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Lisbon Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


fredbram
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We just came back from a 2 week stay in Lisbon, armed with various dining recommendations, many form this website (thanks Eric!). Highlights were Fidalgo (and the pastries at Matilde next door), Stop do Bairro and Tasquina D’Adelaide.

We seemed to be in Lisbon at a time when several places were closed for vacation. Bota Alta was closed, A Cabrita was closed and O Pereira de Alfama didn’t have a sign about a vacation, but we never found the door unlocked the whole time we were there.

Fidalgo we ate at 3 times and it was consistently delicious each time. The owner is also a very gracious host with pretty good English, which was a bonus for us. Had a good aged cheese and really good quality ham that he sliced for each table. Also good bread, which we found was true almost everywhere in Lisbon—great slow ferment rolls were the norm in even the simplest of restaurants. Favas Guisadas com Enchidos e Entrecosto were fava beans, shelled but unpeeled, stewed with pork ribs, 3 kinds of sausages (chourica, blood sausage and what I think must be the Farinheira—starchy, garlicky, salty, pork fatty?) and salt pork (or the unsalted version of salt pork?). Well prepared, great salty, meaty, starchy dish that was very typical of many of the best dishes that we had in Lisbon. We also had Secretos de Porco Grilhados, which were thin slices of a cut that had a kind of flank type texture to it—great flavor, grilled perfectly with fried potatoes, really yellow flavorful potatoes like all over Lisbon.

Stop do Bairro was a great scene—unpretentious neighborhood place, full of multi-generational families eating and drinking with exuberance. We ordered the same way there each time we were in—looking around at the other tables and pointing to what looked best. Feijoada Transmontana one time, the standard combination of sausages with pork loin and big chunks of fatty pork cooked with beans, another time Cozinha Portuguesa which had all of the above meats plus beef, chicken, carrots, cabbage, potatoes and sweet potatoes cooked with broth—outstanding. Actually this time I noticed that there are 2 sausages that seem like blood sausage to me—one that is firmer and meatier and another that is much more crumbly texture. They serve rice on the side that looks like dirty rice, seems like it has been cooked with some of the crumbly blood sausage. Good desserts there too, a good version of almond tart, and this thing that seemed like 7 or 8 thin layers of a cross between a graham cracker and a molasses cookie, which had been soaked down with syrup and had a coupla layers of whipped cream interspersed. I thought it was great, the SO hated it.

The hands down best dish we had was at A Tasquina D’Adelaide. The most expensive restaurant that we went to (the entrée we had, served for 2, was 37 euros), it is a very small dining room. It’s the only place that we ever made, or needed, a reservation, and the first impression was a little weird because, at least the night that we were there, they kept the door locked so you have to knock and get approved for entry, or at least it felt that way. After that they were very gracious though, and we ordered the specialty, Perelinha de Borregos. This was a whole lamb shoulder, slow braised to absolute perfection, then browned in a hot oven with potatoes that got all caramelized in the pan juices and accompanied with what seemed like steamed broccoli-rabe. I am on a quest to reproduce it at home, I hope I’m able to because I find myself daydreaming about it at inopportune moments. Oh well, where was I?

We didn’t eat exclusively pork the whole time, although we got plenty. Had grilled sardines across the river in Cacilhas, fried Joaquinadhos (sp?) which seemed like maybe smelts and were delicious, rice and octopus stewed together with a lot of mint, and this seems like a good time to mention that we had about 3 different dishes that had a big handful of mint in them, unexpected to me, I just don’t think of mint as being prominent in a european cusine.

We also ate Indian food a couple of times because it was close to the apartment that we stayed in in Alfama, so we ended up there when we were lazy or when it rained, and because it was really good Indian food.

I’m sure I’ve forgotton something but this is my first attempt at a trip report, so I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

Fred Bramhall

A professor is one who talk's in someone else's sleep

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Bacalhau is one of those foods that I keep thinking I must not have had a great preparation of it because I listen to so many people rave about how wonderful it is, but whenever I decide to try it again because I've decided that I must be nuts, it turns out to be, well....OK.

So, I'm fully prepared to admit that it's my problem , so many people can't be wrong, but it doesn't do much for me. We did have a marinated Bacalhau and garbanzo app that wasn't bad, and there was a dish of Bacalhau gratin or some such that went to the table next to us at Tasquina that looked really good.

