dishes along with items inspired by restaurants elsewhere in Europe. The service is friendly and helpful. We were most impressed by an appetizer of crab raviolis in a pea sauce and a slow-cooked egg with oatmeal and sausage. The main dishes were less memorable. A tasty lobster rice was paired with overcooked sea bass, and octopus was bland. The desserts were unusual and tasty, especially the curry ice cream that transformed a typical molten chocolate cake. There are both tasting menus and a la carte choices.
Mercearia das Flores (Rua das Flores, 110; phone 222-083-232). A great spot for lunch, dinner, or a snack. Their sandwiches are very tasty and somewhat inventive. They also offer meat and cheese plates, salads, and desserts. The tables are inside a food shop with an excellent selection of canned Portuguese fish, wines and liquors, and cheese.
Cantina 32 (Rua das Flores 32; phone: 222-039-069). A fun, lively spot for lunch or dinner, with a friendly attentive staff. Their small dishes are delightful, especially their squid appetizer. We performed a menu hack by spooning the delicious sauce from the squid on top of an otherwise bland couscous salad, creating one of the best dishes we had in Porto. Their main dishes offer large slabs of meat or fish with sauces that while not memorable do well at bringing out the flavor of the proteins.
Ocean Restaurant (Vila Vita Parc resort, 351-282-310-100) is absolutely fabulous. They offer a four course menu for 155 euros and a six course for 195 euros. Both menus were preceded by four amuse bouches, each of which were more than single bites. We found four courses were enough food. Indeed the waiter recommended against the six course saying it was too much. Their wine tastings are expensive at 105 and 135 euros respectively. However they offer excellent glasses and bottles at more reasonable prices. Diners can choose from seafood and vegetarian menus along with one that mixes fish and meat. They are happy to let guests at the same table order different menus and also to make substitutions if any of the dishes have ingredients a guest dislikes.
Their fish and seafood were pristine and the flavors were exquisitely complemented with carefully constructed sauces. We especially liked a delicate raw horse mackerel with carrot and olive. A deeply flavored scarlet prawn was paired with saffron and trout roe. Their vegetarian dishes also balanced super fresh ingredients with complex sauces that produced vivid and pure flavors.
Faz Gostos (Rua do Castelo 13; phone 289-878-422) is the only Michelin listed (not starred) restaurant in Faro. Faz Gostos is in a beautiful space in the old town. Fresh fish is not overcooked and the sauces are decent. This is not a destination restaurant, but if you are in Faro this is the best you will find.
Arcadas (in Hotel Quinta das Lagrimas (Rua António Augusto Gonçalves, 3041-901; phone 239-802-380). This is the most sophisticated and elegant restaurant in Coimbra, located in the nicest hotel in town which is set in a beautiful garden and is a 10 minute walk from the old town (and another 10-15 minutes climb up to the university). The food is not inventive and instead tries and usually succeeds in following the path blazed by top chefs in Lisbon who bring modern techniques and high quality ingredients to traditional Portuguese dishes. There are both tasting menus and a la carte choices.
So many great restaurants! Belcanto sounds like the place to eat. But is it very expensive because of the Michelin rating?
A Michelin star or two will definitely raise a restaurant’s prices. There are a lot of restaurants in Lisbon that I think are a better value, but if someone with a lot of money is taking you (or me) to dinner, we can’t go wrong with this flagship José Avillez restaurant.
It sounds worth trying at least.