The fun of travel is often to discover national cuisine in the place you are visiting. Portugal has a very distinct cuisine if compared let’s say to Spain next door. While we were in Lisbon we discovered some wonderful food. Portugal is known for its fish and seafood, Cod from the Newfoundland banks, Sardines, Octopus, etc. it is also known for its beef and pork dishes and its rich soups. I was looking forward to this food adventure despite having some friends who recently returned from a trip to Portugal to tell us that the food was ordinary and nothing to talk about.
The first night we went to Ramiro on Rua Palma, it is stricly a fish and seafood restaurant though you can get the famous beef steak sandwich, it is a small steak no bigger than an english muffin and it is usually served after your fish meal, somewhat like a dessert dish.
Good wines and Portuguese beer like Sagres, the service is fast, this is a two floor restaurant, food is good and simple. It is all about the experience and talking with other people around you. They do not take reservations, you get to the restaurant, there is a computer which gives you a number, ours was 3317, no this is not the number of people in front of you waiting for tables, it is just a number. While you wait you can get a big glass of Sagres beer for 2 Euro.
We ordered a giant swimming crab for dinner, very rich and good. Some large red shrimps and wine. In Portuguese restaurant, olives, bread and sardines paté comes automatically to the table. For dessert a favourite Portuguese sweet is lemon sorbet doused with vodka refreshing and cleanses the palate. It was a great meal.
Sitting on Tram no.12 which has 20 seats and 38 persons can stand. The trams are very small and 90 years old made of wood frame. The most helpful numbers to get you around are no.12, 28 and 15.
The next day we took the Tram no. 12 up all the way up to the Castle of San Jorge and afterwards we had lunch at the Solar Dos Mouros Hotel, their patio had a spectacular view of the city. The Hotel is on a street called Rua do milagro de Santo Antonio, translation the street of the miracles of St Antonio. Though most people think that St-Anthony was from Padua in Italy, he was in fact Portuguese and he travelled to Italy to join St-Francis and the Franciscan order. He is the patron saint of Lisbon and his church is very popular, just a few steps away from the Cathedral Sé of Lisbon.
One night we had dinner at Infâme which is across the street from Ramiro. It is a young hip place, and it is also located across the piazza from a nice little bar called Josephine as in Josephine Baker. We met 3 young guides there, Nuno 23 years old, Pedro 26 and Alexandra 35, all operate Tuk Tuks, a three wheel electric people mover which is so small it can navigate the very narrow streets of Lisbon at great speed. Josephine is a friendly place and we quickly discovered that Portuguese people are friendly and helpful, unhurried and just happy.
The restaurant’s business card.
For our anniversary dinner we went to Sommelier on Rua Telhal 57, as the name indicates they have 80 wines on their list and all are pared with dishes prepared by the Chef. It is a very elegant restaurant and the wines are all individually chilled at the right temperature for serving. A computer controls it all and the back wall is a great glass display and you can see each bottle with the temperature number electronically displayed. Since you taste the wines, what you ordered is measured and served in the correct glass corresponding to the wine you are having. A Sommelier would know which wine is served in which glass, it is not all the same, ours was very knowledgeable. I was very impressed with their expertise. The food was wonderful we ordered the Lamb salad, the best lamb ever, a grilled John Dory, Filet of goose liver poêlée, melt in your mouth good and grilled octopus done perfectly. For dessert we had a vintage moscatel wine and a dessert called Papo de Anjo or angels double chins, which is whipped and baked egg yokes in a sugar syrup.
There were many other places where we had meals and I will mention them in my next posting. Needless to say there are plenty of excellent restaurants with great service.