Fred Bramhall

A professor is one who talk's in someone else's sleep

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Cod, fresh and dried, may be a bit of an acquired taste, especially the dried. On the other hand, with the exception of single dish at Daniel in NY, I can't think of any fresh cod dish that's come near what I expect in quality in Spain. The difference in what's available dried is even greater. In the states, if one is lucky enough to live near an ethnic market, one might find some prepackaged salted fish for sale. If you're really lucky, you might even get a choice of cod and some other tasteless fish. In Spain, there are whole shops specializing in dried cod. Just seeing the range of cuts and prices, one has to develop a curiosity about the product. My final taste of Spain (not counting the coffee or the cheeses or piquillos we brought back) was of a tortilla with cod for breakfast before we hit the road home.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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If you think we're picky with codfish in Spain, Bux... we're just beginners next to Portugal! It's a national religion there. Hundreds of recipes. Not getting into dried codfish when visiting Portugal is exactly like not getting into pasta when visiting Italy, avoiding cheese in France, boycotting paella in Valencia or forgoing chiles in Mexico - how can one emit an informed opinion about the local cuisine by shying away from its main staple? It's beyond my comprehension. Bacalhau à Gómes de Sá, bacalhau a brás, bacalhau dourado, bacalhau a lagareiro... Mmmmm... It's the soul of Portugal.

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Having lunched today at Tras-os-Montes, a portuguese restaurant lost in a remote neighbourhood in Madrid close to where I happen to work, it's a nice coincidence to find a topic getting devoted to cod fish.

Tras-os-Montes, run by Jose Alves, is almost devoted to cod fish in more than fifteen recipes. Today, I just had a red/green pepper salad, with marinated cod fish, good olive oil and some garlic (probably coming from the fried peppers), and a bacalao dorado, wich is cod fish in small crumbs with straw potatoes (relying on my dictionary here) and scrambled eggs. This is one of my favourites recipes.

It also has a more than good wine list, with lots of Portos. Today I've just caught a glimpse of a bottle of Poeira, a newcomer which is getting a lot of attention and excellent critics. Hopefully I'll taste it next week, comparing it with Pintas, which shares attention and critics with Poeira.

BTW, speaking of fish, cod fish ranks in the top of my favourites list.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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If you think we're picky with codfish in Spain, Bux... we're just beginners next to Portugal! It's a national religion there. Hundreds of recipes. Not getting into dried codfish when visiting Portugal is exactly like not getting into pasta when visiting Italy, avoiding cheese in France, boycotting paella in Valencia or forgoing chiles in Mexico

This is a whole other thread about gastronomic travel, all by itself. With the advent of some very creative cooking by first rate chefs, one is often tempted to travel to destination restaurants and to forget about eating local foods. I remember a time when all the food of western Europe seemed rooted to the place. In retrospect, much of that is now rooted to the time as well, unfortunately. Before I was fully aware of my affliction, I began traveling on my stomach. Waverly Root's The Food of France became my primary guide book to that country north of Spain (just to stay on topic). I would order a dish at a restaurant and my wife would ask what I ordered. My answer would be "I don't know, but I recall Root said was a regional specialty," or maybe I knew what it was and my wife knew it was something I had previously refused to eat, or eat again. This time my response to "Why did you order that? You don't like it," was similar. "Root said it was the local specialty." I think there's a need to eat that way to know you've been someplace and to understand or appreciate that place. I guess it's the one way to really have a justifiably gut reaction to traveling. Montezuma's revenge is often the reward. :biggrin:

It seems so obvious to me now, but I don't think it was always so and I don't think it often dawns on people to order food they don't like. When we sit at a table we want to be pleased, not have a lesson. Most people choose what they feel is a reasonable compromise and some manage to find the differences between the McDonald's of different parts of the world. Perhaps in the future, that's how little distinction there will be between the foods of different regions. I'll not celebrate that future. All of this is probably part of the reason I need to make a few last minute uneducated restaurant choices on the spot. The baby pig at an unheralded asador in Lizarra-Estella was the kind of dish that put me squarely in a place in a way the starred meals didn't.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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That's also why, when all is said and done, I'm more satisfied with modern cuisine with a sense of place and roots (say Santi Santamaria, Manolo de la Osa) than with one with no such sense at all, with the possible exception of Ferran Adrià's and sometimes (only sometimes) Pierre Gagnaire's cuisine, where the sheer genius can be satisfying enough on its own. It's not just that cookery should not be cut off from its environment, it's also the fact that it would be foolhardy to ignore, a) that some intriguing ingredients can only be found locally in their pristine form, and b) that over the centuries, or maybe just a few decades, the locals have developed an intimate knowledge of those local ingredients and developed eminently interesting techniques for cooking or presenting them.

