It wouldn’t be a Bhabha holiday if much time wasn’t spent deliberating over where and what to eat and planning our activity schedule accordingly. Located right on the coast, Lisbon is a bastion of fresh seafood, so many fish and crustaceans were consumed during the course of the week. Of course, we couldn’t escape many bites of the local specialty bacalhau–salted cod. I’m a sucker for Port as well, so I took it upon myself to finish many a meal with a glass of the sweet, dense stuff. Without further ado, a peek into our alimentary adventures:
Cafe Lisboa was our first stop in Lisbon, and it shook me out of my plane haze immediately. The gorgeous outdoor setting–in the middle of a picturesque square in the city’s Bairro Alto neighborhood– combined with the delicious food and thrill of reuniting with my parents on vacation made this a perfect stopping point. It’s one of a slew of restaurants by local celeb chef Jose de Avillez. More on him later…This here is some shredded potato with eggs, bacalhau and some casual spherical (read: liquid filled and crazy) olives on top.
As I mentioned, seafood is a deliciously unavoidable part of any trip to Lisbon, and we got a crash course in the freshest catches and crustaceans at SeaMe:
Don’t be alarmed by the service staff’s cheesy t-shirts (they say something like “rock and roll and sushi”) or the abundance of tourists–the food is excellent, and the locals are also fans, if less obvious ones. Missing the sardine (also a local favorite) nigiri is not an option: and I particularly enjoyed scoping out all the fresh fish before selecting our meal.
If you go to Lisbon without trying a Pasteis de Nata, you’re basically a psychopath and will be relentlessly mocked by any person that has ever visited Lisbon. These classic Portuguese custard-filled pastries are the sweet emblem of the city, and not to be missed under any circumstances. While they are made throughout Lisbon, there is one bakery in particular, in nearby Belem, that has been preparing the universally accepted archetype of the pastry: Pastéis de Belém.After waiting in the interminable line, you tell the counter person how many orders of six you’d like. At the speed of lightning, you have a tubular carton, filled with six little dreamtarts. Slightly singed on top, they are still warm, and best served with a sprinkling of cinnamon. Hot custard in a flaky crust…you can’t leave without one…or six.
After an extended stroll through the bougie-chic Principe Real neighborhood, we happened upon this extremely classic, down to earth Portuguese restaurant Tascardoso. No frills, and no need for frills, because it was precisely what we needed: tasty, affordable, and authentic. We all had grilled seafood–I went with octopus, and of course, the ubiquitous boiled potatoes that I’d been gorging myself on throughout.
Did I mention they serve house wine in a jug and present you with melted cheese before your meal has even started?As I mentioned before, José de Avillez is the Thomas Keller/Grant Achatz/etc food boss of Portugal. Following our delightful experience at Café Lisboa, we managed to score a lunch reservation at his two star Michelin spot: Belcanto.It was definitely a gastronomical extravagance, but a fabulous one at that. The food was extremely innovative and the vibe, though fancy, was still very warm. I’m still thinking about having a gin apéritif served to me within a orange hard shell (excuse the lack of focus!) , the otherwordly orange sauce accompanying suckling pig heaven and potato chips (top right) whose bag was made of potato starch and thus edible…yeah. I ate the bag. and this “mandarin” dessert my Dad ordered. I left with every sense satisfied, and wishing that black garlic caramels were a frequent snack in my life (middle right)
Massive food halls have become a trend worldwide in recent years, and Lisbon’s Mercado da Ribeira on the seafront, housed in an old marketplace, is a delightful place to spend an afternoon. On one side is the grocery section, which I’ll get to in my “Where To Shop” post, and then in one massive room are numerous food stalls, many of which are outposts of Lisbon restaurants. We ate a pastry that weirdly resembled a circus peanut, both in texture and appearance: And checked out the salumi area: Our final meal in Lisbon was at a three-story restaurant called Solar dos Presuntos. I was thrilled and surprised to find a plate of cheese and charcuterie already waiting at the table–why is this not a custom elsewhere?! The standouts at the meal were stewed baby goat (not pictured, alas) and squid ink rice with seafood.
One last place that I sadly didn’t take pictures of: Pap’Açorda. It’s simple, excellent, and the chocolate mousse will blow your socks off. Order the Açorda–it’s a local specialty of stewed bread and various ingredients. Get the tomato one.
And there you have it, fantastic food everywhere. Continue reading