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MiguelCardoso

Underground Restaurants In Portugal

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It's a new phenomenon and a touchy subject but I'd like to know if it extends beyond Portugal.

The first underground restaurant I visited was opened in late 2002. Now there are at least 7 in the Lisbon area and 3 in Oporto that I know of. Most of them are normal restaurants during the usual hours but "open" clandestinely on their weekly "feriados". But there are two, located in the owners' homes, which are purely underground.

I realize it's an ecologically sensitive issue, but these supper clubs serve shellfish, molluscs, fish and game which are protected, forbidden or considered extinct. Nothing exotic or cruel, mind you (no dolphins or cute creatures, I assure you):: merely traditionally appreciated species that have recently or not-so-recently been legally limited or outlawed.

Funnily enough, this includes things as "banal" as eggs and "wild" chicken; free-roaming beef and boar; slipper lobsters; berried she-crabs; baby sea basses and other delicacies.

They all have a very impressive range of artisanal wines and spirits which it is illegal to sell - but not to produce. A lot of what they offer is strictly supplied by the customers themselves.

I can't, for obvious reasons, go into much detail but almost all produce is obtained individually, by individual divers and hunters. There's a network by e-mail which warns of each delivery and planned multi-course meal. All invariably gather an appreciative crowd of like-minded folk, keen to savour long-lost pleasures.

Does this informal movement exist in Spain and Europe in general?

Without giving the game away, I'd like to know whether similar underground restaurants are appearing in other countries, given the contradiction between the EU's stringent policies and traditional tastes.

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Very interesting topic!

There were very downscale places like this in Washington, DC--mainly geared toward immigrants who seek out forbidden delicacies like iguana and such. Also places that operate in a clandestine fashion to get around the restaurant-unfriendly regulations, taxes, licenses, etc.

Can you talk a little bit more about what types of traditional foods are now forbidden in Portugal (and presumably Spain)? Which EU policies have affected traditional food gathering or production?

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So long, Miguel, nice reading back from you!

Though I recall I read something similar to what you described in the States, I don't know of any equivalent movement here in Spain.

The only cases I know of "civil disobedience" is using actual egg to make mayonnaise, presenting chuletón with its bone during the madness about cow madness and nothing more.

Regarding chanquetes (aphia minuta), the tiny fishes usually served fried in Málaga (Andalusia) my understanding is that catching and serving them is forbidden not because they're at risk but because the net holes to catch them have to be so small that they put in danger other species. Hopefully others will add more information, because I wouldn't qualify mine as 100% reliable. I'd swear I've seen chanquetes offered as recently as a couple of weeks ago.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Chanquetes are still served by a number of Andalusian restaurants - they just don't have them on their printed menus. Similar thing with zorzales (ortolans), the small birds that can no longer be killed in the European Union - I think if you look hard enough, you'll be able to eat some in Spain.

But in Spain I've heard of no large-scale, well-organized schemes of the type mentioned by Miguel.


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Thanks for bringing up ortolans, Víctor, I totally forgot about them.

Coming back to the sea, dátiles de mar (lithophaga lithophaga) have also been mentioned here and there as a protected species which randomly appears in some restaurant. I must say that I've never seen them in any menu or being offered to me.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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I don't think dátiles de mar are banned in Spain... or in the Adriatic. Or are they? I've had them not too long ago, both in Castellón de la Plana and in Venice. The use of percussion instruments like sledgehammers to dislodge them is indeed banned. I guess it's hard to know how they've been caught, of course...


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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What I've interpreted before writing my previous post from the sources I've checked, is that dátil de mar is suffering from one of those contradictions that sometimes are created by regulations: while it seems that indeed its fishing is forbidden its consume is allowed/tolerated under the laws of some regions.

Take a look to these links (in Spanish) if you wish and let's see if we infer the same conclusion:

http://www.fotosub.org/datil1.htm

http://www.icm.csic.es/rec/abello/buceo2103datil.htm

Search for "Nomativa protectora de Lithophaga lithophaga en España" in the page


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Very interesting topic. I, having worked with some items I had never even seen back in the states, and others I have worked with but never in its wild form, would like to know the legalality of some of the items I've seen here in Catalunya. What are the seasons for tortola (turtle dove), paloma (dove), becada (woodcock, becasse), estornino (starling??), pichon (pidgeon), cordoniz (quail) and ortolan. I know most of these can be found farm raised but as I recall, some of the ones I've seen had shot or shot holes in them (and needless to say its a pain plucking there feathers especially the wild ducks). Also, are such items as becada and surely not ortolan even legal at all to possess here? Also, what I was recently told was that the hunting season officially doesn't start til Oct. What are some of the game/birds that have been banned? What are being highly protected? And what can one readily hunt?

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BTW, I got to try my first datiles de mar this summer and its too bad there isn't a more environmentally friendly means of harvesting them. They were exceptional.

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Simon, I'll try to collect some info later on covering hunting seasons.

Regarding the dátil, its scientific name explains it all: lithophaga lithophaga, which literally could be translated as "rock eater". That is, once the larval phase of the creature reaches an end, it starts digging into the rock where it laids on and its growing takes place from the outside in. So I guess it's really complicated to extract them without causing major damage to their environment.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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