Some people say that today anything is available anywhere, so that looking for local ingredients and techniques is lamentably passé. Well, it's simply not true. Looking at the sorry condition of Spanish cheeses like torta del Casar, irremediably dried out in a fridge at New York's Dean & DeLuca's, I have wondered how the experience must have been for someone who, reading Sam Gugino's alluring reports on Spanish cheese in the Wine Spectator, had tried that sad memory of what once was a fine, almost liquid cheese.

Then there's your suckling pig in Estella: it's probably a different breed, and done differently, than the 'lechona' (a female suckling pig) that Manolo cooks for hours over very low heat at Las Rejas. Or from a suckling pig in Segovia, the 'suckling pig capital of the world'. Different gustatory sensations within one country, with what on the surface is the same dish.

Of course, now that we're in the fall, this is exacerbated by seasonal produce: how to describe the aroma of milky agarics (Lactarius deliciosus) being grilled over a wood fire in Catalonia, or the sweetly chewy texture of an omelet stuffed with 'setas de cardo' (Pleurotus eryngii) in a Castilian mountain inn? You have to be there and taste it there.

Dried cod is, indeed, another thing: this can travel perfectly to the remotest corner of the world, and sometimes perfectly cooked cod dishes can be tasted in modest Portuguese inns in New Jersey. Still, it's in Lisbon or Coimbra, with a bottle of fragrant alvarinho-based Vinho Verde or with a more substantial white from the Douro, that the dish will really sing.

When I travel, except on 24-hour lightning trips where I try to eat at the single most interesting restaurant, be it modern or not, I always mix (at least one-to-one) modern places with traditional ones in any part of the world. Otherwise, the experience would be an incomplete one for me.

Yesterday I took an Italian friend to the venerable Lhardy restaurant, which has been open in Madrid since 1839, and where locals often forget to go because, like the Prado Museum, it's both so unchanging and so available that it's left to the tourists (how often do New Yorkers climb up the stairs to the top of the Statue of Liberty?) Well, there's also the local crowd of addicts to 'cocido madrileño' (the Madrid 'pot-au-feu') - it's one of their specialties. I hadn't been there in at least five or six years. Well, the cocido was delectable, with the perfectly tender chick peas (not an easy feat, that), and the lovingly preserved surroundings (the small Japanese dining room, where 150 years ago Queen Isabel II spent some torrid after-lunch hours with a few of her lovers) combining with the food and a couple of glasses of Rioja to make a foreigner penetrate the skin of this city better than he or she would have been able to anywhere else. And that's also part of a restaurant's experience...

Edited by vserna (log)

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Tras-os-Montes even has some peculiar Spanish wines, pedro...  :cool:

I believe I've seen a wine on the list coming from an obscure D.O. barely known to the human race. Manchuria?!, no, wait a sec, Manchuela!!. :cool:

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Tras-os-Montes even has some peculiar Spanish wines, pedro... :cool:

I believe I've seen a wine on the list coming from an obscure D.O. barely known to the human race. Manchuria?!, no, wait a sec, Manchuela!!. :cool:

I've seen that peculiar wine in NY. I assume it was deported. Probably as a result of being a foreign varietal. :biggrin:

The problem with Spanish wines in NY is that they cost as much here in a retail shop as they do in a restaurant in Spain. Or is it that one of the joys of dining is Spain is that the wines are so well priced? In La Rioja, we saw a car with French license plates loading several cases of wine into his trunk. We understood.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Fred, this is off the subject, but we're going to be is Lisbon next fall and would love to rent an apartment. If you were satisfied with yours, could you please respond and I'll give you my e-mail address for details. Many thanks.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Hundreds of recipes.....how can one emit an informed opinion about the local cuisine by shying away from its main staple? It's beyond my comprehension. Bacalhau à Gómes de Sá, bacalhau a brás, bacalhau dourado, bacalhau a lagareiro... Mmmmm... It's the soul of Portugal.

Actually, having lived in Lisbon for 4 years, in this particular case I can understand it. Although there are literally hundreds and hundreds of traditional prepartations for bacalhau, in Lisbon especially it is quite easy to order it in a restaurant and be presented with a much-less-than-enthralling version, putting one off the whole idea of bacalhau for a good long time. Bacalhau also tends to be a "prato do dia" (daily special) in restaurants, so that if one decides that one wants bacalhau, one must go around to restaurants and look at menus to see who is making what that day (and if it's good, it always sells out early!).

I think I would pretty definitely put bacalhau in the "acquired taste" category, so it's important, I think, to first decide in exactly what guise you'd first like to try it. Then you need to figure out what it's likely to be called....many ostensibly different bacalhau dishes with myriad names are essentially similar preparations, and some of the fanciful names for bacalhau dishes give you no idea what you'll be getting. Then the next trick is finding a restaurant that will actually serve you what you think you want. Bacalhau à Brás and Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá are wonderful ways to eat bacalhau, but trying to find it in a restaurant can be very tricky. Bacalhau à Lagareiro is also delicious, but it's a dish from the north (where most of the best Portuguese cooking comes from, IMHO, and that goes double for bacalhau recipes) and especially difficult to find in Lisbon. The most common bacalhau preparations most easily found in Lisbon are, to my mind, the least appealing, usually involving boiling it, with boiled vegetables on the side (Bacalhau com Todos.....ick.....).

Was Stop do Bairro one I had recommended, or did you get that from somewhere else? I usually don't bother mentioning it because the neighborhood is just far enough away from anywhere I usually want to go, but as you found out, it has an excellent kitchen! I'm going to have to check out Tasquinha d'Adelaide the next time I'm there....it sounds great. Many of the fancier restaurants do keep the door locked and make you ring to be admitted. It's an interesting quirk, and I don't think I've encountered it anywhere but Lisbon.

It's too bad you never found O Pereira de Alfama open....it always seemed to be open (and, especially, closed) at the most unexpected times. For some reason, I'm pleased you took the trouble to look, and that joint really is worth the effort to try and find them open. I still have dreams about some of the delicious pastries at Casa de Matilde. Did you ever check out the restaurant directly across the street? (forever known to me as the one that serves "hare pie"....)

And congratulations on your excellent order technique, btw. In my experience, when in doubt it's the only way!

My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

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I think I would pretty definitely put bacalhau in the "acquired taste" category

I'd say 99% of the traditional dishes and products that are really interesting to eat in Europe are "acquired tastes": snails bourguignonne, bottarga with pasta, maatjes haring, botifarra negra sausage, squid cooked in its 'ink', andouillette, Venetian sarde in saôr, Maroilles cheese, lamprey à la Bordelaise, hake cheeks in garlic...

There is often, I've found, a bit of a problem for a number of Americans (and Anglo-Saxons in general) when they face continental European culinary traditions: they tend to react with displeasure to too many unfamiliar and, to them, unsavory things. There is a tendency to stick to a few familiar, generally somewhat bland staples (chicken, veal, sole, salmon), which form the basis of most preferred dishes, in turn made distinctive only through cooking method, saucing or side accompaniments... Obviously a dish of lamb kidneys sautéed in sherry or pig's trotters can be much more intense and also more idiosyncratic...

Heck, in a different part of eGullet I've found a thread in which someone wondered if some people actually ate pigeons, so it suddenly dawned on me that pigeon, a basic noncontroversial staple in Iberia, could also be in that 'acquired taste' category! Obviously there is a culinary sensitivity divide somewhere, and it may explain why our ages-old Iberian traditions are not more easily understood by some of our visitors. This is obviously not a part of the world for the squeamish.

That said, I must fully disagree with your assertion that Lisbon is not a good place to eat bacalhau. There are wonderful bacalhau specialties in many restaurants, fancy or not, including O Nobre, O Funil, Verdemar, Pap’Açorda, the Solar dos Presuntos... For true addicts, of course, the Casa do Bacalhau. Heck, I’ve even had a very good bacalhau à brás while watching the fado show at A Severa!

One last, repetitive (sorry!) but important point: acquired taste or not, bacalhau is the soul of Portuguese cookery, so that anyone who skips bacalhau will simply not understand the gist of Portugal 'à table'!

Edited by vserna (log)

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Was Stop do Bairro one I had recommended, or did you get that from somewhere else? I usually don't bother mentioning it because the neighborhood is just far enough away from anywhere I usually want to go, but as you found out, it has an excellent kitchen!

I think the Stop do Bairro rec came from elsewhere, but trekking out there and back a few times allowed us the full experience of the tram drivers having to deal with cars parked in their paths. It's quite a scene as everyone in the neighborhood and on the tram gather around to offer their opinion as to whether the tram can make it by the car's bumper or not.

It's too bad you never found O Pereira de Alfama open....it always seemed to be open (and, especially, closed) at the most unexpected times. For some reason, I'm pleased you took the trouble to look, and that joint really is worth the effort to try and find them open. I still have dreams about some of the delicious pastries at Casa de Matilde. Did you ever check out the restaurant directly across the street? (forever known to me as the one that serves "hare pie"....)

The fact that they were never there began to intrigue me more and more.....as in feeling like it would be THE meal that I didn't want to miss and it became a personal challenge. And they were in the neighborhood, so it was not that hard to keep passing by and peering at the door hopefully.

One last, repetitive (sorry!) but important point: acquired taste or not, bacalhau is the soul of Portuguese cookery, so that anyone who skips bacalhau will simply not understand the gist of Portugal 'à table'!

Victor--If I humbly apologize and promise to renew my efforts to see the wonders of bacalhau will you accept that I am not an unadventurous sole and veal eating ugly american? Does it help at all that I love kidneys, blood sausage, pigeon, snails, bottarga and all manners of old smelly cheeses?

Fred Bramhall

A professor is one who talk's in someone else's sleep

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I think I would pretty definitely put bacalhau in the "acquired taste" category

I'd say 99% of the traditional dishes and products that are really interesting to eat in Europe are "acquired tastes": snails bourguignonne, bottarga with pasta, maatjes haring, botifarra negra sausage, squid cooked in its 'ink', andouillette, Venetian sarde in saôr, Maroilles cheese, lamprey à la Bordelaise, hake cheeks in garlic...

There is often, I've found, a bit of a problem for a number of Americans (and Anglo-Saxons in general) when they face continental European culinary traditions: they tend to react with displeasure to too many unfamiliar and, to them, unsavory things. There is a tendency to stick to a few familiar, generally somewhat bland staples (chicken, veal, sole, salmon), which form the basis of most preferred dishes, in turn made distinctive only through cooking method, saucing or side accompaniments... Obviously a dish of lamb kidneys sautéed in sherry or pig's trotters can be much more intense and also more idiosyncratic...

Heck, in a different part of eGullet I've found a thread in which someone wondered if some people actually ate pigeons, so it suddenly dawned on me that pigeon, a basic noncontroversial staple in Iberia, could also be in that 'acquired taste' category! Obviously there is a culinary sensitivity divide somewhere, and it may explain why our ages-old Iberian traditions are not more easily understood by some of our visitors. This is obviously not a part of the world for the squeamish.

[...]

Interesting point, Víctor. What's not an acquired taste? IMHO, just the common denominator of dishes of the group we're comparing (two people, two countries, ...). Since we in Europe and the States eat frequently beef steak, that's not an acquired taste, but as soon as we start talking about its tongue, there's room to debate whether that is or is not an acquired taste.

I'd say that the gastronomic divide, lies on what people usually eat. Simple as that?. :hmmm:

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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I'd say that the gastronomic divide, lies on what people usually eat. Simple as that?. :hmmm:

That's all I'm trying to mention. In Spain we usually eat... an incredible array of things! Pig's trotters, blood sausage, lamb's kidneys and sweetbreads, goose barnacles, elvers, pigeons (asphyxiated so that they keep their blood), 'fried blood', codfish intestines, bull's testicles, hake cheeks, calf's brains, and what have you. We also eat chicken, sole and salmon, of course. And burgers and tacos! Like any modern society under the powerful influence of American mores. But we haven't forgotten those other, primitive things yet. Thank goodness.

It's not a matter of saying, as Fred ironizes, that anyone not eating those other, less standard foods, is "an ugly American". It's that we usually eat a larger variety of meats, meat cuts and strange seafood than what Americans are used to. (I am talking about general rules here - there are many American foodies that will eat lots of strange things including Colombia's fried ants. But even on this board one can verify a poster's puzzlement about people eating pigeons.) We have long been a poor country, and for centuries we've had to find anything that was edible and make it palatable. The Argentines were, until recently, so wealthy that they never had to develop a national cuisine - they had terrific steaks every day, so why worry about goose barnacles? (They had a lot of gout, too.)

This concept of 'acquired taste' is so narrow in an Anglo-Saxon context that in this thread we're discussing, of all things, the 'acquired' characteristics of something as uncontroversial as dried codfish! Goodness, what would happen if we began discussing fried brains! :wacko:

Edited by vserna (log)

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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That was a very good report. The restaurants you chose, unlike most of those featured in the usual guides, will have given you an accurate idea of how most of us lisboetas eat. They're the kind of reliable, cheap standbys where we go when we happen to be in the neighborhood. They may be unexciting - but that's also to be commended. Good value and consistency/predictability are highly prized in our gastronomic culture.

However, I must point out that Lisbon (though Porto is even better) has several hundred great restaurants (most with 5 unique specialities, one for every weekday). Our overriding passion is not really bacalhau - that's more a Northern thing - though we have it at least once a week. Most visitors, no matter how well informed, miss the fact that Lisbon's real passion is for utterly fresh fish and shellfish. Fish(like our favourite bacalhau, with chickpeas) is served simply boiled in water with boiled potatoes, greens ("grelos", green beans, brocolli and, often, a boiled egg. It's drenched in olive oil and very little vinegar. Boiling is very much the favourite method for the fishes (hake, grooper, "cherne" (a gigantic bream: wreckfish?, "corvina" or red bream). Or simply fried, with a tomato or red or green pepper or coriander rice and a leafy lettuce, onion and tomato salad. Or simply grilled. The key word is "simply" - we don't much go for "cooking" as such. It's all about the shopping and preparation here. Otherwise, it's boiling, grilling and frying - no sauces, no messing about.

Shellfish are almost always served simply boiled in seawater or salted water - rarely grilled - with only an occasional (and untypical) addition of mayonnaise or lemon juice.

I'd say Lisboan food is mostly very fresh fish boiled, grilled or fried with no additions whatsoever and, when fish is unavailable (as on Mondays) or too expensive or too much of a good thing, fried or grilled pork or steak with lots of french fries.

Of course, there are exceptions - like the delicious "iscas com elas" (thin strips of calf or pork liver marinated and fried up with onions and white wine, served with boiled potatoes).

Portugal is an Atlantic country, rather than a Mediterranean one. Spanish cooking is nothing like ours. Though parts of the Alentejo have the same taste for spicy, heavily seasoned, garlicky and oily food and the Minho has a few echoes of Galician cuisine, Portuguese food (apart from the sweets and pastries) is really simple, primeval stuff. It's nearest equivalent - I'm not kidding - is Japanese cuisine. Both countries consume more fish than any other and are obsessive about freshness, simplicity and delicate tastes.

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Oops - I forgot the rice mania. In Lisbon, we eat more rice than any other European country and, again, it's generally white rice with no seasoning apart from a boiled onion, removed before serving. "Arroz de manteiga" (rice cooked in butter with the all-important boiled onion) and "arroz de sustância" (rice cooked in stock) are the exception rather than the rule.

Most visitors are amazed by the way we will have french fries AND rice with all our meat, fried fish and bean dishes (like the "feijoada"). Other than that, there is "arroz de...." anything you can name. Although "açorda" and "migas" - from the Alentejo originally - are more well-known (white bread soaked and cooked with olive oil, garlic and coriander), the truth is that rice is more ubiquitous and well-loved.

Still, our most popular dish (like the French) is "bife com batatas fritas" (steak and frites) or its cheaper, but tastier version - the bitoque, often pork. A fried egg on top of the steak is usually standard. But you also get rice - rice is free here.

Since I'm on the subject of visitors, one thing that is often misunderstood is that restaurants only serve vegetables if you ask for them, at a little extra cost. This is because we eat so many vegetables at home (greengrocers and markets are a joy here) but mainly because we eat most of our vegetables in the form of soup (always freshly made, daily, from whatever's in season) without which no meal is complete.

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Spanish cooking is nothing like ours. Though parts of the Alentejo have the same taste for spicy, heavily seasoned, garlicky and oily food

Mmmmm... No disrespect, Miguel, but why do I get the impression that I am more familiar with Portuguese food than you are with Spanish food? "Spicy, heavily seasoned, garlicky, oily"? The description you offer reminds me of 19th century French stereotypes about ghastly Spain, not of Spanish food as we know it and discuss it on this board. Of course, in Spain we're probably not quite as original - we will not usually put two different types of starch, like potatoes and rice, simultaneously in the same dish. But spicy food is popular in Mexico, not in Spain. (Or at least, not in the vast majority of Spain's regions.)

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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I love Spanish food, vserna - even though Spain is so big and varied and I really only know Castilian, Estremadurian, Andalusian, Basque, Galician and Catalonian food. But, hey, come to think of it, isn't that enough? :) But I was actually referring to Porftuguese food from the Alentejo and the Algarve, which is "border food" and heavy on the garlic, oil and "malagueta" - like the food from your Estremadura. Although the jámon ibérico from the region around Badajoz is sublime and second to none in the world (Yum!). Portuguese salted "presunto" - even the acorn-fed "porco preto" from the border town of Barrancos - is decidedly inferior.

I have to say, though, I stick by my claim that Portuguese food is Atlantic, fishy, simple, obsessed with boiling, grilling and frying (though I'll concede, reluctantly, that the Andalusians are also masters of frying, specially of those microscopic little fishes (not to mention the absolutely scrumptious "puntillitas"), whereas Spain, Galicia excepted, is really a continental or Mediterranean gastronomic culture.

Spanish cooking is more North African/Arab, Mediterranean and continental . Portuguese cooking is mainly Atlantic. This is absolutely true. Our fish and shellfish are much better and we cook them as they should be.

Let's not start a war about this! :)

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Hi Miguel,

It's certainly true in my (limited) experience that Portuguese cooking puts fresh fish and simple preparations front and centre. Would love to hear some recommendations for great little neighborhood restaurants in Lisbon.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Hiya fresco!

The only online guide which is minimally trustworthy (though it's written in Portuguese), because the guy who compiles it is one of our best critics, although often over-generous and (understandably - in fact quite rightly) more favourable to restaurants in the North is José Silva's NetMenu: http://www.netmenu.pt.

In Lisbon, the best neighbourhood restaurants for fish are quite expensive (though still cheap by European standards). I love Alcobaça in the Chiado, near the Carmo ruins - it's been serving great fish for over 40 years, is very cheap and is truly a local secret. Another secret is the little place in the Lumiar market - lovely fish every day, perfectly cooked, served in a noisy, no-frills atmosphere - even cheaper than Alcobaça. We're talking around 7 dollars/euros for a full meal, with wine, coffee and brandy. Every neighbourhood will have at least one market-driven restaurant. What you want to look for are very short menus and "pratos do dia" (specials) and arrive really early before they sell out - which means before 1 p.m. Good restaurants, like everywhere, are always full, quite rude and no-nonsense.

Otherwise, for the best, freshly caught fish, you really have to splash out. The best fish to be had is not in Lisbon - but in Cascais, Guincho, Setúbal and Sesimbra. In Cascais, the best is Beira-Mar. In Guincho, Porto de Santa Maria is probably the best fish and shellfish restaurant in the world - though expensive - about $75/euros for a full meal. If shellfish is included, reckon on $120/euros. João Padeiro, also in Guincho, has the best fried Dover sole and french fries. O Túnel, in Praia das Maçãs, is probably the best all-rounder and slightly cheaper - but it's a bit of a drive. In Setúbal, all restaurants are excellent - but the best is Bataréu. It's only open for lunch, the owner's father is the fisherman, it's remarkably cheap for the pristine quality of the catch - but you have to arrive at midday if you want a table. In Sesimbra - the capital of red mullets ("salmonetes") Ribamar and Tony are very good.

And that's enough secrets for today! :)

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Our fish and shellfish are much better and we cook them as they should be.

This is preposterous, Miguel. One-upmanship is meaningless when proferred without factual backing. Your statement about fish and shellfish reinforces me in my impression that you have a pretty limited idea of what goes on beyond that Castilian border whence "no good wind" ever comes... Ever heard of O'Pazo or Asador Kaia? I, for one, am quite familiar with Porto de Santa Maria.

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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[...] Ever heard of O'Pazo or Asador Kaia? I, for one, am quite familiar with Porto de Santa Maria.

How does Porto de Santa Maria compare with the other two?.

(BTW, I'm assuming that you're referring to Madrid's O'Pazo, aren't you?)

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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